Bottled Bliss

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May 26, 2016

by Laura Smith


In two weeks’ time I’ll be hot-footing it to tropical paradise, Thailand. I get a daily thrill from checking the weather App on my phone to see that it’s 34 degrees in the shade in Bangkok. I regularly slip into daydreams of wooden fishing boats gently bobbing on turquoise blue water, while I sip an ice cold mojito beneath a palm tree. Or getting lost in a good book whilst gently swaying in a hammock on the porch of our beach-hut hideaway… ahhh.

Sadly though, between here and that hammock, my life is spiked with a frenzy of irrational anxieties; ‘What if I catch some sort of parasitic disease?’, ‘What if I’m kidnapped and forced to be a mule?’, ‘Is 6 bikinis enough?!’. But despite my tendency to flap I’m actually far more organised than your average person, perhaps even verging on compulsive when it comes to planning a holiday. So last weekend, in true ‘me’ style, I ventured out on the highly anticipated suntan lotion shopping trip.

It’s been said that Millennials statistically favor own label over branded products, and I’m no exception to that if I’m after a tin of beans or a bag of pasta, but when it comes to suntan lotion I’ll admit that I’m a snob. I’m more than willing to fork out for a premium brand in this category, my favorite being Hawaiian Tropic (other brands are available!). The fragrance alone transports me back to that holiday in Mexico with the poolside bar and the waiter who remembered every mid-morning that mine was a Strawberry Daiquiri please, and that sweet, sweet feeling of sheer contentment and utter relaxation. The packaging is fun, classy and original, the latest addition resembling a toothpaste pump tube - how convenient. They offer a variety of formulas including ‘Sheer Touch’, ‘Silk Hydration’ and ‘Island Sport’ and have even added an oil free face lotion because who wants to have a shiny face when rocking their new beach dress..? They’ve sucked me right in.

Needless to say, my male counterpart is much less enthused about sun cream and takes great pleasure in ridiculing me over this ‘strange and unnecessary’ obsession. I asked him this year to pick his own brand (he’s much fairer skinned than me so requires a ‘more sensitive’ SPF) so in true ‘him’ style, he typed ‘best suntan lotion’ into Google and what popped up was rather interesting.

By conducting tests on SPF accuracy and UVA protection, UK consumer watchdog Which? analysed an array of premium and own label brands to determine the ‘best suntan lotion’. The results were not as I expected. Hawaiian Tropic (priced at £8 for 180ml) along with a fellow premium brand, failed in the SPF test. However, ALDI’s Lacura Suncare Lotion (priced at £2.49 for 200ml) along with ASDA, Avon, Boots and Sainsbury’s own label varieties (other brands are also still available!) all performed to a high standard across both SPF and UVA tests.

This annoyingly gave him bragging rights, but despite feeling disappointed that my favorite brand hadn’t performed as well as it should have, the results did little to sway my feelings towards a brand that I have well and truly bought in to, and have created memories alongside.

Sensory branding really comes in to play here. MMR advocates a holistic approach to product and packaging development; by understanding the sensory cues that drive perception of functional things like efficacy, and emotional or abstract things like fun, the product and pack design can be optimized to deliver and enhance the desired brand experience. Hence, in this case the scent of the product unleashed a deep rooted bank of personal experiences. If I bought a cheap, own label product would I receive the same emotional and functional experience? Unlikely.

Needless to say, I still bought my favorite and he compromised with something mid-range. Love is about compromise, after all! Anyway, I’m counting down the days until I’m floating around the beaches of Thailand smelling of coconuts and mangoes, and creating more memories that will be stored up in that gorgeous little bottle of lotion and released each time I pop open the lid.

Laura Smith is Marketing Communications Executive at MMR Research Worldwide