Saturday, 18 April 2009

How important is it for your makeup to be exclusive and original?

Do you like my new shoes?? I had been on the hunt for a pair that would simaltaneously tick the box 'stylish/original' and 'practical looking/ease of walking 40 minutes a day'. This was harder than anticipated, but these were the closest I could get. I would be devastated to see someone in the same pair, as that would be really embarrassing: it would mean we both went out of our way to be different, and failed in the very harshest way. Like the time I went on camp as a teenager, with a "radical" pink streak in my hair - and another girl had the same, exactly the same streak - same colour and everything ... cringe!

"Nice hair," we both said, trying to make light of it. But inside, clearly we were both seething with rage and humiliation. So, is it better to just go for simple sobriety, black lace ups, brown neutral smokey eye and a little belted blazer? Yes, most times it probably is.

This is a beauty blog, preaching to a beauty addicted community, who probably have all the basic colours covered, yet still yearn for the next big trend, the next big thing, the limited, exclusive or otherwise original new product to be tried and tested. Why do we persist?? This is my latest lemming:

It's the 'cool eyes' quad. And it's a duty free exclusive. Is it too absurd to book a holiday so I can get a MAC quad which has Springtime Skipper, Flashtrack and Water Nymph in? All colours I missed and wish I hadn't... I mean, any excuse for a holiday, right?! I have lined up two people I know who are going abroad anyway, and hopefully at least one of them will get it for me, but if not, I will definitely take matters into my own hands!! I need it!!

So, why do all beauty companies (though MAC is the greatest exponent of this technique) insist on bringing out these limited collections, seasonal collections, country exclusive collections, travel editions... why place all these unnatural barriers on your consumer? Yes, clearly it's to appeal to the same two box ticked boxes that I'd looked for in my shoe purchase, roughly: 'stylish/original' and 'practical/ease of use.' How else to achieve this than by limiting its availability, and assembling shades neatly and easily categorized. It works. And for addicts, it's no use debating the 'dupes' either - they're not exclusive, are they?

This extends even further when it comes to niche products. I once tried a sample of the famously expensive Creme de la mer and I was comforted to find that I hated it. I was grateful to be reminded of this in an article I once read, and can agree that it did cause spots. Yet make something shiny enough, or scientific looking enough, and my hopes are raised again. That article in fact argues that we enjoy this runaround, subconsciously or consciously we allow ourselves to be lulled into the hype; perhaps somehow imagining that even a placebo effect can have its advantages. Articles like that however are all too rare, it's no secret that magazines depend on major companies to fund their publications through advertising revenue, and are understandably reluctant to antagonise their sponsors.

Independent avenues like YouTube and blogs can run the risk of being swayed but are clearly less vulnerable. Whatstyleistonikel on Youtube went as fas as saying this sponsorship trend would sound the death knell for the YouTube makeup community, yet his own previous (very reliable and useful) review belied any real threat that this might truly be the case. Nevertheless companies are wise to realise that herein lies a passive, willing, consumer to be tapped.

Before YouTube, aside from the fact that my makeup collection generally has exploded, I had little notion of expert blending brushes, and no notion of eye bases, mixing medium or depotting. Pixiwoo, although also a prime target for sponsorship, has made a point of refusing YouTube partnership to enforce an independent image, and never uses an eyeshadow base as she has said this is pure marketing. Although I would respectfully disagree in the sense that new products can sometimes indeed signal new scientific progress, and none more so than the marvel that is UDPP, her point in general does hold true.

Although magazine articles arguably remain the best way to promote high-end beauty products, consumers now have the opportunity to go to independent sources to see the actual product being daubed; to hear a fellow makeup enthusiast assess its virtues in uncompromising terms.

TV adverts are still flooded by the major brands' drugstore products, afterall these are the easiest to shift in bulk and one imagines make up their biggest revenue, being as they are designed as impulsive purchases. But it seems niche markets with a higher price point, must seek out a more exclusive audience, ripe for convincing.

In terms of appealing to the customer on the shop floor, MAC have positioned themselves as a trend-driven, young brand. Their no-nonsense packaging reflects both the professional theme, and the rebuke towards all those austere "old lady" gold detailing so ubiquitous in Estee Lauder, Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubenstein et al. Yet even MAC have now decided a "line filler" must become part of their permanent line-up, to appease their dedicated following, who by now struggle to deal with the onslaught of fine lines, and might otherwise consider whether now they too should embrace the more senior beauty ranges.

