When Makeup Marketing Goes Too Far


For my "day job," I'm a public relations consultant, so the PR and marketing campaigns behind our favorite beauty products fascinate me (dream job = beauty editor *cough* just saying). I like to stay up on new product launches, and one in particular has really piqued my interest...so I started asking some questions. At what point do we become so demystified by the marketing that it turns us off from the product? Just how much will we pay for the brand name of a consumable item? Is the efficacy of the product really all that matters? To get to the bottom of these questions - and to make sure you get the best products at the best prices - let's dig a little deeper into the world of makeup marketing.


Arguably, Estee Lauder was the original queen of makeup marketing. When it came to spreading the word about her products (before the internet existed), her motto was "telephone, telegraph, tell-a-woman." She also invented the concept of offering a gift-with-purchase to draw in customers. As someone who worked for a company under the Estee Lauder Companies umbrella, I can tell you that those practices are still very much used today. Her approach was anchored in making women look, and therefore feel, better about themselves, and the industry really hasn't moved beyond that method.

Today's Tactics

While I believe most beauty companies have good intentions, they still have to turn a profit in order to stay afloat and be competitive. The good news is that the makeup industry is, for the most part, recession-proof. However, one can't deny several brands use campaigns that promote a distinct focus on youth, looking flawless, and the general feeling that their beauty products will make us "perfect." That notion, coupled the new Influencer culture (which is nothing new, but Influencers themselves have taken on a new arena - think bloggers/social media personalities/celebrities who peddle this or that product that "you MUST try!" only because they are getting paid to promote said product and/or were given the product for free) can breed a skeezy atmosphere, that, frankly, turns me off completely.

Doing a Double Take

That launch I referred to earlier is the new Pat McGrath Labs eye shadow kit, Dark Star 006. You receive five eye shadows, an eyeliner, and a brush with a price tag of $130.  That comes out to $18.57 per item, and, to be sure, these are expertly crafted products. Plus, the packaging is so cool - everything comes encased in a bag that, once opened, scatters iridescent sequins.

The campaign is built around scarcity (her first few offerings flew off the shelves, never to be created again), exquisite imagery (just scroll through her Instagram feed), and targeted Influencers. It was genius, but I couldn't bring myself to buy the kit even though I've purchased her incredible products before. What halted me was the price tag - I just didn't think the products were collectively worth that much.

And I'm not alone. Here are two screen shots I grabbed from Sephora.com's reviews of the kit:

So, getting back to my original questions: while Pat McGrath is beyond respected in the makeup artist industry, her name alone isn't enough for some (myself included) to justify spending that amount on this kit even, as one reviewer notes, if one can afford it. Personally, when I debated getting the kit for 15% off during the recent VIB Sale (bringing the price down to $110.50, or just under $16 per product), I still couldn't pull the trigger; after being honest with myself, the only item I really wanted was the sparkle gloss, which I can easily make on my own, and I wanted to say I owned the kit. Thus, those reasons weren't enough for me to purchase the kit

In Conclusion...

I believe that many luxury products are worth the money, but I also believe in getting the best value. For example, I use La Mer and LXMI moisturizers, but drugstore mascara. And, yes, in many cases you're paying for packaging and the brand name, so you have to discern whether or not something is worth it for you and your lifestyle. One way to do that is subscribe to this blog (shameless, I know) so you can get honest reviews as I am neither on anyone's PR list nor sponsored (yet??).

Thanks for taking time to stop by Electra Lane, and feel free to hang out with me until next week/leave your comments on Instagram @ElectraLane! -JY



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Yost, J. (2013). Defending Public Opinion Towards Beauty. (If you actually want to read this, email me.)

Photographs c/o The Next Web, Google Images, EsteeLauder.com, Sephora.com, and Jessica Yost