Max Factor may be testing the waters for a return to the U.S. marketplace.
The Proctor & Gamble-owned cosmetics brand, which until Aug. 1 was only available internationally, launched a limited-edition capsule collection Monday in the U.S. This is the brand’s first foray back into the U.S. market after exiting in 2010.
The capsule collection consists of existing products selected by global creative design director Pat McGrath. The four stockkeeping units are based on a trend-driven look popular with the Instagram beauty set — a cat eye paired with a natural-hued lip — and focus on two big categories in makeup currently: eyes and lips. McGrath chose the Masterpiece Max Mascara, Masterpiece High Precision Liquid Eyeliner and two Max Factor Lipstick shades — Simply Nude and Maroon Dust — for the collection.
Distribution is heavily e-commerce focused, and is available on Amazon.com, drugstore.com, walgreens.com and target.com. Merchandise is also being sold in 10,000 bricks-and-mortar doors through Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens and CVS — until it all sells out. Industry sources suggest the collection could generate close to $6 million in retail sales.
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Industry sources are also speculating that the flash-salelike nature of the capsule collection is a way for Max Factor to test the waters for a permanent return to the American market.
“They’re doing a well-orchestrated pilot to see if the American consumer can reconnect with this heritage brand,” said a source, who noted that Max Factor could be mimicking the success route many indie brands here have taken, by launching with a standout hero product.
The U.S. return — albeit brief — for Max Factor, which is set to be acquired by Coty as part of Proctor & Gamble’s larger transaction with P&G Beauty Brands, is timed with the rising popularity of makeup artistry in social media, particularly on highly visual platforms like Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat.
“A generation of young women obsessed with makeup might not realize Max Factor invented the term ‘makeup’ — he was a visionary artist and in a way he paved the way for all this,” said Laura Brinker, global communications at P&G Cosmetics. Social media, she added, has created hype and interest around international trends and brands, so much so that P&G felt the timing was right to “showcase our glamorous makeup artistry brand from abroad.” The decision to create a capsule collection, said Brinker, also stemmed from the way consumers are interested in buying beauty — “very niche, very curated.”
Harnessing the celebrity of Pat McGrath is an instrumental component of the campaign, which Brinker described as digitally focused. “She’s the heir apparent to Max Factor,” said Brinker. “She’s setting the trends, setting the looks.”
The collection launched Monday with a slew of online press coverage targeted at Millennial women, with placements on Allure.com, Refinery29.com, Instyle.com and others. These sites, said Brinker, are “where women are discovering brands and where they’re going to search for products, tips and tricks.”
By launching with a tightly edited, trend-driven collection backed by a celebrity name, Max Factor appears to be ticking the boxes for generating interest in the U.S. market, and a permanent comeback could be in the pipeline based on how this collection performs.
“They tried to relaunch the brand twice in the U.S. and it didn’t have traction, but the marketplace was different then than it is now,” said an industry source. “The customer loves artistry, she loves focus. People buy into authorities and big names behind brands — celebrity sells in America.”