Urban Decay has always been the cool kid in the room.
How that came to be and how to maintain that edge in a rapidly changing world were some of the key themes in a talk given by Urban Decay chief creative director and founding partner Wende Zomnir. The talk, moderated by WWD West Coast beauty editor Rachel Brown, was before a room of Zomnir’s peers for the Cosmetic Executive Women’s West Coast Beauty Insider Series, held at the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday evening.
It’s a particularly relevant discussion as companies try to stay in step with constantly changing social media that can help define or even create a new beauty brand.
“It’s been crazy because I remember that we launched our brand and we actually had a little web site that you could go to, but it was not like any web site that you see today,” Zomnir said in an interview.
She recalled the very first Sephora web site, “which was hilarious,” she said as she went on to describe small photo graphics allotted to each brand. “I don’t know why or how anyone would have ordered from it. But I just look at the very beginning of all that and now how we’ve launched this crazy lip app that you can try all 100 shades of our Vice lipstick with a swipe. It’s just a whole different world and it’s really cool. It’s like [comparing the] dinosaur age to now.”
Social media can now help propel a start-up brand or maybe a newcomer to the blogger or vlogger scene in a matter of minutes if something goes viral. It’s a reality that was a luxury perhaps a few years ago, but not so much anymore, Zomnir said.
“Now I think if you want to launch a brand [using] social media it’s tough because there’s a lot of chatter,” she said. “I think there are those moments in time with all of these technologies where you can insert yourself and it’s about finding the right one and finding the right cadence and the right voice within each of those channels.”
Urban Decay may have had a leg-up in standing out digitally, beginning with Myspace and building an audience there. That was then parlayed into Facebook, which then segued into Facebook or Instagram and now Snapchat for the brand.
It’s about making the migration early as new platforms arrive rather than following. But now it’s also about continuing to create product that’s desirable to a new generation of shoppers, which will eventually be Generation Z.
“We’ve talked to [Generation Z’s] moms, right? We were their moms’ brand so the challenge for us is going to be not to be their moms’ brand,” Zomnir said. “How do you keep it fresh and relevant for someone whose mom likes and uses Urban Decay? I think that’s the fun part of beauty, is being able to reinvent this brand and my whole thing is Urban Decay is beauty with an edge and we have a little litmus test we apply to everything to make sure it’s Urban Decay. But my perspective is that this brand is never finished.”
She recalled a point in time about 15 years ago standing before a Sephora display gondola and thinking about how the display would be perfect if certain eyeshadows had the new package and one shelf strip could be changed out and then it would be finished and complete.
Then Zomnir realized: “Oh my God. It’s actually never done. We can never be done because as soon as you’re done, you’re dead. You’re tired.”