Branding Beauty in an Ugly Economy
It is natural for brands to evolve as recessionary times impose more discipline, budgetary constraints and brand portfolio triages. Some brands manage to grow without any DNA damage, while others jump on the latest bandwagon trend and then fall off because of an unwise move—all too often at the expense of their own existence.
Survival of the fittest has become the new imperative in the resilient beauty business as brands struggle to creatively engage consumers at every conceivable purchase point.
Brand Fall: Max Factor Kisses America Goodbye
Max Factor, the classic American make-up artist brand owned by Procter & Gamble (P&G), was discontinued in the US in June 2009. It has been reported in the trade press that Max Factor was overshadowed by the exponential growth of Cover Girl, which is also part of P&G’s beauty brand portfolio.
Cover Girl has consistently sustained its girl-next-door, “easy, breezy, beautiful” appeal, while Max Factor adopted a bolder identity with its “Make-up with Attitude” positioning.
Max Factor is a storied 100-year-old brand. Timeless Hollywood celebrities such as Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe all wore and endorsed the brand. Historically, its brand connection to Hollywood glamour is far greater than what its most recent tagline, “Make-up with Attitude,” suggests.
To support the positioning twist, the brand also changed faces to reinvent itself using make-up artists and supermodel endorsements from people such as Carmen Electra and, most recently, Gisele Bündchen.
The attempts to refresh and salvage the brand in the US were resolute but not enough for Max Factor to fit itself into a new context and own the new positioning with authenticity.
The glamorous Hollywood movie star quality that was intrinsic to Max Factor’s DNA suddenly became all about edgy make-up artistry, make-up artists and supermodels.
The mystique, imagery and appeal surrounding Hollywood celebrities are timeless. Marilyn Monroe immortalized Chanel No. 5 when she was asked what she wore to bed and replied: a few drops of Chanel No. 5. Couldn’t her favorite shade of red Max Factor lipstick be storied, romanced and immortalized too?
From a business perspective, Max Factor lost its battle in the US due to an expected drop in consumption that led to a distribution loss. From a brand identity perspective, Max Factor missed an opportunity to stand by its “Hollywood star glam” roots and give the brand a sense of continuity in the US market.
Ironically, the American classic make-up brand is popular in 70 other countries and enjoys a top position in 20 of them.
From Fashionista to Recessionista
Buying a less expensive item from a prestigious fashion brand is how many consumers find a way to own that brand and the style it represents.
By partnering with P&G and enlisting the make-up artist Pat McGrath, Dolce & Gabbana (D&G) has recently increased its equity through what may appear to be a lateral move for fashion designers—a color cosmetics line.
However, throughout its history, D&G has always been influenced by Hollywood and positions its brand by dressing Hollywood celebrities and using its make-up line in well-executed extensions of the D&G fashion brand attributes. For example, the brand chose Scarlett Johansson as the face of its cosmetics brand. The advertising features the actress on a bed wearing a corset and bright red lipstick, alluding to a Marilyn Monroe shoot.
Even though a D&G dress may be out of reach given the tough economic landscape and thrifty consumers, glamorous red lipstick can provide a quick fix for both consumers and brands struggling in the tight economy.
The Lipstick Theory
Historically the color cosmetics category—especially lipstick—has outperformed other categories during recessionary times. However, new consumer research from Mintel Beauty Innovation shows that the Lipstick Theory in the current economic climate simply doesn’t apply.
The Lipstick Theory, also known as the Lipstick Index, draws a correlation between recession and consumption habits, predicting that women, unable to afford expensive luxuries, buy lipstick to cheer themselves up.
“It is a common perception that lipstick sales go up in times of economic adversity, yet Mintel research reveals a very different picture. Hair care and skin care are actually the beauty categories where women are spending the same or more,” says Nica Lewis, head consultant for Mintel Beauty Innovation.
“In this recession, ‘Austerity Chic,’ or looking good for less, is replacing the Lipstick Effect. Beauty is now marketed as a necessity rather than a luxury, and women are being creative with their spending to keep up appearances,” she continues. “This means women are investing in moisturizers, body lotion and hair care, rather than lipstick.”
In addition, it has been reported in the trade press that beauty as a category is also competing with premium chocolates, sunglasses and other cross-category affordable luxuries.
Although debatable, the Lipstick Index may still provide brands direction if approached from a marketing and branding context. Besides D&G’s new launch, Calvin Klein is trying to crack the make-up category for the third time, and Ralph Lauren is planning its second foray into color cosmetics.
Beyond a Flawless Beauty Brand Execution
Except for inventory costs and prime retail space disputes, the most important frontier for marketers today is highly fragmented digital media spaces and their transformative effect on consumer brand experiences.
Customers are rapidly embracing social media for brand research and testimonials. Information, feedback, validation and opinions from trusted sources play an important role in brand building—especially given consumers’ high involvement with the beauty category.
“Customers review and recommend brands with a sense of ownership never seen before. Companies need to identify the best way to engage with these passionate stakeholders. Thousands of them are far more effective than a few curated articles published in traditional magazines,” says Andrea Nhuch Abrahamson from TheNhuch.com, a site that provides insights on the latest beauty news and dialogues.
A more creative and dynamic approach is required to follow the needs and wants of well-informed, increasingly discerning and omnipresent consumers.
In addition to creating cohesive and effective brand positioning, cosmetic brands need to reach out to consumers wherever they can, learn about their beauty habits and practices, and engage them to embark on new brand experiences.
Even if that means reintroducing them to Marilyn Monroe.
This article was sourced at www.brandchannel.com