With $2.6 billion in sales in 2001, Mary Kay Cosmetics (MK) is one of the country’s leading skincare and color cosmetics companies. Firmly entrenched with women 25+, the company was seeking to capture share of the lucrative youth market. Because the stakes are high – the teen market was valued at $155 billion in 2000, according to Teenage Research Unlimited – the competition is fierce.
With edgy lines like Hard Candy and Urban Decay out in front and major competitors like Avon and Estee Lauder also entering into the fray, MK had some catching up to do. Perceived as an “older” brand, MK had been virtually ignored by the teen/young adult market. It was imperative that MK make an impact on this fickle and hard-to-please audience – without betraying the core values of the brand and its relatively wholesome image.
Enter Velocity, a sub-brand developed by MK specifically to appeal to girls and young women 14-22.
To launch Velocity in a way that would capture the imagination of the jaded beauty press, FH developed an event concept that combined fantasy and whimsy with hard-hitting brand messages, ultimately delivering tremendous media coverage that reached millions of consumers and helped make Velocity the most successful launch in MK’s history.
· Mary Kay’s strong market position with consumers 25+ worked against the company’s image with the younger target.
· Direct-selling model perceived as a barrier to purchase by young women’s media.
· The launch included many disparate products – needed to find a way to give each equal weight, while communicating cohesively about the brand overall.
· Competition spends millions on advertising; beauty media less strict with “church and state” separation, creating a disadvantage for limited advertisers like Mary Kay (Velocity advertising ran for one month in eight publications, a relatively significant buy for the company).
· Event delayed until June due to product availability issues, making inclusion in desirable fall issues (September and October) very tight.
MK commissioned The Cassandra report, an in-depth look at macro and micro trends among girls and women in three key age groups: 14-18, 19-24, 25-30. The objective of the research was to “get into the heads” of the Velocity targets and build our event around their quirks, preferences and ideals. The information ultimately proved interesting to the editors, as well.
MK conducted focus groups with the daughters of some of their star consultants (these women are influential in their peer groups and strong ambassadors for MK). Because consultants (who sell product directly to consumers) are another key audience, it was important to do a pulse check with this group. Our takeaway? Think on, but not over, the edge, and Faith Hill, not Britney Spears.
· Drive trial and purchase among new and existing customers
· Entice new users – young and hip – without alienating consultants/core customers
· Create a distinctive personality for Velocity that can extend beyond launch and initial products
· Bring “essence” of product line to life
· Strike a balance between the company’s ideals and an urban target, the (oftentimes) cynical New York-based beauty media
· Bridge image and products by introducing messages (e.g. youthful appeal, uniqueness) in a thematically fun, hands-on way
· Girls and young women ages 14-22
· Top-tier beauty, women’s and young women’s long-lead publications
· Sales consultants
Velocity: For the Out-of-This-World Girl
On June 13, 2001, 43 beauty editors stepped from the clutter and clatter of New York City streets into the glow of the Velocity Girl’s world for an experiential event to mark the launch of Mary Kay’s new line.
The editors, brought in at one-hour intervals in groups of five to ten, found themselves in an environment created to reflect the exuberance, youth and whimsy of the Velocity brand. After entering a bright white loft marked as The Velocity Girl’s World, they were immediately whisked into the “Velocity Zone,” a fantasy depiction of the Velocity target’s dream bedroom. The comfortable lounge-y area featured her open journal on an oversized daybed, photos of her friends and other personal artifacts, and all her favorite magazines spread in friendly disarray (the magazines were swapped out depending upon which editors were in at the time).
The remaining areas of the loft were fluidly divided into sections, each using aesthetics to represent a different product group:
· The fragrance section had a tropical flair that captured the essence of the scent. The “nose” who developed the scent was on-hand to walk editors through each note of the fragrance (vis à vis an enormous floral arrangement), including the exclusive banana flower.
· Editors then sashayed behind the catwalk for a look at the new cosmetics in living color as interpreted by two members of Mary Kay’s International Make-up Artist Team. The on-trend colors of the Velocity line were demonstrated on three models representing the target (ages 14, 18 and 22).
· Moving into a sumptuous spa environment, celebrity masseur Dyal Singh and his staff treated editors to hand “facials” and massages that revealed the freshness of the brand’s skin/body care products.
The event was executed almost precisely how it was presented to MK. FH worked closely with a set designer so that the look of the room reflected the vision for the event. The food and beverages for the event were also carefully selected to fit the right tone.
FH developed a content outline for the Mary Kay representatives, fragrance house representative and make-up artists who were hosting the various sites. In-depth interviews with the make-up artists in advance of the event enabled FH to strategically position the new color cosmetics with the media.
Working with FH, Mary Kay’s internal design team created exciting materials, including a girl’s journal in Velocity signature orange (which served as the event invitation) and press kit covers and letterhead that reflected the spirit of the brand. Editor gifts also included long-sleeved tee shirts with reflective logo and cell phone carriers.
Keeping in the spirit of the event, customized VW beetles, adorned with the Velocity logo, were used to shuttle the editors to and from the event.
Mary Kay projected sales for Velocity at $70 million for its first year; in only six months, sales have already hit $66 million.
Though it became available only mid-year, the Velocity fragrance was Mary Kay’s #1 seller in that category in 2001.
PR results are marketed back to sales force – excitement about PR results has contributed to the sales force’s embrace of the line.
Sales consultants are also reporting on cross-over benefits with the launch of Velocity: existing customers are buying the new line, while new customers attracted to MK by the lure of Velocity are also discovering core products.
Eight out of 10 target teen publications, long resistant to Mary Kay, attended the event. Since then, a ninth has covered the brand.
10 long-lead hits in September and October.
Readership to date for Velocity placements in target teen, women’s and beauty magazines: 120,782,912.