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Critical Mass: Bonne Bell’s Princess Project

NEW YORK — Eleven-year-old Jacqueline Violette thrusts her hand into a box full of Bonne Bell cosmetics with glee.<BR><BR>She’s not being greedy. Instead, Violette is one of 24 girls packing boxes of Bonne Bell products for girls...

NEW YORK — Eleven-year-old Jacqueline Violette thrusts her hand into a box full of Bonne Bell cosmetics with glee.

She’s not being greedy. Instead, Violette is one of 24 girls packing boxes of Bonne Bell products for girls undergoing cancer treatments at Ronald McDonald House of New York City on 73rd Street. Over the course of a few hours, the girls pack up more than 400 boxes filled with product, handmade get-well cards and copies of “The Princess Diaries” by Meg Cabot.

Cosmetics companies have long been associated with raising money for women’s health issues through highly visible programs from Revlon, Estée Lauder and Avon, to name a few. But this time the cause is on a younger scale, and it is a fitting one for the leading youth brand. Dubbed the Princess Project, the effort marks Bonne Bell’s first philanthropy event, one that promises to be just the beginning of what the company calls Girls for Girls, an effort that grew out of requests from Bonne Bell users.

“Smackers celebrates girls as the heart of what we do,” said Hilary Bell, executive vice president, strategic ideation, at Bonne Bell. “Girls are attracted to the goodness in brands like Smackers, and they also want to do good things for other people. We are proud to give them the opportunity to give of themselves at an event like the Princess Project.”

Girls ranging from eight to 15 years old gathered at Bonne Bell’s SoHo office to hear Teen Vogue beauty and health editor Kara Jesella discuss her job. Author Cabot called in to chat with the group. After lunch, the girls worked feverishly, constructing the boxes with pride. Then the girls set out to fill the boxes with products for cancer patients, a task they embraced with vigor. Girls were recruited through Teen Vogue’s It Girl program, as well as bringing in friends and daughters of employees.

Doing well by doing good is becoming an important mantra for Bonne Bell and will burnish its already solid reputation. While many “tween” brands have come and gone, Bonne Bell has remained one of the few stable players. The brand was around for tweens long before the term was coined. The company forged relationships with other well-known logos before the beauty licensing frenzy hit. Since 1974 the company has shipped more than 25 million Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers. According to Information Resources Inc., Dr. Pepper is the number one product in the lip category by unit for the 52-week period ended April 18, 2004.

This year, Skittles and Starburst products bowed. The Starburst Smackers line already represents four of the top 15 stockkeeping units in unit volume, with almost $4 million worth of the product shipped through June 1, 2004. And Smackers Starburst, Skittles and Dr. Pepper/Seven Up product lines hold 23 of the top 25 potions by dollar and unit volume when ranked with other food and beverage licensed products, according to IRI.

When the last box was packed, Violette was tired, but thrilled at the prospect of making a sick girl happy.

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The dollar trend continues to swell. Target has rolled out its One-Spot dollar section to all stores and is reported to be looking at budget brands such as SmartBrands’ Ten to bring beauty to the department. Albertsons is also integrating dollar zones into all of its stores. And at a new Walgreens opened in Raritan, N.J., the chain used an endcap with shampoo priced at $1.