What the Beauty Sponge Packaging Industry Could've Learned From the Memory Foam Mattress Industry
Memory foam mattresses were introduced to the market in the 1990s. These mattresses made from polyurethane foam disrupted the mattress industry.
Invented by NASA in the 1970’s, “memory foam also known as temper foam, was developed under a NASA contract in the 1940s that set out to improve seat cushioning and crash protection for airline pilots and passengers. Memory foam has widespread commercial applications, in addition to [being used in] the popular mattresses and pillows” industries.
In the bedding market, what made the memory foam mattress popular was its ability to mold itself according to the shape of one’s body. Further, if one had the habit of tossing and turning in bed, the memory foam quickly regained its shape.
However, customer reviews of this disruptive innovation in the bedding market revealed that customers were dissatisfied with the mattresses’ performance as a consequence of the foam’s inherent nature to retain heat and moisture. As comfortable as the mattresses were, many consumers of memory foam mattresses complained that the mattress became too hot.
Basic physics demonstrate that dense materials retain heat. Polyurethane foam, which is dense, and lacks interconnected air channels, retains heat. As a consequence of the structure of the polyurethane foam, once heat is absorbed by the memory foam, it’s not easy for the heat to dissipate. Introduce your bed linen, and a human body at 98.6 degrees, no matter how comfortable the mattress is, the end results is disrupted sleep. Certainly, this wasn’t the lifestyle memory foam mattress manufacturers and vendors set out to sell. Further, it certainly wasn’t the envisioned lifestyle of those who initially purchased memory foam mattresses. In a nutshell, the product did not meet customer expectations.
Value Networks and Memory Foam Mattresses
It’s important to understand value networks in order to see the similarities between the memory foam mattress initial value network and that of the cosmetic sponge industry in order to address the question of “what the beauty sponge packaging industry could’ve learned from the bedding foam industry.”
Value networks as defined by Clayton M. Christensen, author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma, defines value networks as, the “collection of upstream suppliers, downstream channels to market, and ancillary providers that support a common business model within an industry.
As a consequence of the customer’s initial love/hate relationship with memory foam mattresses, manufacturers/vendors began introducing add-ons to address the heat issue thus expanding both their product line and their value networks. This became the common business model. Box springs, mattress layers, mattress toppers and gels, designed to wick moisture away from the mattress, allow heat and air transfer and to cool the mattress were introduced to address the problem. All at the customer’s expense.
It is clear that if manufacturers/vendors of memory foam mattresses understood that the inherent characteristics of memory foam for the needs of NASA were very different than that of a consumer who simply wants a good night’s sleep, perhaps the manner in which the mattresses were designed for the sleep market would’ve been different.
It is clear that as a consequence of not properly testing the mattress from a user experience perspective prior to selling them, manufacturers and vendors of memory foam mattresses had to change their business model to one that addressed consumer complaints associated with the memory foam mattress’ performance.
What the beauty sponge packaging industry’s could’ve learn from the memory foam mattress industry?
The same is true regarding non-disposable beauty sponges. Non-disposable beauty sponges are made from hydrophilic polyurethane. Once soaked with water the inherent nature of the material makes it difficult for water to evaporate since, like memory foam, it’s dense and even though in the beauty tool sector, hydrophilic polyurethane has an open-cell structure, that fact that it is hydrophilic in nature means the material inherently retains liquid and moisture as opposed to allowing moisture to dissipate.
Like the memory foam mattress, one would think that manufacturers/vendors of non-disposable beauty sponges and packaging designers would be aware of the structural characteristics of non-disposable beauty sponge when designing the packaging for a product that is inclined to retain moisture. It would only make sense that the packaging designers would select a packaging material that took into consideration:
1. The product to be packaged,
2. Packaging that would meet the expectations of the consumer and
3. Packaging that helps in the lives of product users.
However, this is not the case. Single-use packaging of non-disposable cosmetic sponges is the common business model in the non-disposable cosmetic sponge space. This approach adds no value to the consumer experience. It’s simply waste. Even from a circular perspective it adds no value to product.
The current business model is to introduce add-on products (silicone sponge holders, mini washing machines, shampoos for beauty sponges that don’t resolve the problem, that complicates the user experience and adds more plastic waste onto the planet. As a consequence of using an inefficient packaging design, consumers pay for apackaging error that doesn’t solve the problem.
It is clear that if manufacturers/vendors of non-disposable beauty sponges took a lesson from the memory foam industry perhaps they would have designed packaging that provides a solution to the problem of how to wash, dry and store non-disposable beauty sponges.
The industry-wide value network of the beauty sponge industry (from my perspective) does three things:
1. It doesn’t address the user-experience
2. It introduces unnecessary waste onto the planet
3. It doesn’t address customer pain points with their approach to packaging.
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