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Exclusive interview

The Hero Project on innovating beauty via social media data

By Lucy Whitehouse + , 13-Dec-2016

The Hero Project on innovating beauty via social media data

With the industry having been traditionally slow to wise up to the massive opportunities offered by the internet, The Hero Project is one new beauty concept from Britain looking to turn that on its head.

The company scours online beauty stores, blogs and reviews looking for consumer favourite products: they hunt down not just the best items in consumers’ estimation, but also dig out the areas where these products can be improved.

The Hero Project then invests in the R&D of formulas and packaging to craft - in theory - the ideal beauty product. A sort of crowdsourcing of curation.

We caught up with the company’s chief product officer, Daniel Isaacs, and its global head of marketing, Holly Tomlin, to delve a little deeper into the concept.

What inspired The Hero Project?

The company heads explain that there were two major drivers behind the launch of concept: firstly, the urge to respond to consumers who are looking for tweaks in products to make the best beauty experience, and secondly, to offer the market a genuinely innovative business model.

The inspiration for it was seeing so many reviews of people being disappointed with their beauty products, and wanting to respond to that,” explains Tomlin.  “We really wanted to do something disruptive in beauty: it all feels very samey, so we want to bring something fresh and interesting to a very cluttered marketplace.”

The company’s product range is developed and manufactured by Pangaea Laboratories, and currently spreads across five key items: Hyasoft moisturiser, Glow Drops facial oil,  Vit-C 30 anti-ageing serum, Double Blur skin perfector, and Undo makeup remover.

How exactly does it work?

Paying close attention to what consumers are actually saying online is the backbone of The Hero Project’s model, says Tomlin.

A key part of it is trawling through reviews and blogs and content that perhaps the larger brands aren’t necessarily looking at. We have a full time researcher doing this for us.”

Because the business model is currently very local, the brand is able to offer a necessarily high level of responsiveness: “We’re using social media as the heartbeat and barometer to what we do; If we do get significant feedback we can change the formulas, because we’re very nimble and responsive.”

Tomlin is clear that the model relies on offering truly relevant products, through an awareness of ‘one size not fitting all': “If we can’t create an  amazing product we’d rather not create it all.”

What’s the consumer response been like?

The Hero Project launched officially in February this year, having been in development for two years beforehand.

“The consumer response has been really interesting and exciting so far,” says Tomlin. “We’ve been really blessed with people getting super involved. I think it comes from the idea of young girls wanting to make their own stuff at home - this is a realisation of that.”

The brand adopts an identity that is “real, ironic, tongue-in-cheek and British,” the marketing head explains, in a bid to offer a “new voice to the industry.”

Your packaging seems as innovative as your formulas, how important is this to you?

Isaacs explains that packaging is centre stage for The Hero Project, and perfecting that is as important as the formulas.

“I would say it’s a 50:50 split between packaging and formulas,” he says. “For our serums you have our ‘Last Drop’ technology - a common problem was that people couldn’t get the last quantity of their products out of packaging, and we’ve solved that.”

He also notes that the brand’s new launch, its Undo makeup remover, features a vertical pump, allowing consumers to get maximum product with least waste.

Any plans up ahead - for the business model or for further launches?

In terms of launches, Isaacs explains there are two big concepts on the horizon for 2017: the first is based on ‘truly personalised skin care’, and the second is an ‘anti-ageing breakthrough’.

For now, the company is sticking with skin care, but is looking at how the scalability both across markets and across beauty categories. “Right now we’re focusing on skin care, but the brand is not restricted,” Isaacs says. “We have the capability to branch out if we need to.”

One big shift the company is considering is heading offline and setting up a bricks and mortar presence. Currently, it retails online - including via its own website, where it’s currently pushing its Christmas gift-set options - but is looking to expand this.

People want to see and feel the products,” explains Tomlin. “We want to make more accessible going forward, so in 2017 we’ll be getting into the retail space.

The brand believes the future lies in the omnichannel approach: “People want to go in and have the experience, and then they want to go online, review and tell us about it. We want to offer it all.”

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