Bare Escentuals, start your engines.
This story first appeared in the June 18, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
That’s the directive of the mineral-makeup brand’s executive chairman Leslie Blodgett. Beginning in August, Bare Escentuals is going on a road trip, dispatching Quickie Vans across America to dole out samples and do “make-unders.”
In a separate rubber-meets-road initiative, in October, Blodgett will board a tricked-out tour bus (it used to be David Copperfield’s), making stops at retailers along the East Coast. Blodgett and her road crew plan to visit St. Johns, Fla. (Sephora); Greenville, S.C. (Ulta); Richmond, Va. (Nordstrom); Philadelphia (hotel master class); New York (Bloomingdale’s), and Smith Haven, N.Y. (Bare Escentuals boutique).
The pit stop at the 59th Street Bloomingdale’s will have particular significance to Blodgett, because it’s where she got her start in the beauty business, selling “hair sticks” (think chopsticks) for commission only. On a recent spring morning, she twisted her long brown hair around the base of her head to demonstrate her go-to look for in-store demonstrations, impressing her breakfast companions.
Bare Escentuals’ quirky marketing tactics — heavily influenced by its magnetic chief executive-turned-executive chairman — helped to attract the attention of Japanese cosmetics giant Shiseido Co. Ltd., which acquired the company for an estimated $1.7 billion earlier this year. In a nod to Bare Escentuals’ unconventional approach, during a recent visit to the company’s San Francisco headquarters, Shiseido president and ceo Shinzo Maeda donned a Bare Escentuals T-shirt, along with all company employees, for “all-hands-on-deck day,” a biannual celebration at the company.
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Despite the sale to Shiseido, Blodgett shows no signs of stepping on the brakes.
After all, Bare Escentuals, credited with jump-starting the mineral-makeup trend, has loyal customers to see and women to convert to its product portfolio — hence the bus tour and the Quickie Vans.
The vans are an extension of the company’s spring road trip that resulted in 11,000 make-unders — or a less-is-more makeover with mineral-based products. The fall tour, branded Tour of America 2010: Rethink the Quickie, will cover more ground, visiting 92 cities with three separate Quickie Vans. Together, the vans plan to log 1,700 miles. Consumers also can vote for one mystery stop via a Facebook application. This time around, visitors will be able to purchase products from the electric-powered Quickie Vans, which pop up into mini boutiques.
As a trailblazer in the mineral-makeup trend, which has exploded in popularity in recent years, Blodgett admits she has a slight aversion to copycats. Asked if she’ll trade her Kindle e-book reader for an iPad, she said, smiling: “No, I’ll stick to the Kindle. I know what it’s like to be copied.”