As skinimalism grows in popularity, what does this mean for your brand?

Skinimalism: the term coined to describe a growing trend where consumers choose to adopt a pared down, simple routine which saves them time, money, or both. If you think this means less opportunity for the beauty and skincare industry to exploit IP, you’re wrong. It is all about looking for different opportunities; they will be there. Products still need packaging, and branding is still a key driver for this sector.

Following a period of extending skincare and beauty ranges which generated a lot of new product development and consequently easier identifiable IP, companies are now creating alternative skincare ranges to meet the demand of simplicity. This itself creates new IP opportunities.

Skinimalism encourages the use of natural ingredients and therefore potential formulation changes. It encourages more conscious purchasing, which gives way to environmentally friendly packaging, and it promotes the reduction of waste in the manufacturing process through the integration of recycled bio-waste into new products.

Skinimalism has encouraged the industry to take a makeup free look in the mirror. The reflection for IP is positive if companies are prepared to embrace the ‘less is more’ trend.

So what IP opportunities might a skinimalism approach create for beauty brands?

Stronger branding

With less products in an individual skincare or beauty range, businesses can focus on making sure the IP is spot on. Priority should always be given to ensuring that the core brand is registered – preferably as a word mark and also as a logo to reflect the get up of the brand. A streamlined product portfolio removes the need to register sub-brands as trade marks. It also means that if any additions to the range are simply going to be offered under the core brand below a more descriptive name – for example as ‘Brand X’ cleanser, toner, or moisturiser – the clearance work needed to bring a product to market is arguably removed.

Your IP budget stretches further

The streamlining of the range and a focus on the core brand should lessen the number of trade mark registrations needed, which in turn reduces filing and ongoing maintenance costs. This could either mean a reduction in the IP budget, which will be welcome in today’s climate, or it could provide the necessary available budget to expand the geographical footprint of the IP portfolio. Remember that IP rights are territorial in nature, so owning a trade mark in the UK does not give an automatic right that it can be used outside the UK. Protection should be obtained for all key operational territories.

Opportunity to re-brand

Companies already feeling that their branding is too generic, or similar to competitors, can use the skinimalism trend as a catalyst to address this. They can use changing consumer preferences and behaviour to create new packaging – remembering that the appearance of products and product packaging can be protected via a registered design providing it has not been in the market for more than 12 months.

Being innovative and tapping in to the consumer mindset also creates new opportunities for marketing and is a significant point of differentiation with competitors.

Sort out your IP portfolio

Streamlining the product line, but also protecting the established brand equity should be achieved through an IP audit. This is the process of ensuring that the IP supports the commercial drivers for the business. Is the IP still relevant? Are there historic brands which will not be resurrected which could be sold? Are there unprofitable product lines which are going to be pulled – do these have imminent maintenance costs which could be saved? IP should enhance and underpin the value of the company – undertaking regular IP audits safeguards this function.

Easier to police your reputation and take down counterfeiters

Having a clear IP strategy, knowing what the core brand is – and what the core product range is – should make it easier to educate the consumer about your brand. This in turn means that it should be easier to build a reputation, as it is being collated under a single brand reference, and therefore easier to enforce your brand against unauthorised third parties using the brand or producing ‘me too’ products. In short, whilst the beauty industry may have initially been in fear of the skinimalism movement, believing it meant fewer products and thus fewer sales, arguably it has created many positives such as enhanced brand loyalty, a cleaner brand identity and an ability to spend IP budget in a way which supports a wider footprint.

Whether your business has two products or 200 products, if you value your brand, it needs to be registered. There is no doubt that the value of any business is enhanced when there is a registered, valid, and relevant IP portfolio which supports the commercial aims. The skinimalism trend, and indeed any future industry trend, will not alter this fact.

If you would like to discuss your brand protection in more detail, please contact the author or your usual Barker Brettell attorney.