Bobbi Brown is about to be crowned beauty’s next billion-dollar brand — and it’s celebrating with some real women. Forty of them, to be exact.
The Estée Lauder-owned company today launches its 25th-anniversary events with its most significant marketing campaign to date, titled “Be Who You Are.” Forty “real women” and four models appear in a series of in-store, print, outdoor, and digital content and advertising images that will hit every single Bobbi Brown touch point. This means the brand’s distribution of more than 2,200 doors in 74 countries and 73 freestanding stores globally — from Dubai and Hong Kong to Mumbai and Madrid — will be expressing the new messaging, along with a manifesto created by Brown herself. Beyond the anniversary, Bobbi Brown this year should mark another milestone: joining the beauty world’s billion-dollars-in-revenues club. Following Lancôme, Lush and Nu Skin last year, Bobbi Brown will be the latest beauty company to hit that mark. Last month it was revealed that Tom Ford Beauty is on track to become a billion-dollar brand, after just a decade in business.
“It’s [like] Nike’s ‘Just Do It,’ ” Brown said during an interview at her namesake company’s headquarters in SoHo of the “restaging” that begins today. She said this is the first time the brand has conceptualized and executed a message this cohesive. In addition to the arsenal of content created to support “Be Who You Are,” every artist employed at a Bobbi Brown globally is being retrained in the brand’s core principles, which include 25 “how to” lessons that start at the store level — at any counter, in any store in the world.
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A handful of new product — ranging from a luxe boxed set containing the original ten lipsticks Brown launched the company with at Bergdorf Goodman, in 1991, to an Instant Confidence Stick to blur imperfections — will roll out in tandem with “Be Who You Are.” The brand has also created a limited-edition compact, containing eight of the brand’s bestselling signature “nude” eye-shadow palettes; a Trend Box series based on the brand’s “how to” lessons that contain product plus detailed instructions, and the Pink Sunset Telluride cosmetics lineup.
The brand sells more than 23 million products a year, the equivalent of about 2,735 products an hour, or 46 every minute. Currently, 45 percent of the company’s business comes from color, 25 percent from face, 20 percent from skin care and the remaining 10 percent from brushes, sets and fragrances. The U.S. is still the largest market for the company, followed by the U.K., with Korea and China tied for third place. Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa are the fastest-growing regions, though, with each seeing close to 20 percent growth.
Despite its size, Brown still insists hers is an “indie brand.” If not in dollars, then certainly in spirit.
“There’s a lot of talk about indie [brands] now; we are the ultimate indie brand. We use the power of our skies to harness scale and size, but we are driven by the indie spirit and the indie way of thinking that created the brand,” she said.
“I started the company with a simple philosophy — makeup is a way to enhance your natural beauty — and I found that makeup should be like skin and blush should be like pinched cheeks. With the right makeup, you can be a better version of yourself,” Brown continued. “I know I was the original nudist. I always helped women find true nude colors. It was revolutionary 25 years ago, and now it’s modern.”
The “Be Who You Are” marketing effort represents a complete 180-degree turn for the company, though, after a series of celebrity-centric campaigns that featured two-year deals with Katie Holmes in 2012 and Kate Upton in 2014. Upton’s campaign ended on June 30.
Now Bobbi Brown aims to harness a message of confidence and “feeling good in your skin,” whether the customer is 14 or 80, which is the age range of the women who appear in the new campaign. Women with gray or very curly hair are photographed alongside women of different ethnicities, shapes and sizes, in makeup from the brand that works with their style and features. There is no set trend or products being promoted in the ads; it wasn’t about the smoky eye or the red lip of the season, according to Brown. It’s what worked for each person.
The ads tap into the same zeitgeist that over the past few years has driven “real women” or similar-style campaigns by brands ranging from Dove to plus-size retailer Lane Bryant. But Lauder executives insist Bobbi Brown has the authenticity to preach the same message.
“Bobbi has always been a champion of real women. The brand recognized the power of individual beauty early on and has the credibility and authority to play in this space in such a persuasive, powerful way,” said John Demsey, executive group president at Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., adding that the message speaks to women of all ages and especially Millennials.
Brown and Peter Lichtenthal, president of Bobbi Brown, are banking on the authentic look and feel of the new messaging to connect with consumers in a way that celebrity imaging can’t.
“You always want to make sure you’re reintroducing the brand to a new generation of people. As big as the brand becomes, you want to get out there with your message — and make it stronger to people who know the message and make it stronger to people who may not,” said Lichtenthal.
He noted that although Holmes and Upton “did a lot to create awareness…the lesson learned is that they were less about the diversity than the brand stands for.”
Brown added that when Lichtenthal joined the company early last year and the two were looking at another actress to sign for 2016, he asked her what would happen if they didn’t continue in the celebrity-driven direction. Brown didn’t have a response immediately, but she called him back soon — after a yoga class — and told him she was on board.
And she had envisioned a whole scenario: She wanted to shoot a campaign in the company’s media center and studio, in Montclair, N.J., and work with four models of different ethnicities, along with 30 to 40 additional “real women.” The studio in Montclair contains 1,000 square feet of retail space, 1,700 square feet of space for events and education and nine artistry stations.
“I wanted to shoot these befores and afters and tell their stories. I wanted the whole shoot to be like a spa, with massages and smoothie bars…[and] healthy food,” Brown said of the “chill” vibe they worked to achieve during the four-day “Be Who You Are” shoot.
Of the four models who are used in the campaign, ensuring that each had a diverse background was a priority. For instance, Bhumika Arora is from Karnal, India; Hyun Ji Shin is from Gangnam District, Seoul, Korea; Alecia Morais hails from Cape Verde, Africa, and Mila de Wit is Danish.
Lichtenthal said this became the genesis of the restaging of the company, and in addition to a slew of traditional creative, the team created a large amount of digital content. The latter, comprised of GIFs, images, videos, interviews, color stories and detailed product information lives on a hub that goes live today on bobbibrown.com. (It will be translated and adapted for global sites.) Additionally, about 40 makeup tutorials will live concurrently on both bobbibrown.com and the brand’s YouTube channel. Today at 1:30 pm, a Facebook Live broadcast hosted by Brown will go live simultaneously in 37 markets worldwide. Brown is using the platform to talk directly to her consumer and toast the introduction of Be Who You Are (pal Sheryl Sandberg will support Brown on her social channels during the broadcast as well).
For paid digital advertising, the company is partnering with Google and YouTube on a targeted program to “hit existing customers who may have lapsed, and retargeting” them with a series of sequential brand messages, he said.