The Grayson Report

The Return of Fashion Is a Boost for Beauty

By Suzanne & Bob Grayson , Grayson Associates | May 3, 2011

Thanks to CoverGirl and Maybelline, the leading mass beauty brands, fashion is returning to stimulate the cosmetic business, and like the end of a dreary winter, the sun is shining again. Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, fashion drove traffic, and hence, the business. Get this: Revlon was the leading brand in both mass and department stores with close to a 40% share of the mass color business! It was also in specialty stores, but did not dominate. In fact, the Ultima II line was created specifically for the Neiman’s and Saks’ consumers, you know, the women who lunch and shop.*

Revlon’s success was driven by fashion and product innovation with Charles Revson’s hand firmly on the wheel, along with the huge impact coming from television and its $64,000 Question. For a $1.25 lipstick and $0.65 nail enamel, readers were transfixed by beautiful and famous models in the latest fashions, stretched across 4-color spreads, and adorned with Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry; Tiffany was too down-market! Remember, this was 40+ years ago, before the jargon of “brand-image,” “positioning” and“value-added advertising” became chitchat over a double latte.

Revlon’s ownership of the beauty/ fashion connection came from those twice-yearly, heavily advertised color promotions for lips and matching fingertips, such as Fire & Ice, Love that Red, Cherries in the Snow, Persian Melon, Snow Peach and others which have remained best sellers for more than 50 years! To spice up the fashion promotions as competitors followed the leader, Revlon discovered that these fashion efforts were also a great way to “try out” really new products, without the high risk of making those all-out inventory commitments.

Enter Blush-On, a totally new category of cosmetics and introduced to the world as part of The Million Dollar American Look, with Suzi Parker wearing Million Dollar Red — and the blushing glow that still wakes up the complexions of millions of women around the world, every day. (The full story of how Revlon invented the blush category is yours for an e-mail to It is mentioned here to convey the power of Revlon’s image of beauty/fashion/innovation leadership in the Revson days, which sadly, has long been lost. Of note is a Leonard Lauder comment in The New York Times a few weeks back — “Running Estée Lauder is like driving a car.You have to be able to look in the rear view mirror and see where you have been, and look ahead to see where you have to go.”

None of Revlon’s professional management teams since then truly understood its core strengths — the essence of what made for those glory days — i.e., where they came from. Nothing, not even money, can drive a brand like the ego, passion and perfection of its creator; Charles, Estée, Elizabeth, Helena for starters.

Now, the vital connection between fashion and beauty has been smashingly revived by both CoverGirl and Maybelline to add great value to those brands, and thereby, not just for the products that are advertised, but their entire lines!

For the past year or so, both brands have actively used direct and aggressive fashion connections as a means of engaging the consumer. Cover Girl’s four-page section, for its new Lip Perfection, starring Drew Barrymore, is a dramatic example of the direct link to fashion, with shoes, (think of all those shoe fetishes), jewelry and accessories. Maybelline’s sponsorship of Fashion Week the past few seasons (amazing for a mass brand!), enhances the authority of the entire line with advertising and in-store displays. The knock-out seven-page Runway Lookbook is chock full of accessories with harmonizing cosmetics in three spreads which open at each indented section: pearl fashion jewelry — with Colorsensational Pearls harmonizing lipsticks; Flirtations Feathers — with the Falsies mascara;Luscious Color in shoes, fashion, handbag and Bracelets — paired with Color Gleam eyeshadows. What a great execution of the fashion strategy!

And these days, both brands are able to use social marketing to magnify their fashion efforts millions-fold!How’s that for engagement and competitive edge? For most marketers, in all channels of distribution, color promotions are still marketing tools, but without the extra impetus of the fashion connection or other breakout ideas, they look pretty predictable and blurred, with little competitive advantage — or real, must-have, impulse relevance to consumers.

Clairol’s Big Step

How and when do you take the huge step/chance/gamble of relaunching/revitalizing a 50+ year-old brand — especially when it’s the one product line that literally built the entire blonding business?That’s right, “Does She. . . or Doesn’t She?” — one of the best slogans of all time (Can’t resist these other two iconic Miss Clairol slogans: ”Is it true that blondes have more fun?” “If I have only one life, let me live it as a blonde.”)And, it’s also the one product most associated with your brand image to the professional trade and consumer?You do it when you’ve been wringing your hands as diminishing volume and share, coupled with strong competitive entries, finally make you say—“it’s now or never!”And also, when you are a P&G company, and know that you will have all the tools and support to mount the “mother of all relaunches!”Enter the Miss Clairol relaunch, and without that name on the box! Now called Clairol Professional Soy 4Plex Liquicolor Permanente. Many companies forsake their older brands for the new and more wonderful, and therefore ultimately discontinue them.Few go through the tremendous effort and technology cost to relaunch, especially when the education required to assure a successful transition is enormous. Imagine the risk and difficulty of converting stylists (who have the L’Oréal option) to a new shade numbering system for a 50+ year-old brand. Kudos to P&G and Clairol for a job well done. Now for the implementation!

We first saw it at the Long Beach ISSE professional show. Continuous platform demonstrations, continuous parade of finished models with a large variety ofhair colors as examples, and most noticeable — their very shiny hair — all to demonstrate the key benefit, better conditioning.And to top it off, virtually unlimited complete packages, for the asking.We asked for six complete kits to bring to our stylist.No problem. Good to have money, isn’t it?Clairol has been mostly absent from beauty shows in recent years. Now they have something to shout about!


*For a view of how distribution has changed, send an e-mail to for the chart that previously appeared in this column.


Suzanne and Bob Grayson are respected, professional marketers, having spent their careers with the leading companies in the beauty industry before starting 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