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.