The Grayson Report

Some Irrefutable Rules Of Cosmetic Marketing

By Suzanne and Bob Grayson , Grayson Associates | January 5, 2006

After reading the many obits of Peter Drucker, we were struck by the simplicity of his work. Not that it was simple, but rather that he was able to distill a remarkable bit of sense into a few words. (Note: During his seminar course at NYU, for the one hour period, we often ended up with just one line of notes, and wondered what the final exam would be like? Apparently so did he, as he opted to just give grades.)

Suzanne and Bob Grayson are respected, professional marketers, having spent their careers with the leading companies in the beauty industry before staring their successful consulting business in the early 1970s.

Their consulting clients have included Avon, Bristol-Myers, Estée Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Revlon and Cover Girl, among others. They reside in San Juan Capistrano, CA and maintain an office in New York City. For more information, they can be reached at or
Taking Drucker’s cue, we went back over about 20 years of The Grayson Report and came up with some one-liners of our own. Hold it! No, they’re not original, at least, not all, but they seem to crystallize much of what marketers do for a living. Here goes:

1. Consumers do not buy CONCEPTS, they buy BENEFITS.

Consider the television ads hawking hi-tech products. The diodes and triodes are whipping in and out so fast that you miss whatever message there may be. Along that thought, have you ever considered the ubiquitous line, INTEL Inside? Can you remember a single ad that tells you why you might actually want INTEL inside? Remember, from Marketing 101, people don’t buy 1/4 inch drills, they buy 1/4 inch holes!

2. Star products build lines. Anyone reading our column for a while knows that we won’t give up on this idea. Too many examples abound–like some major failures–Avon’s Becoming and Sears’ Circle of Beauty. We’re talking megabucks! A corollary—have a star product and build the line around it.

3. Without a positive reason for success, failure is inevitable. Forget about, “why not...” and “let’s do our version of....” and, focus on, “why yes!”

4. How you get your customer is how you keep your customer. Alas, GWP and frequent flyer miles are programs that will just not go away–no matter how much they cost.

5. If you can’t differentiate your product, only price will sell.

6. If all competitive product features are similar (including price), only image will sell.

7. A superior image will make up for a lot deficiencies, including price. (You might condense 5, 6 and 7 and say that, with so many perceived-to-be-similar products, the only differences between products are image and price.)

8. Innovation creates its own demand. Blusher and Color-Stay, for example.

9. Availability creates its own demand. Sephora and all those nail shops.

10. Every good decision starts with an irrefutable fact. Don’t be lazy, find it.

11. Retail merchants need marketing people to run their house brands. Cosmetic buyers can’t.

12. Different is not enough! A product must be both different and significant (real or imagined).


Some Druckerisms

And now for a few Druckerisms:

Peter Drucker
Photo: Corpedia
1. A business enterprise has two basic functions: marketing and innovation.

2. People are a resource, not a cost.

3. As you review product lines or basic businesses, if you did not do this already, would you go into it now? (Note: This also applies to people: Would you hire that person again?)

4. Managers should never promote an employee on the basis of his or her potential, but based only on performance. (A corollary: When buying a business, one should never pay a price based upon its potential, only past performance. Pay for what they did, buy it for what you can do.)

5. The spirit of an organization is created at the top.

6. All organizations need a discipline that makes them face up to reality.

7. Achievement rather than knowledge remains both the proof and aim of management.

8. Beware charisma.

9. The only profit center of a business is a customer whose check has not bounced.

10. Authority without responsibility is illegitimate; but so is responsibility without authority.

The man was smart.


Revlon Squanders Its Youth

Well, not intentionally, we suppose. Another case of unintended consequences? Or, perhaps Revlon feels that the Turbulent Teens & Trying Twenties Market is just too “turbulent” and “trying,” (not to mention fickle). These highly decade-descriptive terms came from Gail Sheehy’s landmark book, Passages, in the 1970s. They fully describe the youth, and subsequent, marketing trauma associated with these markets. Has Revlon decided to let Cover Girl, L'Oréal and Maybelline spend the bucks to get, and then struggle to keep these capricious girls?

As we speak, the Revlon section in mass reads, Color-Stay and Age-Defying in products and on packages that allow their names to broadcast the benefit. The soon-to-be-revamped display will add Vital Radiance, a new multi-product makeup line aimed at the 50+ consumer. Cleverly, most of the product names aren’t limited to that market; i.e., Smoothing Face Primer, Moisture Covering Compact Makeup. Remember the brilliant Head & Shoulders and Vaseline Intensive Care launch advertising? By targeting high-problem (read, niche) markets, each brand leaped to No. 1, and maintained their top brand shares for years. Why? Because the consumer perceived that if it works for the “basket cases”—it has to be better than what I am using. Good old “dissonance” with the current brand is a predictive motivator.

