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Bobbi Brown to Tap Influencers, Introduce Lower-Priced Lipstick Range

The brand is making sizable investments in the online space.

Bobbi Brown to Tap Influencers, Introduce
Pamela Allier and Kika Silva; Masha Kravtsova

NEW YORK — It’s a new day at Bobbi Brown.

The 25-year-old company, which late last year saw the departure of founder Bobbi Brown, is about to roll out a slew of marketing, influencer and product initiatives to attract a younger customer — starting with a reportedly seven-figure investment in a global influencer program and a lower priced lipstick range.

Sandra Main, global president of La Mer and Bobbi Brown, who stepped into the latter role in July, has been charged with reinvigorating The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. brand. During an interview Tuesday morning at Bobbi Brown’s headquarters in SoHo here, Main was clear that the tenet Brown built her brand on — makeup as a way to enhance one’s natural beauty — won’t change.

“We’re going to be doing four to five times the investment in influencers and digital activations — starting now,” Main said, declining to give a dollar amount. “We’re not changing our philosophy. We’re not changing how we express ourselves — but the platforms that allow us to express ourselves are so much broader in today’s world that it gives us the opportunity to speak to a much larger community and for that community to speak on our behalf, as well.”

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Bobbi Brown, which was built on a singular point of view and voice, will for the first time leverage influencers to help create a collective perspective and build an online community. To promote the launch of its new Crushed Lip Color, the brand flew in 25 influencers from 16 global markets for a “girl crush” themed three-day event, Crushing it in NYC with Bobbi Brown. The festivities kicked off Sept. 4 and will culminate tonight in the Crush Carnival Soiree at The Glasshouses in Chelsea. Among the influencers in attendance: Sazan Hendrix (829,000 followers on Instagram), Jacey Duprie (424,000 followers on Instagram), Makeup Shayla (2.5 million followers on Instagram), Becky Li (2.24 million followers on Weibo) and Yuri Kwon (4.7 million followers on Instagram).

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Billed as a “lipstick with the feel of a balm,” Crushed lipstick’s $29 price point is about 17 percent less than the luxe lip category average. It’s the first of three items that will roll out in the next year that will be 15 to 20 percent cheaper than the existing collection, according to Main, including a complexion product in January and another item in the lip group next fall. No prices of current products will change.

The impetus for “Tier 0” pricing, Main explained, is to appeal to a younger customer where they shop, with an emphasis on multibrand specialty stores. The average age of Bobbi Brown’s consumer is 38, but she hopes these launches skew more toward an “older Millennial,” or someone in their late 20s to 35 years old.

The brand will also streamline its large assortment and shift its focus to hero products. In the past, Main said Bobbi Brown took an “equal approach” instead of identifying a smaller selection and amplifying the messaging around it. This curation of brand offerings will have the greatest impact abroad, and especially in China, where the brand will enter Sephora this month. She pointed out that, from a merchandising perspective, an edited selection of products is critical to showcasing bestsellers in limited retail space.

“One thing that we’re trying to do is not influence them [influencers] with beauty products. It’s not about talking beauty with them — they’re beauty experts already. We want to bring them beyond beauty and experience New York City, the birthplace of Bobbi Brown,” Main said, switching her focus back to the week’s influencer festivities, which has a dedicated #BBGirlCrush hashtag. She noted that a key facet of the program is teaming up with “influential, crush-worthy, female entrepreneurs from different walks of life.”

For instance, restaurateur and Cherry Bombe founder Kerry Diamond will host a panel today, Crushing It in the Kitchen: Fashion + Food,  featuring Bobbi Brown’s “ultimate girl crush,” Jenna Lyons; “Top Chef” winner Kristen Kish, and Missy Robbins, the chef and owner of Lilia.

Part of  identifying Lyons as its “ultimate girl crush” and brand partner moving forward  means the former president of J. Crew will get to spearhead an influencer initiative of her own. She’s helping to cull an inaugural group of 50 influencers “from all walks of life” that will make up a Pretty Powerful Collective that will be unveiled early next year. The brand has a history of “crushing on” Lyons, Main said, noting that  a coral shade of Creamy Matte lip color was named “Jenna” in 2012.

“One thing I’ve noticed in that genre [beauty], is that people have a tendency to self-select in a niche and it doesn’t allow you to see beauty outside of what you’re looking at, what you know and what you feel comfortable with — and today it’s more important than ever,” Lyons said of the Collective, which will include teachers and chefs.

Main chimed in that the majority of Collective content will live online, with support from strategic off-line activations.

“We’re taking the same values as Bobbi’s — it was her, she was the influencer — and broadening that into multiple influencers. It’s not changing the brand; it’s reinforcing who we are, but broadening it to allow more people to be part of it,” Main said, adding that product co-creation with influencers à la Becca is something the brand will pursue, as well as larger-scale ambassadorships and community integration programs that use crowdsourcing to help with product development.