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Competing with the big brands as a niche cosmetics player

Jill Tomandl, vice president of global product/package development and package design, discusses the approach behind Glendale, CA-based Stila Cosmetics' fun and quirky packaging, sustainability, and how vendors have helped reduce time to shelf.
FILED IN:  Package design  > Strategy
Packaging World: Stila Cosmetics has been around since 1994, but you're a relatively small cosmetics company, compared to the Estée Lauders and L'Oreals of the world. How does packaging help you level the playing field?

Jill Tomandl: Our positioning is "makeup as individual as your signature." We think of our packaging as mini art projects. We do lots of illustrations on staff. They're fashion-style illustrations. They're warm and inviting to our customers. The idea is that you don't have to aspire to be a model. They can change their look with the seasons, as fashion changes.

The designs are stunning, and they're often not what you would see with the big brands in the store. How do you create such eye-catching packaging?

I create a design brief. It includes ideas for the product, the raw materials, the packaging materials, and even inspirational quotes for our customers.
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This is the launching point. I have an engineering and design background, and we have a separate marketing department. They may tweak my ideas. We feel it's important to protect the integrity and the quality of the product, so the packaging is very important. The merchandising unit, such as a point-of-purchase display, is also key in communicating our brand. You can run your cell phone over a strip on the display and get information about our brand. It works together with the packaging.

Isn't sustainability a big part of your marketing program as well?

Sustainability is very big for us. For example, our eye shadows are produced and filled locally. They're sold in clamshells made from recycled PET. Our cartons are made from Kraft pack material, which requires less material than SBS in the production of the cartons.

Vendors surely play a significant role in package development for Stila products. How?

Mostly, we give them specific direction, but they also come to us with innovations. If the supplier can make it exclusive to us, we ask them to develop it. Our suppliers have been very helpful. Not long ago, one year out was our goal for product turn-around, from creative to shipping. Now, it's down to five months.

Contract manufacturers and packagers play a role in this reduced time to shelf, correct?

Yes, they do. We use some companies to do filling and some to fill and assemble the packaging. Some do just assembly and some are turnkey providers. Everything we do is driven by the product formulation, so whoever is going to make the bulk formula for us, it makes sense to have it packed out in the same place, where possible.

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