Girltalk lays a strong base for growth

Cult make-up brand Barry M aims to be as big as Rimmel and has launched a social networking site to harness the help of consumer power.

While other cosmetic companies are choosing celebrities to promote their wares, teen make-up brand Barry M wants its own customers to be advocates. Rimmel might have Kate Moss, but Barry M literally wants the girl next door.

The make-up marque has launched the “M Club” in beta format to form a social networking site which it claims is about “bringing the beauty community together online”.

Dean Mero, managing director and son of the firm’s founder Barry Mero, says the brand has noted a trend for people talking about its cosmetics online without being prompted by traditional advertising. “It came to our attention four or five years ago that some of the best marketing is other people talking about and recommending our products,” he explains.

Mero says this word-of-mouth marketing was his inspiration for the new social networking site. M Club enables people to develop their own beauty profile, upload videos and pictures, blog and take part in a chat forum. It is also developing features that will enable users to add links to other social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo.

Instead of a famous face fronting the site, Barry M has employed make-up artists to film tutorials showing fans how to recreate a famous look.

Fans can see how to get outrageous popstar Lady GaGa’s look with the brand’s make-up, for example. It has also launched an iPhone application called Lookz with new tutorials available to download on a weekly basis.

The brand’s foray into new media marketing came when it employed an amateur make-up artist called Lauren Luke to film make-up tutorials. Luke had developed a popular following on YouTube demonstrating how to apply cosmetics, which has since led to her own cosmetics line and a column in The Guardian. For Barry M, Luke’s effect was to show the team the potential of online marketing. Mero says M Club aims simply to get people talking. He claims that those who sign up won’t be bombarded with advertising and people will be able to talk freely about other make-up brands. “We feel this site will appeal to our target audience, who want to sit in front of a computer to interact with their friends,” he says.

The brand is also using the site to promote its ethical credentials. A live webcam shows family pet rabbit Cookie potting around in her home – a quirky idea with a serious message behind it: the brand has never tested its products on animals. Rita Clifton, chairman of Interbrand, thinks Barry M has a clearly defined offer and a clear target audience, which is a good place to start a marketing drive aimed at youngsters. She says online is “absolutely the currency of how this make-up is being used and how the brand is being talked about.”

However, she warns that it is difficult to create a branded social networking site with staying power. While people stick with general networks such as Facebook or Bebo, they fall out of love with single-branded sites. “There’s always a danger that social networks can be fashionable in their own right,” she says.

She also says it will be difficult for Barry M as a niche independent player in the cosmetics market to compete with more established brands such as Rimmel, which have the backing and marketing budgets of large corporates. One way Mero hopes to rise to this challenge is demonstrate to consumers that Barry M has expanded beyond the glittery products it first became famous for, such as its “dazzle dust”.

Although it is focusing on its new media strategy, the company is launching its first television campaign earlier this year in order to compete with the major cosmetics brands. It plans to run another ad next Easter after it has raised a “good awareness”, say Mero.

Barry M will not be running a multitude of new ads, however. Mero freely admits that the brand doesn’t have the budget to run several TV campaigns a year like other major competitors, such as Rimmel.

It is expanding its range in stores with retailers such as Superdrug giving the brand more space. This year it has introduced a range of blushers and Mero says the company is well equipped to react quickly to trends with new new products and colours.

While Mero has aspirations for his brand to become as big as Rimmel, he doesn’t advocate the use of celebrities to promote the brand. While Rimmel has a stream of celebrities in its ads including Kate Moss and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, he believes in the customer as ambassador. According to Mintel, Mero may have a point. In its report on cosmetics, it says: “celebrities are not an inspiration” when it comes to choosing what style of make-up to wear.”

Mintel adds that make-up is one of the fastest growing beauty markets out there, so well worth Mero’s efforts to build the brand. Mintel estimates the market will reach a value of £1.6bn by 2013.

However, the recession has had an effect on the Barry M brand. Mero claims that prior to the economic downturn, the brand was growing 15- 20% year on year, but the recession has halted this level of growth. Despite the lipstick effect theory (the idea that sales of lipstick, or small treats, go up when a recession hits), Mero has seen his company take a hit.

The effects of the recession are being felt even among the brand’s teenage audience, says Mero. Less pocket money means fewer sales.

