Tartes on Trend for Spring and Summer.

April 11, 2006

Tarte executives provide insight into what’s hot in cosmetics for the upcoming seasons.

Tarte’s on Trend for Spring and Summer.

Tarte executives provide insight into what’s hot in cosmetics for the upcoming seasons.

Ava Caridad
Associate Editor

Maureen Kelly, Tarte Cosmetics’ creator and CEO.
Tarte, Inc. is one of the hottest cosmetic companies around. Founded in September 2000 and launched exclusively at New York department store Henri Bendel, Tarte cosmetics are fun, easy-to-use products—designed for women “on-the-go,” who want to look good and feel pampered in as little time as possible.

Happi spoke to creator and chief executive officer Maureen Kelly, as well as communications director Alexis Mezzina, to learn more about the company and Tarte’s upcoming spring and summer collections, as well as get a glimpse at the fall line.

Tarte, Inc. came about when, after earning a Masters degree in psychology and while working towards her PhD, Ms. Kelly wanted to do something different. That was when she decided to create a fun, fashionable line of makeup. With easy-to-use products such as push-up cheek stain and double-ended lipgloss, Tarte was designed to take the stress out of choosing and wearing cosmetics.

Staying on trend is important for any personal care marketer, but it’s especially vital for a cosmetics company. Ms. Kelly has some definite ideas about current trends in today’s makeup marketing.

“Ironically, I almost think trends themselves are the new trends in the market,” she observed. “There’s such a quick turnover of product nowadays that one of the most important things is just being able to keep up.”

The Little Blot Book controls oil and shine on the road.
Ms. Kelly also pointed out that cosmetic packaging continues to get smaller and smaller, with more and more product tucked inside.

“I think that’s a testament to how much emphasis customers are placing on value these days,” she noted. “They still look to the luxury/niche brands to give them innovations in packaging, but they want to get as much product as possible crammed in that tiny box, preferably for less than $30. And so many companies are doing it that it’s a trend you really can’t ignore.”

Ms. Kelly also stressed that the gap between mass market and luxury is closing a little, since mass market brands have been taking more risks in terms of packaging and adding edgier color extensions to their lines.

“It really presents a challenge to the niche players—we have to be on our toes and constantly making sure there’s a clear line between mass and prestige,” she said.

The Tarte spring 2006 collection, “Miss Fix It”, includes the Miss Fix-It trifold eye/lip compact with highlighter, lipgloss and eyeshadow palette ($44); Picture Perfect eyelash curler ($15); Lights, Camera, Lashes! 3-in-1 mascara; Cloud Nine cheek stain ($28) and Mona Lisa eyeliner ($18). The Little Blot Book mattifying powder and oil-absorbing paper ($32) contains vitamins A and E to help prevent signs of premature aging; aloe and chamomile, which act as anti-irritants to soothe and nourish the skin; green and white tea extracts containing the highest concentration of antioxidant properties of all teas; and soybean, whose moisturizing factors mimic the lipid properties of the skin. The Tool Box brow know-how eyebrow kit ($32) contains tweezers, smooth brow wax, shade-specific brow powder or brow pencil and a glossy topcoat of brow gel.

Tarte’s lipglosses sport character names from famous movie romances.
The spring shades of Tarte’s double-ended lipgloss ($19) sport names of classic movie “perfect pairs” such as Ferris & Sloane from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986), Lloyd & Diane from “Say Anything” (1989), Ronald & Cindy from “Can’t Buy Me Love” (1987) and Elle & Emmett from “Legally Blonde” (2001).

Ms. Kelly explains the significance of the cinema-themed glosses.

“Our target customer is a stylish, urban, pop-culturally-savvy woman between 18-35,”” she said. “All of the movies we’ve referenced in this latest series of glosses are sort of cult classic, ‘slumber party’ type movies, and there’s definitely some strategy in that. I think it really strikes a chord with our customer—what girl doesn’t remember fun nights with her girlfriends, doing yogurt facials and mini-makeovers and watching the same movies over and over again? It’s the kind of memory that always makes you smile, and since Tarte’s all about fun and girlishness, it’s a good fit.”

Communications director Alexis Mezzina remarked that the fun, love-struck gloss names have definitely sparked up a dialogue with Tarte customers.

The Picture Perfect eyelash curler.
“One of the most active threads on our website’s bulletin board is just full of suggestions on what couples we should name our next glosses after. And a lot of these girls have great ideas—we’ll definitely be pulling our next name from that list,” she said.

Tarte’s summer collection, “Life’s a Beach,” is for the woman who wants that sexy summer glow whether she’s partying in Ibiza, relaxing at her family’s beach house on the Cape or hard at work in the office on a hot summer day, continued Ms. Mezzina.