Clinique similarly taps into the young emergent market by having its very practical sounding 3 step program, and including acne remedies. But its emphasis is on the white coat and plain clinical (even in name) designs, so it avoids being tainted as surely as MAC in its demographic. MAC has deliberately cultivated close ties with fashion, particularly with young new designers, who are obviously delighted to be supported by a major brand.

The MAC promo images too are usually identified by their novel design. This is in stark contrast to simpler promo images aimed at the more senior makeup consumer. Spot the difference:

Top:EL; Bottom, MAC.

And how easy is it to change one's perceived brand image? I suspect it will be easier for MAC to move in line with their established customer base, than it would for a company like EL, HR or EA to convince a younger generation to shake off the image of a frail granny hand carefully twisting up her golden lipstick case.

But if Nivea manage to pull this one off, then anyone can:

... How do you make your beauty choices? And what does your chosen brand say about you? Does it matter to you to whether something is exclusive?


  1. Loved reading this article!

    Nice shoes by the way - I'd definitely wear something like that.


  2. @Emma

    Thanks so much! I know this is random, but actually I thought of you whilst writing this, as I wondered who might read it! That's very kind of you. Enjoying your vids btw, can't wait for the festival advice!!! x

  3. This is written so well, and very thought provoking!

    I suppose before I started blogging and youtubing, I was a major sucker for imaging and exclusivity - I loved the MAC LE's and took them home with pride... However once I started trying other brands I realised that quality counts more than image, and while I have my favourite brands (Illamasqua,RMK, MAC), I am a lot more open minded about trying new products and ranges... I also find it easier to see through the marketing and exclusivity for what it is - a way to creat a product buzz that results in a massive surge of income for the company.

    I also read an unfavourable article recently regarding MAC's methods of getting MUA's to work with them, and I found that very revealing... I can't remember the exact details but from memory, MAC were basically giving products to MUA's to get further buzz and publicity on the products, and then moving onto getting artists using their products exclusively... This to me does not sit well, the term makeup artist implies in itself that MUA's are artists. They should therefore be free to use products that they think work best...The beauty industry in itself does have its flaws!

  4. @MizzWorthy

    Oh thank you very much! x

    Yes, I was exactly the same, I'd like to think I'm less naïve now too! I wrote about MAC's rather underhand devices myself a few posts ago. I want to say it's really out of order, but the truth is they are running a business - and they've hit on a winning strategy! So as long as people can see it for what it is, no harm done. But it's good to hear that the practices are being highlighted.

    - Thanks for your answers, interesting!!

  5. Interesting post! You gave us a lot to think about...

    How do I make beauty choices? I'm definitely influenced by recommendations. In my teen years, I used a lot of Cover Girl and Clinique. I used them because my friends swore by them. Later on, I had some friends who studied abroad in Europe and came back with Lancome skin care and told me I MUST try it. And so I became a devotee of the French brands. Then came the Internet and YouTube and MAC.

    MAC has not won me over completely, but I do watch their collections. Before MAC, I wasn't even aware that makeup companies had seasonal collections or limited editions. So I guess they have influenced my shopping habits in that way. Nowadays, I watch for new collections from several brands, not just MAC.

    Thanks to my love for the French brands, I have become a sucker for fancy packaging. (I think it's funny that young women think of gold trim as "old lady". When I was in my 20s, it was considered "sophisticated".)

    Someone looking through my makeup collection will probably notice that I care about packaging and that I prefer higher-end brands. But as Missworthy said, I'm also starting to pay more attention to actual quality. I'm paying more attention to how the products actually work on my skin, and as a result I've started trying out different brands from all price ranges.

    My skin care collection especially is becoming more no-nonsense. I've been learning more about ingredients and I'm finding drugstore products that are the same or better than the Clinique and Lancome products I've always used.


  6. You know that MAC and Estee Lauder are owned by the same company, right? Estee Lauder owns numerous makeup brands and can afford to skew one towards fashion-led customers (MAC) and another toward old ladies (Estee Lauder).

    That said, I do prefer European brands to American brands, with a smattering of Japanese makeup brands.

  7. @Laurore44

    Thank you so much for saying that! How kind.

    Regarding your points - I completely agree: before YouTube made me hyper-aware of MAC and its gazillion collections and its emphasis on limited collections, I had very little awareness of the concept at all!

