Friday, 3 December 2010

A Brand: new make up identity

I want to briefly talk about the importance of branding, again. A product is a faceless void until it is named, defined and marketed. On the other hand, if a product is under-defined yet still dazzling, it won't take long before word gets out and it is defined and marketed for them, in effect, by make-up artists and consumers who leak it via the network of blogs and forums.

The first "Brand film" Illamasqua commissioned supposedly shed light on their roots. In truth, it left me more confused than before - I always knew there was some manufacturing link between the wonderful Kryolan, and Illamasqua - yet this film implied they were one and the same... hmm, Kryolan lipstick £6; Illamasqua £15? And although I appreciated the film's potted history, I didn't like the way it glamorised smoking, which I think in this day and age should never be allowed. However I have just seen their new film titled "Vicky & Vic" which is a rather more light-hearted way of explaining what they mean by an 'alter ego'. Vicky McClure looks equally fantastic as a blonde or with jet black hair, and is a very charismatic actress for the company to have. Illamasqua have steadily crafted a real brand image and know their target.

On the other hand, Sleek makeUP was apparently initially devised for dark skinned makeup fiends to have a high street specialised option. Indeed, there was a huge gap in the market. Soon enough though, the blog world learned about these cheap and highly pigmented options, and Sleek was seized upon by all. To commemorate their newly acquired 20,000 "likes" on Facebook, Sleek tantalised their fans with promises of a huge "50% off Bonanza". They had a daily countdown, then proceeded to admit they had forgotten their offer, and got the day wrong, and generally gave a very, ahem, shall we say "human" face to the brand.
Riddled with errors, and inundated with angry and confused comments on their Facebook wall, the whole offer culminated in the code not even working. Knowing (since such was the cause of the offer, afterall) that they had so many eager fans, it seemed ludicrous that the website crashed and was unresponsive - and then, when it finally did 'work', as soon as the code went in, the basket was emptied. Only the most dogged customers stood a chance of getting their order by sheer force of luck and determination. As for myself, after 2 hours of filling and re-filling my cart, I gave up and simply emailed the company my list and asked them to process it from there. My email was ignored and today after a couple of weeks grace, I phoned. It seems my order will not be honoured, and Sleek are blaming SagePay for the fiasco. I have been told that there will be another sale soon, however when I asked them if it would only benefit those who could persevere all day long with a dodgy website, I was given no guarantee that anything had changed. All this means is that their fantastic and kind gesture to reward their staunchest fans, has simply antagonised many.

What is the best way to invest in your fan base? Offers that are not manifested are surely best avoided altogether. It seems that Illamasqua's level headed way of ploughing their prizes into creative contests is a far more effective approach. However for people who love makeup but make no pretence at being a makeup artist, this is not a universal reward. I think when a brand recognises a loyal customer, it should be like going to a coffee shop or hairdresser, you amass tokens which can ultimately be traded in for a freebie. MAC has realised this and has its 6 empties "recycling" programme. Whether this is mainly for recycling or for customer retention is a moot point but the result is the same: people like to be valued, and people love freebies and discounts. If you are going to create a following for a new makeup range, it must be managed well and appeal to all. Concentrating too hard on creative flamboyance risks alienating neutral makeup fans, and promising too much to all merely risks disappointing many.


  1. Very interesting point!
    I loved the Illamasqua videos. And I loved the smoking. It might not appeal to some (most maybe) but we all make choices in life I guess regardless of who you see doing it. I don't think they made it more glamorous...or tried to influenced people that smoking looks cool. I just think that it's part of that character to smoke. That's all. I think Illamasqua can appeal to the more grungy people or the couture lovers.
    It's so diverse.
    I agree with the Kryolan issue. I was confused too.

  2. @Mercedes-Ms Purple Make-up
    Thanks! Well I think the sad thing is, smoking does look cool, and that character was clearly set up as a cool character. I think in modern times, knowing all the dangers of smoking, this technique of using a cigarette as an elegant styling device is inexcusable! Plenty of people start smoking precisely because it still retains its glamour. The association between smoking and poise or rebellion (clearly what Illamasqua were reaching for) should be debunked, not perpetuated.

  3. Veering off the subject re the smoking - when i watched it i really craved a cigarette and i don't smoke. It seemed like more of an inadvertent ad for marlboro lights than lipstick, because it only left me thinking that illamasqua is basically over priced!

  4. @Georgia haha oh dear! It is a shame they couldn't have cut the smoking. I understand in films and TV it is part of a character, but for a make-up promo it seems unnecessary, even a bit at odds if anything.

  5. I can't help but think it'd have been cooler for the character not to smoke ;)

    I've watched the Sleek thing with detached interest, not ever having been that fussed by the brand. A classic case of over-promising and under-delivering, which is a huge mistake, and not helped by the somewhat flippant Twitter feed at the same time.

    SpaceNK has just started a loyalty scheme, and so far, apart from the slightly naff name (N.Dulge) I think they're getting it right. Recently, they gave loyalty card holders a free £10 on their cards, just because. It was a nice unexpected surprise, and it was hassle-free to redeem instore.

    A thoughtful and interesting post, as always.

  6. @Grace London
    Yes I heard about that Space NK - haha N.Dulge. A bit bitter as even though I get all their spam (sorry I mean lovely booklets) in the mail, I didn't get the £10 voucher. It sounds like an excellent idea and definitely the way forward. Thanks! xxxx

    Thank you so much xxxx