She explained, “The concept behind ‘Life’s a Beach’ is that even if you’re working as hard as ever and barely seeing the sun, summer is still the time to kick back and enjoy yourself a little. Summer is probably a true Tarte girl’s favorite season, because it’s carefree and low-maintenance, yet still sexy. So it’s always fun creating our summer products—we know that they’ll speak to our customer.”

The collection includes Rest Assured Luminizing Wand ($22) to brighten up bleary eyes with nude-pink liner and sheer pink highlighter; Itsy Bitsy Super Sheenies lipgloss set ($25); Celebutante Moisturizing dry-oil shimmer spray ($28); Rock Royalty bronzer, highlighter and blush palette ($30); Rise & Shine waterproof lip stain/plumping gloss ($21); Hotel Heiress mineral powder bronzer ($28); Summer Fling 24/7 lip sheer with SPF 15 ($14) and the Damecuta eyeshadow duo ($26) named after an ancient villa on the Italian island of Capri.

Miss Fix-It contains highlighter, lipgloss and eyeshadow.
“This collection is actually adding some new depth to our demographic—maybe reaching a more mature customer—because it combines color cosmetics with skin care benefits,” stated Ms. Kelly. “For instance, our reformulated 24/7 lip sheers now include vitamin E, mango and shea butters, and SPF 15. And Celebutante, our dry-oil shimmer spray has avocado and apricot oils to moisturize skin, and vitamin E to act as an antioxidant. It’s not enough to simply be a good product with pretty packaging and trendy colors—customers are too savvy for that. You have to offer them something more—so whenever possible, we try to add skin care benefits that will actually make the product good for their skin.”  

With the launch of these new collections, Tarte executives expect sales to increase at their retail locations, as well as online via their website.

“We’re hoping our customers will return for our signature items and look to us for new, innovative products. Of course, we hope to bring in a whole new crop of Tarte fans as well,” commented Ms. Kelly.

No matter how good a product is, consumers won’t buy what they don’t know about. Tarte doesn’t advertise its cosmetics, and so company executives have to be creative when promoting their collections.

“We do extensive press launches to national and regional magazines and newspapers, as well as news TV programs”, explained Alexis Mezzina. “We’ve also sent both of these new collections to makeup artists, since they do so many magazine interviews, work with celebrities, etc. We also frequently donate our new products for goody bags at awards shows or celebrity events.”

In addition, Tarte sends out small-scale, targeted mailings that are relevant with the themes of our new products.

“For example, we did a small mailing of ‘Rock Royalty,’ our new bronzer/blush/highlighter palette, to actual ‘rock royalty’—the relatives of famous rock stars (i.e. Elvis Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough), as well as women who are rock stars in their own rights, such as Gwen Stefani,” stated Ms. Mezzina.

The Toolbox keeps eyebrows in good working order.
To promote the “Miss Fix-It” collection, Tarte did a mailing to the recent best actress/best supporting actress Oscar nominees. Each woman was sent an “Oscar care package” that included quick fixes for the evening.

Tarte also uses its website as a marketing tool.

“I think it’s the best possible tool for a small company,” Ms. Mezzina noted. “It’s one way to get your message conveyed in exactly the manner you want. It’s also an invaluable resource to be able to interact directly with your customers. Over time, we’ve built up extensive mailing lists through our website and we give our best customers sneak peeks of our newest collections. We also post a ‘Get the Look’ for each new collection that offers step-by-step instructions about how to use the new products. Customers often write to our bulletin board, asking for tips about how to use the new products or how to combine them with our old products.”

Tarte often offers discounts or promotions to promote new collection, either through its website or through other media outlets. For example, the March issue of Lucky magazine featured the Toolbox brow kit, and readers who purchased the Toolbox on the Tarte site and entered a code received a 40% discount on all other purchases.

Tarte’s spring collection at a glance.
What’s ahead for Tarte? According to Ms. Kelly, a huge trend is the merging of color and skin care, and Tarte is right on the front lines.

Ms. Mezzina adds, “As always, we will continue to turn out the fun, easy-to-use products we’re known for, but we’re really placing an emphasis on color cosmetics with skin care benefits. We definitely see this as the wave of the future for cosmetics—especially with all the environmental risks these days.”

Existing Tarte products with skin care benefits include Smooth Operator SPF 20 foundation, Provocateur SPF 8 mineral powder, Clean Slate face primer, as well as the aforementioned Little Blot Book, 24/7 lip sheers with SPF 15 and Celebutante dry oil shimmer spray.

Ms. Kelly concluded, “We’re currently finishing up our Fall 2006 collection, which focuses heavily on strong eyes and has a sexy, vintage feel. Holiday 2006 will be all about luxury—but that’s all we’re at liberty to say at the moment. That said, consumers can take for granted that we intend to maintain our position as the go-to brand for user-friendly, travel-friendly glamour.”