Sitting waiting for our film to start, the usual slew of adverts played, making me wish I hadn’t eaten my popcorn so quickly. Cars, energy drinks, cruises. I regretted being so painfully punctual. But then high energy pop music began to blare, while 50 mouths flicked onto the screen. Some mouths had tattoos and septum piercings, some opened to reveal brace encrusted teeth; and along with the multitude of lipstick colours, each and every skin tone in the background was different. When it ended, I was shocked that the L’Oreal logo popped up. It was so unlike the L’Oreal I knew, a modern advert for the very same lipstick your grandma probably uses.
Immediately after this ad had ended, another began, in which a confident, older lady applied a face of makeup in the mirror. She didn’t try to hide her wrinkles, but merely added to her beauty. Smiling in the reflection, it was clear she wasn’t applying the cosmetics for anyone else, just to feel good for herself. My boyfriend leant over to me and whispered ‘wow, if I was a woman I’d really want to buy that makeup right now’. The advert, which turned out to be from Maxfactor, felt shockingly modern, just as the previous one had done. The diversity in the L’Oreal ad, the empowerment from Maxfactor; not only were the values behind the back to back adverts inclusive and the branding fresh, but I actually wanted to purchase products from companies I’d usually snub.
Revlon launch a new brand, Flesh, aimed at millennials
Alongside L’Oreal and Maxfactor’s re-brand, Revlon have sneakily launched their newest side hustle, ‘Flesh Beauty’. I say sneakily, because Revlon themselves aren’t advertising their involvement, instead, through marketing smoke and mirrors, they’re leading the public to believe it’s an entirely different brand. And they’re doing a good job; Flesh and Revlon couldn’t look, or feel, more disparate. Whereas Revlon is at home in a suburban drugstore - most likely picked over by housewives who grew up with little gold tubes of Cherries In The Snow - Flesh Beauty feels like it was created for a millennial consumer, more likely to Amazon Prime a lipstick than they are to try one in person. Flesh has all the outer workings to suggest it’s the brainchild of Glossier or Milk Makeup, whilst the insides boast a huge variety of shades and undertones, catering vastly to its namesake. The tell-tale sign of Flesh’s moneyed backing here comes from the huge range of shades carried (40 foundation shades at launch, with more lines to be added), and yet none of these signs point to Revlon, whose complexion products famously cater to everyone under the sun (so long as your skin tone is beige). But the intrigue doesn’t stop at the minimal packaging or maximal shade range, the names of the products are daring and sexual – a highlighter named ‘Vibrate’, a blush called ‘Swollen’ – a far cry from the conservative approach Revlon takes to both its products and customer base.
And recruited beauty journalists and influencers to help shape the brand to their new target audience
Flesh recruited founding editor of Allure (USA based makeup magazine) Linda Wells to be creative officer of Revlon, along with influencer Christina Grasso known more commonly as her Instagram moniker ‘The Pouf’, a move clearly influenced by Revlon’s attempt to reach a new, millennial audience. But why are the biggest, traditional beauty moguls trying to access a completely different market? Whilst it might seem strange to try and straddle two audiences, branching out, and catering to, this group of people makes total sense when buying patterns are taken into consideration. Millennials have the expendable income it was once assumed the housewives would, but the buying habits and lack of brand loyalty than the housewives don’t. In short, millennials are much more likely to pick up a makeup item on a whim; drawn in by packaging and social media hype as much as they are the possibilities the product promises. They don’t depend on one brand or household names alone, and are more likely to invest in indie or upcoming brands. Along with pretty packaging and interesting launches, millennial brands are usually compassionate, take concerns like the environment into consideration, and have a ‘struggle story’, authenticity that young people in a fake new social media age are likely to ‘buy into’. In short, young people want there to be more to a lipstick, they don’t just want high quality products, they want to connect with the brand they’re buying from. This need has been famously capitalised on by beauty mogul Emily Weiss, who rebranded networking marketing for the launch of Glossier as ‘BFF linking’, where ‘Glossier reps’ recommend their favourite products via word of mouth, in exchange for store credit. Before its launch, Flesh beauty took notes from its more social media savvy siblings - such as Milk Makeup and Glossier - utilising Instagram to preview ‘sneak peaks’ at the upcoming products. The Flesh beauty Instagram page was simply filled with swatches of variously toned makeup, with elusive captions such as ‘Don’t worry about it’ and ‘Oh what do we have here?’. With its millennial centric launch - and Instagram residence - Flesh beauty was clearly calling to an audience Revlon couldn’t quite seem to capture.
Focusing on diversity remains a key component of rebranding
Another key element to its new audience was the fact the brand was actually catering to them; all of them. The brand’s tagline is ‘Flesh: for every colour of you’. Linda Wells told The Cut that this attempt to diversify its customer base, ‘is a change in behaviour, approach, and business. It has to be a new reality. It’s not just fashion. It’s sad we didn’t think about it before’. After Rihanna’s Fenty range launched with 40 foundation shades, when, historically, women with darker skin are left as an afterthought or are palmed off with excuses about ‘expanding shade ranges in future’, Rihanna gave the audience what they wanted in the here and now. And it worked; the darker shades sold out, proving previous claims by companies that black women don’t buy cosmetics to be, in short, bullshit. Women of all races have interests in beauty and the desire to buy, they simply couldn’t. And even when ranges did finally expand to shades similar to them, why would you want to give your money to a brand who regards you as a footnote? Whether diversity is a trendy buzzword that marketers see can shift shades, or whether - like Wells says - it’s simply something brands have only now considered many years too late, the precedent has been set, and everything not up to the Fentification of beauty is automatically old news.
Watching the cinema advert, I realised MaxFactor had dropped their well-known slogan claiming them to be ‘the makeup of makeup artists’. ‘At least they’re honest’, I thought. Whilst the new kids on the block are stealing the shine of cult classics of years gone by, traditional brands are realising that if they can’t beat them, they’re going to have to join them. And where diversity and inclusivity are concerned, that can only be a good thing.
Banner by image by @eslee for Fossil via Whalar.