It is nothing new that market research is the key factor when it comes to identifying and analyzing consumers’ needs. The industry for market research is centuries old and well-established with a great variety of companies that do everything from A to Z when it comes to collecting valuable answers from consumers. Why is it then that almost all major innovations in recent years seem to come from startups like Foreo, Million Dollar Shave Club or HiMirror with limited organizational and financial power, while the big skincare players despite their huge corporate talent pools and deep pockets seem to… not care somehow?
Maybe it is the way they inquire, or the way they transform consumer data into meaningful information. Or there are indeed well-founded amazing ideas, which have been cut-off for reasons beyond the individuals that can span from simple lack of structural passion, to missing organizational agility, or unavailable internal funding. Certainly, the answer must touch one or the other aspect of the corporate vs. startup debate.
Back in 2013 we first looked into the idea of what we now call IONIQ. I worked as a business development manager at WAGNER and surely had my initial doubts here and there myself. Yes, WAGNER had been championing industrial surface coatings for decades to an extent, that today there is an 80% likelihood that your car rims have been coated with WAGNER’s technologies. Yes, the corporate culture and leadership are very open and supportive for ideas. But, when the skincare giants were so seemingly not all too innovative, how could a company with no experience in skincare actually dare to even think that it could make a difference through tech and digitalization? And eventually simple give it a try?
The answer must for sure lie in WAGNER’s DNA. Our founder Josef Wagner had always been driving the innovation frontier striven by his passion for tech stuff and change. Little is it known that Josef Wagner was also a huge advocate of flying and spent much of his time in the development of the Aerocare Helicopter in the 60s.
You can read more about it here: http://www.aviastar.org/helicopters_eng/wagner_aerocar.php. Even less is known that he was among the first worldwide to work on an air flossing in the early 1980s. So some of our interest to investigate the IONIQ idea further must for sure be attributed to our corporate culture. So, when we started working towards IONIQ in 2013 we were -again – ahead of the game, this time in skincare with beauty technology and digitalization really hitting off several years later.
It took another four years of internal discussions, progressing step-by-step advanced engineering and further market research activities for us to eventually decide in 2017 that we seriously wanted to look into IONIQ. Back then, IONIQ was just me, a trainee and an external adviser. None of us were experts for cosmetics products nor was anyone else at WAGNER. The research we had done to this date was promising, but then again, we felt the numbers to be not convincing enough for an all-in start of a machinery equipment manufacturer into cosmetics. It needed a complete picture.
This important milestone took place at the German Beach Open in summer of 2017 (https://www.german-beach-open.com/). Young athletes spending hours and hours in the hot sun. Our wanted to figure out how well the athletes and viewers were covered with sunscreen. We basically stood there with our UV camera and shot hundreds of photos. If you do not know how a UV camera works, it is a slightly modified photo camera, which captures UV rays that are reflected from somebody’s body or face.
Now, what appears to be shoe polish on the bodies and faces is actually sunscreen that you would not be able to see with bare eyes. It was quite evident how bad people were able to protect themselves with sunscreen. None of the people had applied sunscreen well enough. Therefore, the conclusion could only be: The human hand is a poor applicator when it comes to sunscreen. The reasons are literally obvious: We simply cannot reach all body parts, leave out spots, and apply skincare products unevenly, not in the right amount and frequency. As long as we have to use the hand as an applicator, most of these problems remain. So regardless of the market research figures above, it was this eye opening photo experiment that convinced us all. The tremendous consequences of sunburn for skin health and skin aging demand a better application technology. Full stop.
Fast forward almost two years. Today in 2019 all, the big and smaller players in the cosmetics and even electronics industry invest into beauty technology. Because high-tech and digital are simply transforming the beauty industry just as all other industries too. At CES in Las Vegas, cosmetics and electronic companies have presented their latest innovations. So did IONIQ with our prototype! Moreover, IONIQ has been named among the top trends of CES out of 4500 exhibitors by BBC News Technology, Evening Standard and many others.
Beauty companies, old and new, brought their A-game to introduce the next generation of bespoke beauty products and experiences—gadgets and apps designed and customized to address your unique skin needs.SHAPE Magazine
However, does it not sound crazy that a corporate startup from Markdorf, an idyllic place at Lake Constance overlooking the Alps, is now recognized as a game changer in the beauty industry? Well it is but then, why should it? Because we have done our homework many years ago with lots of thought and consideration!