However, he hopes the launch of its social networking agenda will add more sparkle to the fashion-inspired brand and help it make a major mark in the make-up market.

Viewpoint

Alex Creed
Account director for Revlon at strategic design agency Anthem Worldwide

Online is the perfect place for Barry M to build its brand following. It’s aimed at women aged 13 to 30 – but I suspect its greatest fans are at the lower end of the spectrum.

If you want to engage with a young target audience, the internet is where they congregate. A Barry M social networking site helps fuel teenagers’ passion for make-up and their love of swapping tips and gossip.

Search for Barry M online and you’ll see it has an incredibly enthusiastic following. So if other people are talking about you already, it makes sense to create the forum yourself so you can harness that word-of-mouth power.

We all know the power of celebrity culture – maybe Barry M should also make more of its heritage and the background of its eponymous founder, Barry M, who worked with Adam Ant and Cyndi Lauper to help create their bold and colourful looks. Where is Barry’s blog, for example?

When it comes to the retail merchandising of make-up, point-of-sale fixtures tend to look very samey with little opportunity for much differentiation and personality. Online provides the perfect forum for a brand such as Barry M to create a strong personality, unhindered by retailers. This will also enable Barry M to keep up to date with trends as they happen, rather than waiting for retail fixture updates, which are often annual.

With its bright colours, Barry M felt like a brand more suited to party makeup when it launched, but it has been successfully reinventing itself as a mainstream but funky, youthful brand. The online tips and tutorials should be a powerful way to bolster this reincarnation.

On the internet – How Barry M’s budget brand rivals perform

Collection 2000
Where it is sold

Vivalis-owned Collection 2000 retails in Boots and Superdrug and is also sold online including through major supermarket websites such as Tesco and Asda.
How it promotes itself
Collection 2000 has a transactional website. It has a “get the look” section with video tutorials. A trend section currently shows the latest beauty fashion in Autumn/Winter 2009-10.

MeMeMe
Where it is sold

MeMeMe, also made by Vivalis, is sold in Superdrug.
How it promotes itself
The brand is split into three areas: ‘cult favourites’, which include Pussycat Cheek & Lip Tint, ‘sensational brights’ which includes eyeshadows, and ‘hard-working basics’ such as concealer. It doesn’t currently have a branded website to promote itself.

Gosh Cosmetics
Where it is sold

The Danish brand includes cosmetics, bath and body products, and perfume. It sells globally.
How it promotes itself
Gosh claims to be “inspired by the trends and events of the pulsating fashion industry”. It has a presence on YouTube and links its website to videos that mention the brand. It has a “Get the Look” section on its website with step-by-step instructions, and a Facebook page with 331 fans.

Major players Teen and young adult cosmetics:

Avon
Avon sells its products door-to-door in more than 100 countries, and has a transactional website. According to analyst Mintel, “Avon is becoming more fashion-focused” by collaborating with designers who appeal to a young adult audience.

Benefit
Benefit makeup, made by LVMH, is sold at a higher price point than Barry M, but appeals to the same target market. Its humorous packaging and product names have helped the brand develop awareness and a cult following for products such as Benetint, its cheek and lip-stain.

Boots
Boots sells a number of brands appealing to a pre-teen, teen and a young adult audience. Its own-brand for teenagers, 17, aims to “appeal to teens who don’t want to look like teens but are inspired by fashion,” according to Mintel. Boots also makes the youth-focused Natural Collection and pre-teen brand Glitter Babes.

Coty Inc
Coty Inc sells make-up through Coty Prestige and Coty Beauty divisions. It sells teen brands Miss Sporty and Rimmel under the Coty Beauty division. Rimmel London has just reappointed advertising agency JWT to push the development of the global business. It will be developing integrated campaigns to boost Rimmel’s profile in Asia and Australasia. Developing an online strategy is a major part of Rimmel’s future marketing plans. The brand uses famous faces to promote it, including supermodel Kate Moss. Mintel says the model has helped it to develop an “edgy fashion-forward image”.

MAC
Mac is positioned at a higher price point than Barry M but Mintel reports it has “a young, trendy following in department stores”.

Maybelline
Maybelline New York has been on sale since 1998 and is well-known for its mascara products. Its advertising tagline is “maybe you’re born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline”.

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