Disruptive innovation and the consequences of being too fast | So Good News
When Julie Pefferman and Tina Rouhanian launched CleanTan in 2017, the product was ahead of its time. There were no other tanning drops on the market – they were the first. They approached product development by solving every problem with self-tanners at the time: odor, discoloration, lack of shade control, and unstable formulations.
Pefferman used her creativity as a cosmetic chemist to replace synthetic fragrances, dyes, parabens and penetration enhancers with natural, innovative and effective 2+ shelf life alternatives. The result was CleanTan Quickie Concentrate, a new way to create a sunless tan at home by mixing a few drops of concentrated antioxidant tanning solution with any lotion or moisturizer to create a natural glow or ultra-dark finish. Product innovations like this must have revolutionized the sunless tanning industry, right?
The launch received a lot of editorial resonance, and it quickly became a consumer favorite, but imitators soon followed, albeit with diluted formulas, at affordable prices. Launches became hero products, creating a flywheel effect that supported SKU expansion. Although imitation is said to be the truest form of praise for an entrepreneur, it is a bitter pill to swallow.
While the competition didn’t boast the long shelf life or TeaTan Complex, a rich antioxidant that fights free radicals associated with sunless tanning, they did have Sephora and Ulta distribution. CleanTan made a fatal mistake: they packaged the product in a 3-ounce bottle that lasted a year, and the purchase cycle was too long.
Pefferman said of the experience: “It’s my job to create the products of the future to identify trends and predict where things will go. I’m good at that. Really good. However, CleanTan was a learning experience. We had to teach everyone about the tanning drop. Regarding the size of the bottle to use there was no precedent. It turned out that instead of educating our customers, we were educating our competition. I learned that when I first entered the market, I needed to be able to push the scale button. or know someone who does!”
With the undaunted determination of an entrepreneur and the ability to use failure to inform the future, CleanTan is on a comeback. Steady growth and a stable customer base have set the stage for a major retail launch with new sustainable glass packaging in the spring of 2023.
CleanTan’s effective formula, backed by sustainable, clean and reputable positioning, will be the recipe for success this time around. For the relaunch, they fine-tuned the hero SKU, replacing the need for multiple products, giving the customer complete control over the depth of their tan. The team has two new tanning innovations to market for tanning, ready for launch when the time comes. Finally, it looks like CleanTan may be just in time to grab a slice of the billion-dollar global self-tanning market.