Connected mascara? L'Oreal explores the Internet of Things

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Smart makeup promises to help the company track customers

If L'Oreal has its way, your next lipstick may be able to talk back. Not to you but the company.

The cosmetics giant is exploring the idea of smart makeup and conducting internal development work on the Internet of Things, says Christophe Emery, head of digital and media for Australia and New Zealand,

The technology could allow the beauty company to give connectivity to "dumb" objects like lipstick or mascara, affording it a new way to track customers.

Marketing via connected make-up could become as vital to the company as engaging its consumers on mobile, said Emery during the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.

 "There is a lot of development happening internally," he said. "There is definitely a big focus. These products, for most consumers, are in their bags every day and are almost as personal as their mobile device."

"You can imagine there’s a great opportunity to have them as connected devices as well, creating a territory for ongoing customer engagement," he added. "At the moment, we are primarily leveraging mobile devices to create that connection, but we could do it with our own products, too."

Emery declined to go into detail on that area of L’Oreal’s research.

However, he did disclose that the company is exploring 3D-printed skin as a way to test its products without resorting to animal testing. Called Episkin, the synthetic flesh is produced in collaboration with San Diego bio-printing company Organavo.

"The reality is that L’Oreal is very careful with animal testing, but [we] have a history as well," Emery said. "To make a claim that you don’t test on animals; you need products that have no ingredients that have ever been tested on animals."

"Many years ago, most products were tested on animals and even today, products are still using those ingredients," he added. "It’s an issue that’s close to the heart of the business."

Brands sign up for the Internet of Things
A growing number of CPG brands are exploring the Internet of Things, since connected objects offer a way for marketers to keep talking to customers after purchase.

Pernod Ricard told Marketing earlier this year that the Absolut Vodka brand was developing connected bottles as a way to move beyond "static pieces of glass."

But the man who coined the "Internet of Things" phrase, Kevin Ashton, is a former P&G marketer and has warned brands not to  misuse the technology.

"Selling [information] back or advertising — these are dumb gut reactions some people in marketing have," he told Marketing earlier this year.

"I could put a sensor in a shoe, then sell you an app that shows how many steps you take. That’s not as interesting as understanding how people wear your shoes, and how you can make them better so that next time people like them even more."

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