NPD Evaluates Alphabet Creams in Modern Culture


In her new blog post, The NPD Group’s director and beauty industry analyst Larissa Jensen takes a magnifying glass to the alphabet creams trend and how it translates across consumer segments.

In “As Easy As A… BB… CC,” Jensen discusses a beauty product-loving friend, writing, “I have a good friend who loves beauty products, loves trying new things, and doesn’t blink an eye at the price if it’s something she really, truly ‘needs’ to have. She is a typical early adopter, and prides herself on being the first to use the hottest new beauty products on the market. But there is one super-hot product she hasn’t been able to touch, and it’s not because she isn’t interested. For close to two years, she has been desperate to find a BB or CC cream she can wear, but she can’t… because they are not available in her shade. Her skin is a gorgeous deep rich brown and every alphabet cream she tries makes her look pasty or like, in her words, ‘a Geisha girl.’”

Jensen continues, “It’s no big secret that the face of America is changing. With the rapid growth of various ethnic groups, the complexion of our country has become more diverse. But is the beauty industry keeping up? Prestige beauty has been taking steps to keep up with the trend in foundation. When looking at the shade range of new foundations introduced in 2008 through 2011 in prestige channels, the average number of shades at launch was seven. In 2012, the average number of shades available at launch jumped up to ten, due in part to a foundation that was introduced with 28 shades that year. And of those 28, four were targeted to women with dark skin.

“So what’s the story with alphabet creams, and why are they not following in the footsteps of foundation? One key difference with alphabet creams is that they are marketed in a similar way to tinted moisturizers and mineral makeup, where the message has always been that fewer shades work for a wider variety of skin tones. But alphabet creams can learn from their predecessors. While the limited range of shade options may have worked initially, manufacturers of tinted moisturizers and mineral makeup learned quickly that their shade ranges needed to expand in order to capture the growing ethnic market. So, while the number of shades for tinted moisturizer and mineral makeup remain less than a typical foundation, there are now shades available that work for a variety of dark skin tones as well.

Jensen concludes, “Hopefully alphabet creams are not too far behind in discovering that they too need to grow their collection of shades to reach a wider audience. The message is simple – more shades equal more potential users for your product, as easy as A, B, C. And I can guarantee that when a BB cream or CC cream comes out with a darker shade suitable for her complexion, my friend will be the first to know about it, and the first in line to buy it.”

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