You may argue that Color-Stay is a universal age benefit (and we would agree), but the context of the new wall may well project—if you’re under 30—that Revlon is not for you! But let’s not quibble about how well Revlon selects its users, its Line-Softening Makeup Rehydrating will surely appeal to many of the under-50 crowd.

So what do we have here? Revlon finally acknowledging its known core market—older women—a carryover from the glory days? Cover Girl has also “grown older” and, isn’t it targeting that market with Christie Brinkley? And, (get this) with a makeup called Advanced Radiance Age-Defying Foundation! Here’s an interesting sequence. Last year, Revlon re-launched its Age-Defying Makeup with Botafirm very successfully, about eight or so years after the original introduction. In Fall 2005, Cover Girl launched its “mature” entry with Christie. The name is Advanced Radiance Age-Defying Foundation.

Now, Revlon is calling the 2006 launch of a collection of products aimed at the older market, Vital Radiance Age-Defying Makeup. Is there no shame in this industry?

So how will Vital Radiance and Revlon really do? After all, this is the major, and very high cost effort to finally bring back the brand. Let’s look at the marketing mix (as of December):

• Product—assume great;

• Position—clear;

• Package—ordinary;

• Display—assume good;

• Advertising—assume stellar;

• Distribution—assume good;

• Promotion—assume typical;

• Price—Aye, there’s the rub! and

• Competition—Extremely challenging.

(Note: Competition isn’t usually considered part of the traditional marketing mix, but it is the major limiting factor, and should be considered in any estimate of probable success.)

The Importance of Price

Price is reported by buyers to be at Clinique’s level. The least expensive of Clinique’s 21(!) makeups is $18.50, with its anti-aging versions at $21.50 and $28.50. Hopefully that “perception” is not reality. As of this writing, Revlon is mum on specifics, including price. Even the more realistic reported at $13.99 is a stretch in the mass market—not withstanding the desire to attract department store shoppers. Of course, Revlon could price it with lots of room for promotion, but once you condition a consumer to know the story. On the other hand, if promotion includes great sampling, truly breakthrough awareness techniques, and incentives beyond price-off, a little cushion in price will work.

Getting back to the headline… unfortunately, Revlon doesn’t have the deep pockets to build its younger audience at the same time that it looks for gold with the golden oldies. All traditional brands; e.g., Lauder, Lancôme, and Cover Girl, among others, have the same problem of keeping their aging consumers, along with the urgent need to bring in younger new ones. Deeper pockets (witness the Tom Ford effort) allow you to do just that. So how can Revlon hold—even build—its younger audience, with “mirrors—more than money?” If it can keep some focus on innovation in products that have universal age appeal, but with a natural skew to younger audiences (mascara and lip products), Revlon may still stay in the game. Besides, any company that competes with L’Oréal and Maybelline knows that it must go after their cash cows! Good luck Revlon.

Wish we had the ‘guts’ to do that!

This ad for L’Oréal eyecolor makes the reader sit up and take notice.

The ad at left is a real show stopper, (a goal of every marketer and creative director). And after you stop, you must look for the—who is it/what is it—answer, (how’s that for involvement?) You surely can’t read the brand name as it is presented here, but in the original, in mini-type, you discover “L’Oréal” and a couple of other lines that border on invisible. Although one should be able to figure out the strategy when you see an ad, in this case, it’s not so transparent. The only thing we could come up with is that L’Oréal (with those deep pockets, again) has an avowed strategy of trying to reach/entice consumers in extraordinary ways. This is just one example. Do you believe that this ad does it? Please do let us know your thoughts.

Wish we had done that!

This Neutrogena ad is an excellent combination of effective advertising coupled with a unique product.

Neutrogena continues its remarkably good advertising with a unique product which is positioned as “acne mark fading peel.” And the ad hammers that home. First with the fading type and then with a before-and-after demo. Neat!

A unique visual difference makes this Physician’s Formula ad stand out from the competition.

Wish we had done that!

Physicians Formula keeps on plugging away at its unique, visual difference product story—here, with multi-color face powders, (right in line with the many colors in your face). Physician’s Formula turned itself around some years ago, after “the book” failed to find a buyer for the company. And, turn around it did. Have you noticed that it keeps getting a bit more space every year or so? Surest evidence that the “be different” strategy is working with consumers, and therefore, the trade. Bravo!

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t offer our wishes for a happy, healthy and fruitful new year, so we do so—with gusto!