By  on August 14, 2009

HUNT VALLEY, Md. — Cover Girl is bent on becoming a fashionista.

The $1 billion beauty brand continues to develop products that aim to bring runway looks down the drugstore aisle, the latest being Blast Boutique, a collection of lip and eye products that utilize technology to address lash length, lip gloss payout and attaining a smoky eye in just two steps.

Blast Boutique expands on the profitable Blast brand launched two years ago with LashBlast mascara, which, according to ACNielsen data obtained by market sources, exceeds Maybelline Great Lash, the long-standing mascara leader, in dollar sales.

The first beauty brand to achieve $1 billion in retail sales in the U.S. — achieved in June, capping off Procter & Gamble Co.’s fiscal year — Cover Girl is on a roll. It has achieved eight consecutive years of share growth, and in concert with Cover Girl Drew Barrymore, has garnered attention from a coveted consumer: the prestige shopper.

“[LashBlast] didn’t help only our eye segment, it made women around the country re-think Cover Girl. They started thinking, ‘If [Cover Girl] can do that, there’s no reason they can’t bring me more products’,” said Vince Hudson, who leads business strategy and marketing for Cover Girl. “It was disruptive.”

The new items include a LashBlast Length Mascara, Smoky ShadowBlast Eyecolor and ShineBlast Lip Gloss. During a tour of Cover Girl’s research and development facility, which is located here directly below marketing and sales offices, scientists revealed what’s involved in making a new mascara and lip gloss.

To create a lengthening mascara, Cover Girl used visual tracking technology to assess how women view eyelash length, which tends to be by observing corner lashes.

“Eight out of 10 women look there first,” said Marilyn Glen, associate director of research and development, Cover Girl. To get longer corner lashes, Cover Girl designed a slender bristle core that mirrors the changes in the lash line, so the applicator gets progressively more narrow toward the tip, with bristles more far apart in the middle. Corner lashes, said Glen, tend to be 40 percent finer and 30 percent lighter than lashes elsewhere on the eye. Ultimately, LashBlast extends lashes up to 80 percent without flaking or breaking.

LashBlast Length launches to stores in early September. An online presale will allow women to order LashBlast Length starting Aug. 17 at

For Smoky ShadowBlast, Cover Girl tapped the knowledge of P&G Global Creative Design Director Pat McGrath to design a colorful palette of dual-ended-shadow sticks. One end has a tapered tip, meant to line the lash and get into eye creases, while the other end has a rounded tip to get more surface coverage.

Formulas are smudge-able with a fingertip, allowing the consumer to play with the products, said Hudson, who applied the Citrus Flair combination during this interview, and topped it off with LashBlast Length. “You push it out at the ear,” he said of his mascara application technique.

So consumers fully understand shade options and end looks, tear pads will be available at shelf with premade makeup looks; online how-to’s will feature makeup artist Molly Stern.

ShineBlast represents a new gloss formula, brush and tip. The brush has ridges, which allows for more product on the tip. There’s also more curvature of the tip so it hugs lips better. Formulas focus on shine and shimmer in relation to shade palette, which uses a blend of polymers and light oils, as opposed to hard waxes, to deliver the pearls and pigments seen in the range.

Smoky ShadowBlast and ShineBlast Lip Gloss launch to stores in mid- to late-December and can be purchased online beginning Nov. 2.

Ad images photographed by Steven Meisel featuring Barrymore wearing the collection aim to drive the fashion-forward message home.

Items in Blast Boutique will sell for $7.49 each. Industry sources estimate Blast Boutique could generate $50 million in first-year sales.

Tapping into the high-end shopper prior to the economic downturn may have been a stroke of genius, or just pure luck, but data suggests that 56 percent of consumers are crossover shoppers and someone should meet their needs at mass.

“I see it not as a temporary lapse in the economy. It is the reset button. She is rethinking everything and her mind has been opened. In [the first quarter] consumer sentiment went up, but the gap between mass and prestige got wider. The lines are blurred. She experiences across all channels,” Hudson said.

Mass beauty is actually riding out the economic storm, according to data from Information Resources Inc.

Sales of facial cosmetics were about flat, with a 0.58 percent dip in sales to $487.9 million for the calendar year ended June 14. Lip sales are down 9.3 percent, and sales of eye products and skin care are each up 7 percent.

And even though times are tough, don’t expect any value-oriented versions of the makeup brand, à la Tide Basic.

“The recession has changed the way women shop for makeup, but what hasn’t changed is that women are not willing to sacrifice quality,” said Hudson.

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