According to the Brand Finance Cosmetics Top 50 league table, global brand Johnson’s has had a ‘rocky’ performance this year which saw its brand strength index drop from 90.4 to 89.4 and consequently, its brand value slide 20% to US$14,122m, a drop of $3,541m from 2018. This meant the baby care giant dropped out of the 2019 top ten global brands ranking.

Before we start a whip-round for the ‘struggling’ cosmetic brand, we should remind ourselves that Johnson’s still tops the cosmetic league table and there is plenty to debate in the way Brand Finance calculates brand value.

THE DANGER OF CUSTOMERS LOSING TRUST IN PRODUCT SAFETY

But what is interesting is that Brand Finance put some of Johnson’s challenges down to lower scores for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR.) The report scores CSR against 4 areas: employees, environment, community and governance. They speculate that Johnson’s CSR score dropped this year because of ongoing legal activity over alleged cancer-causing asbestos in their hero baby powder product and accusations that the company’s leadership didn’t disclose evidence soon enough. Whatever the truth in that, the lesson is that if customers lose trust in your products being safe, the reputational damage can have a direct impact on your bottom line.

The theory is backed up by another cosmetic brand which lost a significant percentage of its brand value this year – Palmolive, which dropped -29% from 2018, equivalent to a loss in brand value of $518m. Its dip in fortunes could be down to growing consumer awareness of sustainability and how this is impacting purchasing decisions. Colgate Palmolive was singled out by Greenpeace in 2018 as one of several businesses using ‘dirty’ palm oil (not helped by its very name) and is heavily exposed to the decline in popularity of plastic-hungry liquid soaps.

Again, this could affect their CSR score for environmental impact and underlines the importance of committing to a more sustainable business model to appeal to younger generations of consumers.

FANTASTIC PRODUCT IS NO LONGER ENOUGH

We are living through a period of values-driven marketing, where just having a fantastic product, beautiful packaging and great social media presence isn’t enough to build serious brand value. Beauty brands are especially trusted by their customers – they put these products on their faces and their children after all – and 2019’s conscious consumers demand more than just product efficacy. Both ingredients and formulations have to show that they’ve been rigorously tested to be safe (without cruelty to animals, that’s pretty much is taken as given now) and that they’ve been produced in a way that minimises environmental harm.

The Brand Finance report highlights what can happen to those cosmetic brands that get left behind on these issues, whilst their more nimble competitors snap at their heels.

XCellR8 took part in a debate on Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations last year. You can watch the discussion here.

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