Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — Maybelline is about to launch an unusual promotion, designed to show off its colors to consumers, up close, personal — and quickly.
Maybelline, a division of L’Oreal’s Cosmair subsidiary, plans to run a whistle-stop of promotions across the country to exhibit the quick-setting properties of its Express Finish Fast-Dry Nail Color.
Beginning in New York’s Penn Station, Maybelline will set up a kiosk for one day — Sept. 22 — and staff it with 10 manicurists, who will decorate the digits of passersby, free of charge.
The New York stop is slated to include an appearance by Christy Turlington.
The kiosk, measuring eight feet by eight feet, will then be taken down and reassembled for one-day promotions in Chicago’s Union Station, Dallas, Los Angeles and on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus.
In addition to treating consumers to free manicures, the company also will be handing out discount coupons, deducting $1 from the $3.50 suggested retail price of a bottle of Express Finish.
Cathy Wills, senior vice president of marketing, said the company could conceivably hand out a total number of coupons approaching 100,000.
John Wendt, Maybelline president, said the promotion is designed to drive consumers straight into the nearest of the 40,000 to 45,000 doors that carry Maybelline.
Wills added that since the sites of promotion are so spread out across the country, the retail results may be detectable on A.C. Nielsen surveys.
A spokeswoman for the company said Maybelline expects to provide 5,000 manicures in the month the promotion is running.
The company does not break out results, but industry sources estimate that Maybelline is spending roughly $250,000 on the promotion.
The promotion also offers the added value of being an indirect marketing test, since the kiosk will be set up in different environments and presumably attract different types of consumers.
The New York and Chicago sites are in train stations, presumably attracting heavy commuter traffic. In Dallas, the kiosk will be set up in a business district on the edge of a historic area. In Los Angeles, the site will be at a book and music festival in Santa Monica. At Ohio State, it will be in the student union.
The times and locations of the promotions will be listed in calendar entries of local newspapers and radio stations.
“We did it this way because we wanted to get at the consumer from different angles,” Wendt said. “We’ll know whether to go after the commuter lady, or go after the art crowd or go after students.”
The company also is working with Elle magazine to put Turlington on the Internet and set her up in a chat room of the magazine’s Web site. The connection with Elle was made when the model graced the cover of the September issue, and Maybelline is hoping to parlay it into a lot of fast-dry talk.
Express Finish, with its 42 shades, has been a boon to Maybelline.
The polymer formula that allows the polish to set in two minutes actually existed in another Maybelline product before L’Oreal bought the company from Wasserstein Perella in December of 1995.
But the fast-drying property had not been emphasized in the marketing. Under L’Oreal, the Maybelline division renamed the nail polish and put promotional money behind it when Express Finish was launched in January 1996.
Wills estimates that a typical nail enamel in the market takes 4.5 to 5 minutes to set.
Wendt described the Maybelline product as representing a “continuing balance between technology and self indulgence.”
Implicit in the marketing is not only the premium that women place on their free time, but the quickness of the process encourages experimentation, Wendt noted.
This is certainly borne out in the Nielsen data. Maybelline has a 15 percent share of the estimated $275 million category, Wendt said, adding that 18 months ago, the company had only a 6 percent share.
This year, he continued, Maybelline has moved from number five to number two, behind market leader Revlon.

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