Celebrity Lipstick Charity Program
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Holmes Report

Celebrity Lipstick Charity Program

Kodora Communications’ objectives were to assist in a successful new product launch, to emphasize CARGO’s strength within the Hollywood community and to demonstrate CARGO’s good corporate citizenship.

Paul Holmes


CARGO Cosmetics is a Canadian-based color cosmetics company whose products are all developed in concert with recognizable names within the professional make-up artist community.  In May, 2000, seven new CARGO lipsticks were in development, and the colors were being designed and named by, among others, the key makeup artists for Friends, Charlie’s Angels (the movie) and Ally McBeal, along with one by Courteney Cox-Arquette, who approached CARGO with a desire to create a lipstick shade that matched a piece of furniture in her home.  These lipsticks were to launch in October, and CARGO’s president recognized that the prominence of the people involved in their development presented an opportunity to give back to the community and claim positioning for the company as a responsible corporate citizen.  She came to Kodora requesting assistance in the development of a program that would benefit a children’s charity in conjunction with the launch of these lipsticks.  


The initial challenge was to identify such a charity that would 1) appeal to the target consumer audience in both the U.S. (where most CARGO products are sold) and Canada (the company’s home).

The second challenge in promoting this initiative was the limited distribution of CARGO products, as many single-market journalists require a local point of distribution to cover a consumer product.  The lipsticks were to be sold in 21 Sephora locations in the U.S., via Sephora.com and, after the first month of the offering, at Nordstrom in Denver and Seattle and via beauty.com.  In Canada, the lipsticks would be available at only six doors.  

The third challenge was to develop appropriate positioning of the project so that it did not appear to the press to be self-serving or exploitive of the charitable organization selected as a partner and beneficiary.


Kodora Communications’ objectives were to assist in a successful new product launch, to emphasize CARGO’s strength within the Hollywood community, to demonstrate CARGO’s good corporate citizenship and to create/reinforce positive positioning and increased sales for the CARGO brand among consumers as a result.


To achieve the aforementioned objectives and overcome the challenges, Kodora made the following strategic decisions.  We would:

  • Focus on the professionals’ involvement in product development to distinguish CARGO within its category (by reinforcing CARGO’s positioning as a line conceived by professionals for professionals) and to diffuse the anticipated perception that this was a self-serving project (by communicating other parties’ implied role in the project’s inception);
  • Focus on the lipstick designers’ Hollywood connections to support that branding proposition and overcome anticipated press resistance based on limited distribution; and
  • Target long-lead national publications and short-lead syndicated journalists to overcome anticipated press resistance based on limited distribution (those segments of the press are not as concerned with specific distribution points, whereas a writer for The Palm Beach Post, for instance, would more likely be concerned with a local point-of-sale).


After conducting extensive research on charitable organizations, Kodora determined that Children’s Miracle Network met the program and client criteria – including U.S. and Canadian operations – and recommended CMN to CARGO as the partner organization.  With CARGO’s approval, Kodora made contact with CMN to assess their interest in and requirements for a potential partnership.  Once we ascertained that a relationship would be viable, Kodora introduced the appropriate parties on each side and facilitated their working relationship.

Initial press-related tactics included distribution of press materials to appropriate long-lead national consumer editors three months prior to product launch.  We subsequently distributed materials tailored to appropriate short-lead journalists, including syndicated and large-circulation newspapers (prioritized geographically) and national weeklies, closer to the product launch date.

A second, separate outreach developed when Kodora learned that actress Jennifer Aniston wore one of CARGO’s seven charity-associated lipsticks (Plume) at her wedding to Brad Pitt in July 2000.  Short-lead publications and syndicated writers covering lifestyle, celebrity/entertainment, gossip and beauty became the immediate focus for the dissemination of this news.  

Kodora recognized that press coverage of Ms. Aniston’s July wedding would occur primarily in August, months prior to the product’s retail availability.  Consumers who would otherwise be influenced to purchase Plume by the wedding-related coverage would have no immediate way to do so, thereby minimizing product sales driven by this portion of the media outreach.  Kodora contacted Sephora and successfully suggested and organized a pre-order function for the seven new lipsticks on the Sephora.com homepage.  This pre-order function allowed consumers to place orders before the products’ actual availability and allowed Kodora to refer journalists to a viable, current distribution point during the wedding-related window of opportunity.

Evidence of the success of the program has emerged only months after its launch.  Three “A-List” celebrities have volunteered to design and name lipsticks for the project’s second round, and CARGO has been approached by numerous high-profile charities and events for participation and donations.  The Sephora.com pre-order function was also a success: nearly 1,200 units were ordered in the first week of this function’s availability alone.  Program and/or product media coverage to date totals more than 25 million in circulation.

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