Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — Maybelline Inc. is trying to turn into a cosmetics house of a different — and trendier — color.
Since being acquired by Cosmair Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of L’oreal SA, for $508 million nearly a year ago, Maybelline has moved from Memphis, Tenn., to Cosmair’s midtown headquarters here, while juggling its product mix and asserting itself in the mass market’s fashion color category. All this is being done with an eye toward turning Maybelline into a global brand.
John R. Wendt, the Cosmair veteran who was named Maybelline president in May, said there is a “near-to-medium-term plan” to co-mingle the image of the American brand with those of L’oreal’s Gemey brand in France and Jade Kosmetik GmbH subsidiary in Germany.
The company is considering introducing “a select number” of joint products next year. For example, one direction the company is mulling might involve introducing a mascara bearing the label Gemey mascara by Maybelline or Jade mascara by Maybelline. No final decisions have been made on the graphic design of the products, a spokeswoman said. But clearly the intention is for Maybelline to take a leading role.
“Over time,” Wendt said, “Maybelline will become the authority.”
The overall plan is to globalize the brand. Wendt said that the company now generates 15 percent of its total sales outside the U.S.
“Within the next few years we see the international business growing significantly,” Wendt said, “and becoming as large as the domestic business.”
For 1996, Maybelline is generating a U.S. volume of $345 million, according to industry estimates. The foreign business, with its 15 percent share, therefore represents another $60 million.
With Gemey and Jade added, the three companies yield combined sales estimated at more than $850 million in terms of factory dollars. According to Cosmair executives, Gemey commands 50 percent of the French mass market cosmetics market.
The American brand already is marketed overseas. For instance, it recently opened a new factory in China. But in many overseas markets, Maybelline is handled by agents.
The key difference now is that Maybelline will be empowered with L’oreal’s network of overseas subsidiaries. Among the priority areas for 1997 are South America and perhaps selected Asian markets, Wendt said.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., Maybelline’s launch machine is in overdrive. Long known for its eye cosmetics products, sparked by the 25-year-old Great Lash Mascara, Maybelline is out to make a splash in March in a rainbow of color categories for nails, lips, cheeks and eyes. Ketan Patel, assistant vice president of marketing, said one objective is “to take the nail category and bring to it cutting-edge colors.”
That sentiment — pushing the palette — is also the guiding rule for Wendt and Cathy Wills, senior vice president of marketing and a key Maybelline veteran. Her aim is to make the brand a color authority.
“In our prior life,” Wills said, referring to the previous ownership by Wasserstein & Perella & Co., “color had not been emphasized. The company had focused on eye products.”
Last August, Maybelline launched Rogue Vogue, its first seasonal shade statement in a decade. Next spring the company will follow up with Miami Chill.
The shades will be flashier and the noise level will be louder. The company plans to increase its advertising budget by 15 percent next year to $65 million to $70 million, according to Wendt, who added, “We want to be the number-one advertiser.”
The company is shooting for a 12 to 15 percent sales increase next year for the U.S., according to sources.
The return to color also involves a shuffling of priorities. To make room for the new stockkeeping units on the drugstore wall without ballooning the sku count, Maybelline performed surgery on its ill-fated Revitalizing line of makeup and moisturizers that was introduced in March 1993 for women over 35. The marketing salvo backfired and Maybelline later reversed tack. Some in the industry speculated that women over 35 didn’t want to be categorized as such, while others thought that Maybelline couldn’t support two brands.
When Wendt took over, he went to work. As previously reported, 130 sku’s will be eliminated from the Revitalizing line by the end of the first quarter, leaving 35 Revitalizing sku’s tucked under the classic Maybelline umbrella. According to executives, those remaining 35 sku’s — amounting to 21 percent of the sku count — generated 40 percent of original Revitalizing volume.
The resultant space freed up on the drugstore wall will be used for new Maybelline products coming out in the spring, all of which remain within Maybelline’s moderate mass market price points.
“We want a better balance,” Wendt noted. In the last year, Maybelline has added 126 sku’s while eliminating 200.
Moreover, Wendt said he ultimately would like to add skin care to the brand that now is virtually all color cosmetics and makeup. But with a twist. Just as the new French owners are contemplating taking an American brand to Europe, they would also like to use Maybelline as a vehicle to launch some of L’oreal’s reservoir of French brands in the U.S.
When Maybelline was acquired, Guy Peyrelongue, Cosmair president, speculated that it could help Cosmair introduce Synergie, a skin care line marketed in Europe as part of Laboratories Garnier.
As for the details of the spring launches, Miami Chill, which will be shipped in February, is a color story for nails, lips, eyes and cheeks, featuring shimmering and pearlized shades in hues like yellow and citrus green as well as bronze, nude and pink.
The Miami Chill products include Moisture Whip Lipstick, priced $4.85 apiece; Precision Lip Line at the same price; Salon Finish Nail Color at $2.50 a bottle; an Expert Eyes Eyeshadow Trio for $4.25 each and $2.70 for a single pan; Expert Eyes Eye Line for $3.25; Smoked Kohl Eye Liner at $5, and Blush Brush for $4.35.
One product, the Great Finish fast-drying nail enamel, has been renamed Express Finish Nail Color to convey product characteristics. The product is designed to dry and set within two minutes, at least half the 4.5 to 5 minutes taken by a typical industry formulation.
In March, 22 new, trendier shades will be introduce for a total of 42 Express Finish sku’s at $3.50 each.
In addition, there will be a six-pack of limited-run spring shades, called Express Yourself. These metallic shades are meant to be more cutting-edge than the rest of the collection. Bearing the same price tags, the colors will include Pluto Pearl, Twinkle Twinkle navy, Silver Streak, City Slick, Naughty Pink and Ruby Slipper. There is also another shade, called Two Timer that is meant to be applied as a topcoat, giving a softer subtlety to the metallic tones.
Great Wear Budge Proof Lip Color will be expanded in March with the addition of 12 new shades — pearl, purple, berry and brown — bringing the total shade count to 36.
Lip color accounts for 20 percent of Maybelline’s classic business.
There also will be an extension off the Revitalizing line. Lip Indulgence lipstick will be repositioned under the Maybelline classic umbrella and the 12-shade line will be expanded to 24. The price of Lip Indulgence, a creamier formulation, is $6.75 a tube, compared to $6.50 for Great Wear.
Three new Great Wear Budge Proof products — makeup, concealer and lip liner — will be added in March to extend what Wills refers to as the “Great Wear platform.” The Great Wear brand is Maybelline’s entry into the burgeoning transfer-proof makeup category. For the foundation, Maybelline has budgeted $20 million for advertising, with a magazine campaign featuring Christy Turlington, appearing in March.
For the makeup, Maybelline also plans to install testers in 25,000 of the company’s 45,000 mass market doors.
There also will be Turlington print and TV ads for the Great Wear Lip Color line and a new 30-second spot for the Express Finish line. Both campaigns will run in March and April.
Bridget Hall will appear in print ads for Miami Chill, slated to break in May editions of magazines.
Rounding out the spring onslaught, Maybelline also will introduce three new makeup brushes — for the face at $8, eyes for $5 and lips for $6.50 — that will be merchandised with the company’s other “beauty tools.”
The sheer weight of Maybelline’s spring offensive has not been lost on retailers. Gail Hubert, buyer for Drug Emporium in Powell, Ohio, noted, “Maybelline is really coming on strong. We’re even more excited about their programs for 1997 including more products that are part of The Greats. They’ve also become a bigger player in color.”