Cosmetics company Physicians Formula is doubling down on doctor-approved education and storytelling to update its healthy, “good for you” ingredients message.
Last week, the brand, which was founded in 1937 by California-based allergist Dr. Frank Crandall, introduced its Physicians Coalition, a trio of doctors specializing in dermatology (Dr. Rachael Cayce), allergies (Dr. LanAnh Do) and head and neck surgery (Dr. Sarmela Sunder), to not only update product formulations in its cosmetics but teach a younger consumer about the company’s ethos.
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“Now, more than ever, beauty lovers are becoming increasingly aware of what is and isn’t safe for their skin,” said Alice Chen, Physicians Formula’s vp of marketing. “As a brand that’s always catered to that curiosity and need, we are dedicated to being that trusted destination — a worry-free zone for all your beauty needs.”
The emphasis on the “worry-free” message, which stresses that Physicians Formula is hypoallergenic, fragrance-free and free of over 150 known skin irritants, is similar to other cosmetics brands riding the natural or organic beauty-meets-wellness wave, like new entrants Crop Natural, Go To and even Beauty By Popsugar, which dubs its product as “happy, healthy beauty” — the latter, for instance, is free of parabens and sulfates, and also promotes anti-pollution formulas.
By hiring doctors to enforce their ingredient-based message, Physicians Formula is hoping to address customer confusion around natural and organic products in beauty. The FDA, for instance, still doesn’t have a definition for the word “natural,” and it has also not established a regulatory definition in cosmetic labeling.
With help from the Coalition, Physicians Formula, which is part of Markwins Beauty Brands, the largest privately owned cosmetics company in North America, is evolving. Though historically known as natural, some past Physicians Formula products weren’t up to par upon working with the Coalition.
A legacy mineral wear formula that was found to have parabens in it was recently removed from the product lineup and is being reintroduced in 2019, according to Chen. Other products will also be updated with fine-tuned formulations, and there will be increased product options in face and lip, which launched earlier this year. Currently, Physicians Formula is ranked 35 in the $16.7 billion U.S. color cosmetic category and No. 91 internationally, according to Euromonitor International.
To create buzz around the Coalition, Physicians Formula introduced the doctors on its e-commerce site and on all its social platforms first. On Physicians Formula’s own e-commerce site, which recently launched in March 2017, the brand is rolling out an ingredient glossary curated by the Coalition, and on social, educational posts will roll out twice a week across platforms.
Chen sees Facebook Live, which the company hasn’t utilized until now, as a huge opportunity for Dr. Do, Dr. Cayce and Dr. Sunder to answer customer questions and share product information around new launches in real time — the Physicians Formula demographic reaches as high as 54 years old, so the strategy makes sense for the heritage company. The doctors will also be tapped for in-person consultations at retailer events and beauty adviser trainings. Third-party in-store signage will focus on the introduction of Coalition, as well, with a roll-out beginning in the fourth quarter of this year.
While Physicians Formula has 35,000 points of mass distribution worldwide – with about 25,000 doors in Ulta, Walmart, Target, CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens in North America — the increased digital visibility through the Coalition is an opportunity to “increase focus in online channels,” said Chen. Though she declined to share figures, Chen said Physicians Formula has had especially “strong sales on Amazon” and is continuing to build out assortments on third-party retailer websites like Ulta.com and Target.com.
The increased online Coalition presence will also help Physicians Formula’s international push. The brand continues to open new markets, with Japan and Russia being the latest in distribution.
“We are continuing to build out teams on all continents and are investing resources to build brand awareness abroad,” Chen explained. “We have increased our international distribution over 200 percent from 2017 to 2018, and expect even more growth in 2019.”