Move over “Mad Men.” Bare Escentuals has bypassed Madison Avenue, choosing instead to hang around the water cooler for advertising inspiration.

This story first appeared in the January 8, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

On the heels of its quirky, attention-grabbing Love Matte campaign, the beauty firm will introduce Rethink What Matters, an Internet and mobile marketing effort designed to reflect the sentiment of its customers.

In the past, the company has relied heavily on TV advertising with its long-standing informercial format, said Bare Escentuals Inc.’s chief executive officer Leslie Blodgett.

“We listen and engage with our consumer all the time,” said Simon Cowell, senior vice president of marketing, adding that early last year the tone of the discussion changed in the wake of economic turmoil. “We said, ‘Why don’t we invite ourselves into the conversation.’ We came up with the slogan Rethink What Matters.”

The aim, he said, is to elevate the conversation beyond cosmetics.

Cowell and the creative team gathered in Blodgett’s office to brainstorm, and by the end of the session they had scrawled 50 tag lines across a white board. From there they whittled the list down to 15. Like the Love Matte effort, Rethink was created in-house, and the company will work with ad agencies to executive the campaign, which will be launched on Jan. 22 and will run through June.

In keeping with Bare Escentuals’ wink-wink approach to marketing, the tag lines are intended to be interruptive to spark conversation. For instance, one ad reads, “Rethink Going Bare in Public. BareMineral’s SPF 15 Foundation feels completely weightless, but gives you all the flawless coverage you want. Like you are wearing nothing at all.”

The ad messages will blanket the outdoors, including bus shelters, billboards and building scapes. On its home turf in San Francisco, the company will plaster the ads throughout the Powell Street Muni metro station, trafficked by a throng of commuters and tourists and located underneath the Westfield Shopping Center, home to a Bare Escentuals boutique. Each of the ads directs consumers to

The microsite, slated to launch Jan. 22, will present visitors with a weekly topic to discuss, and their comments will be posted on Facebook and Twitter, said Cowell.

“The site will be very personal and also superficial,” quipped Blodgett. “You need both to be truly happy.”

It’s that irreverent sense of humor that drove the spirit of the campaign, said Cowell. The beauty firm also is partnering with Facebook to run a variety of “engagement ads,” including video, polls and fan page invitations. A Flickr page will launch at the same time.

A company-filmed video, featuring employees holding posters declaring what they are rethinking, will be posted on the site, YouTube and run on a TV loop in Bare Escentuals’ boutiques. Blodgett said her poster declared “empty nest,” as her son will enter college next fall.

Bare Escentuals will take its message to the streets of San Francisco, from Feb. 2 to March 28; New York, April 5 to May 2, and Chicago, May 5 to June 6, by dispatching its Quickie Van to each city. The van, branded Rethink What Matters, pops up into a mini boutique complete with chandelier and a team offering “makeunders,” shade matching services and samples for lip and eye products and its Original and Matte foundations, which will be increased to 20 shades from 15 next month. To drum up excitement, Cowell said the company will tweet about the location of the van, which will be constantly on the move.

Referring to the company’s creative process, Blodgett said, “One of my lines to the team is, ‘Why should I care?” The aim, she added, is “more talk, less makeup.” “That makes a bigger impact.”

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