I always wait for Thursdays to see what the Skin Deep article in the The New York Times Fashion and Style section will be about. The Skin Deep article recently was called Debating the Claims Behind Wrinkle Creams; the article is essentially about StriVectin’s new line of products and its new marketing strategy. StriVectin is famous for its slogan, now banned by the FDA, “better than Botox?” which, not surprisingly, is incorrect.
StriVectin not only has a new product line, it has a new slogan as well: “More science. Less Wrinkles” . The new product line has a star ingredient – NIA-114 which is a patented form for niacin or vitamin B3. This time around the company does not compare the results of using its products to Botox but to the prescription anti-aging (and anti-acne) powerhouse, the gold standard of anti-aging topical products – tretinoin. Tretinoin is also commonly known as retinol. (For more about retinol see my previous post on the subject)
According to Dr. Myron Jacobson, a biochemist, who along with his wife lead the team that researched the ingredient:
NIA-114 provides many of the benefits of retinoic acid without those tolerability issues,” Myron Jacobson said. “You get the gain without the pain.”NIA-114, he said, “will be the dominant skin-care molecule for the next 20 years.”
Obviously this is an interesting development, but please allow me to remain skeptical. I don’t have much faith in a company that first compared its product to Botox since that comparison was so blatantly bogus. The author of the article interviewed two doctors about StriVectin’s new ingredient and each expressed their ambivalence about the StriVectin’s claims over NIA-114. Not to say that the ingredient doesn’t help wrinkles, it just probably doesn’t do all that StriVectin claims that it does.
I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for reviews of the new StriVectin line and for more information about their star ingredient, but in the meantime what I really found fascinating about the article was how well StriVectin has succeeded in marketing their old product with the slogan: Better than Botox?:
BEFORE StriVectin’s stretch-mark cream became an anti-wrinkle blockbuster sold in Sephora and Bloomingdale’s, it made its debut in 2002 at GNC, a retailer better known for its muscle-building supplements
Then in 2003, StriVectin started running print ads with the alluring claim that women who used the cream ($135 a tube) as a facial moisturizer found it reduced their wrinkles. The ads asked: Could StriVectin actually be “Better than Botox?”
That slogan did it. Hordes of women (and some men) were sold on the idea that this over-the-counter cream could deliver on its claims, even though its makers had scant science to back them. As a cosmetic, StriVectin-SD didn’t have to prove its efficacy as a wrinkle-fighter in a clinical trial the way that drugs like Botox did, but that fact got lost amid the marketing hype.
The ad was “fabulous” because it “immediately established the possibility that you could get benefits without the inconvenience” of a doctor’s visit, said Suzanne Grayson, a marketing consultant to the beauty industry.
In 2009, in a testament to its enduring appeal, StriVectin was still one of the fastest growing anti-aging brands, according to NPD Group, a market research firm. This despite the fact its kingpin cream hadn’t been updated in seven years.
Scientific proof doesn’t necessarily matter to consumers. In the last year, StriVectin has worked with SheSpeaks, which helps brands glean consumer insight. Aliza Freud, chief executive of SheSpeaks, said 5,000 women were asked what StriVectin signified to them before this reintroduction; they said the brand had a “scientific edge.” “These consumers — most of them — have no idea what the science behind it means,” Ms. Freud said.
Frankly, this just saddens me. Believe me I’ve fallen more than once for a persuasive marketing campaign only to realize that I’ve been had, yet I keep hoping that women won’t believe the marketing hype when it comes to skincare products since there is more than enough real scientific research out there that explains what ingredients will and will not work on the skin. In the end I just hope that Abraham Lincoln’s famous statement is really true in the end:
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.