    And I must point out I am not one of those who associate gold flourishes with "old lady" but I know most people seem to be. To me it is "lady". MAC is ugly and butch, its limited embellishments are tacky and cheaply made. NARS also isn't ideal - aside from the black rubber attracting dirt, it is rather butch too. Only good thing is the mirrors are great. MAC Blot/Bronzer have crappy little mirrors, and the blushers etc don't have any mirror at all. Don't get me started on packaging! It's a big deal to me too, I can't help it!! French brands understand that.

    On the plus side, I too have discovered HG cheap skincare, hurrah! Though I wish I could find an effective anti-wrinkle cream. If you know any, let me know! Xx

  8. @Jamilla Camel

    haha yes I know, I do see its all part of their business strategy and I've no doubts that it works a treat! That is very true.

    But I was wondering from a basic consumer angle, what ppl felt their 'brand' "meant" and why they felt comfortable with the brand image/ or indeed if it mattered at all... and by extension whether it affected their choices if the item was part of a limited or seasonal promotion...

    I never thought to differentiate between American and French brands, but I see that is quite logical. I love Guerlain, but EL is my overall fave brand, so I couldn't choose! I wish I had had the chance to try out Asian brands, they look amazing and fun, but alas I haven't been there and I'm not sure where in UK to find such things?

    Thanks! x

  9. Hi Gail,
    Regarding the wrinkle cream-- I just started using RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream. I haven't used it long enough to find out if it works as promised; but retinol (similar to Retin-A) is supposedly one of the few over-the-counter ingredients that is proven to reduce wrinkles. (Vitamin C is another.) You can only use it at night and I'm currently only using it once every 3 days until I'm sure it won't irritate my skin. I can't use a toner when I use this either.

    Neutrogena also makes retinol lotions, but I chose RoC because I've seen it recommended more often.

    I was using Clinique Turnaround, and it softened and brightened my skin but didn't do anything for the small wrinkles that are just starting to develop.

    I still prefer my Clinique Super Defense SPF 25 for day. It's the only non-shiny, non-heavy moisturizing sunscreen that I've ever found. Eucerin Everyday Protection SPF 30 is *almost* as good and I may switch to that if I can get my oiliness under control.


  10. Oh you must keep me informed as to how the ROC helps, I have heard good things! If it works, I'll definitely try that! I do enjoy my Total Turnaround, but you're right - it is more for tone and pigmentation issues than lines. I just hate my '11' frown line and I want to start attacking it.

    I have got Retin A prescription gel but it is very drying. I also never use sunscreen, or rather I do, but I rely on the SPF 15 within my fdtn. I've heard Eucerin is fantastic, maybe I ought to stock up. I'd assumed grey skies don't need proper SPF protection, but maybe that's where I'm going wrong! Thanks for all those tips, much appreciated! Looking forward to hearing your results... Good luck!x

  11. I must say this, and will probably get alot of flack for it, but I do not own a single MAC item :O Never even tried it.Why? I really dont know! Everyone preaches about MAC and oohs and ahhs about it.I tend to be drawn away from the mainstream "lemmings" as Gail says and I gues I view MAC as such a product line.Pushed and touted as "the best"
    I tend to like the underdog.The company that builds its product line and sales on quality and professional reccomendation rather than flash and ads.
    HOWEVER, the first things I am drawn to when I walk into Sephora is Japanese lines and fun colorful packaging like Urban Decay.Anything that looks slightly stuffy or gold trimmed and neutral packaging is totally bypassed.
    If there is something I need or am looking for I always have a sales assistant bring me different things to try from the "stuffy" lines and I sit and try on oodles of shades until I find one that suits me.If I am not sure I always ask for a sample and mull it over and try it at home.
    So I guess in the end, even though the packaging catches my eye, I end up heading for quality and what works for me over trends,pricing, or packaging.I dont care if something is "elite".
    Love ths shoes Gail,but posting them on the internet is not the best way to keep from being imitated! Now everyone will be hunting your find :O

  12. haha I'm trying to imagine peole hunting for my shoes!! Funny!!

    I am yes, in shock about your confession, I mean- how can you live without MAC Blot pressed powder, for starters??

    Yet it does sound rather rational when you put it in context, and that's probably the best way to be! X

  13. P.S For anyone reading this, I might point you towards my afoementioned previous post, found here: