A behind the scenes look at how products are developed.
Jim Rudolph, president of Rudolph International (Brea, Calif.) says salon testing on its Nail Wrap File demonstrated several features the company didn’t even know about. For example, he says, they learned that using the file with cuticle oil caused even less airborne dust and that the more the file was used, the better it performed.
IMAGE IS EVERYTHING
You can have the hottest product for the ‘90s, but if you don’t market it right, you won’t sell a single unit.
Marketing involves packaging, advertising, support materials – think of it as the image-making process for the product. Even after all the time, energy, and money the manufacturer invests in developing a new product, it’s got to be packaged and promoted right.
“No one hears about a new product if it’s not marketed,” says Mikki Shea of Shea Advertising (Costa Mesa, Calif.), who handles marketing for Rudolph. “There’s so much on the shelves that you can’t get a product moving without it. That’s letters, packaging, pricing, name, point-of-purchase displays, technical information, education and programs.”
Bragulla gets her best descriptive copy for new products from the technicians. During testing, technicians fill out a test result form, telling how they use the product and how they would describe it. Not only does this help the company write ad copy, it also helps them write instruction sheets using nail technician lingo.
Orgi-Nails also uses technician input to put together its marketing campaign. When introducing the odorless acrylic, Hickey took technician input one step further by personally visiting 100 salons and showing them packaging samples. She asked them what color schemes and designs they liked best and took their advice.
For Star Nail Products’ Client Guard Pak, marketing was everything, says marketing director Christina Jahn. “Client Guard Pak is much harder to sell because it’s a concept product versus a usage product,” she says. “We had to show the need. The techs who are sanitizing these implements want to know why they have to have individual kits if they’re already sanitizing. So we have to take clippings form the news media and put it on a video to show techs what their clients are watching at home. The client concern is present and salons are losing clients because of it.”
HITTING THE SHELVES
By the time a product gets to market, manufacturers have invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars making sure the product fills a need in the marketplace. Most manufacturers don’t just see the opportunity for a quick buck and throw a product on the market. Their reputations are on the line, and when a product fails, they fail, too.
Entering a product in the marketplace is like entering a nail competition. You work hard to perfect your skills and enter your best work. If you don’t think you’re good, you don’t enter. It’s much the same for nail manufacturers: If they don’t think a product is a winner, they don’t enter it into the marketplace.
Nail manufacturers are quick to emphasize that their best ideas for product innovations come from nail technicians. Who knows better than the working technician what she needs or what could work better?
PATENTS: INVENTION PROTECTION
Say you’ve just invented a new product to extend nails that is totally unlike systems currently on the market. You know it would be a hot product, but you should also know that without patent protection, any company can copy your formulation and sell it under its own company name.
A patent, issued by the United States Patent Office, gives the inventor the sole right to make, use, or sell her invention in the United States for 17 years from the date of issue. After 17 years the patent expires and anyone can copy the invention.
Applying for a patent is a long and complicated process. Most companies use a patent attorney, who specializes in researching and applying for patents. You should talk to a patent attorney before you get too far in researching and developing your new product to make sure you aren’t reinventing the wheel. A patent attorney will search existing patents to see if your “invention” is really an unsuspecting duplication of another invention.
“We did a patent search on the Lacquer Whacker and there were a few similar things that popped up, but they were different enough that there was no problem,” says Calvert Billings.
However, while a patent search tells you whether someone else holds a patent for the invention, it doesn’t tell you if someone has applied for a patent. Once you have a basic design or formulation for your invention, you should file a patent application, Although a patent application does not offer immediate protection, it does give your application precedence. On the market, your invention is also protected by the phrases “patent pending” and “patent applied for.” You shouldn’t put your product on the market until you’ve applied for a patent.
At Seche Inc., president Charles Martens and vice president William Martens put so much emphasis on patenting their unique top coat that they applied for a patent almost a year before they incorporated the company. William describes the process: “You have to find a patent attorney by interviewing different ones and going with your feelings about who’s going to do the best job for you. The first thing you do is a patent search. You take the formula and see if it’s ever been used for that use – find out if the ‘art’ (category) has ever been taught before in patent history. There had been no art in the patent laws for top coats.
“If that’s clear, you sit with the attorney and figure how you’re going to write the application. There are certain things you have to do and you have to structure your application a certain way,” says William. “Once we knew the art had never been taught before, we knew that we had a pretty clear line to a patent. We just hoped no one else was applying simultaneously for a patent with the same ingredients we had.”
It took about two years for Seche’s patent to be granted, says William. During that time, William and Charles had to update their application several times. “There was a little confusion at first about whether it was a nail enamel or not and we had to file amendments refining our claims. There was a lot of work involved,” explains William.
During this two years, their top coat was not protected from copycat products. However, says William, if someone had copied the formula and marketed a like product, they would have had to pull it off the market once the patent was granted, and Seche could have sued the other company to recover any profits it made.