Across the spectrum of beauty brands, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics is iconic. Everybody that is anybody knows it, but that isn’t saying everybody buys it.
Part of Estée Lauder Companies’ $14.9 billion empire of beauty brands, it’s a brand that from an outside observer seems to be overshadowed by its bigger siblings, like M·A·C, the only other Estée Lauder brand grouped under its internal “makeup artist brands” segment.
Details are hard to come by. The company doesn’t report revenues by brand, but it calls M·A·C the “leading brand of professional cosmetics.” And if you look around, there are many more M·A·C branded stores to be found than the reported 30 worldwide for Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Bobbi Brown Cosmetics seems to have been put on the shelf since its acquisition by Estée Lauder in 1995 and even more so after founder Brown left the brand in 2016. It’s not that the company hasn’t supported it, but it hasn’t really done much with it either.
In a way, this isn’t surprising since the whole philosophy of the Bobbi Brown brand is not to call attention to itself, but to let one’s natural beauty shine through. It’s a minimalist brand in a maximalist business.
But Bobbi Brown Cosmetics’ days of being in the shadows may be over. In response to the coronavirus shutdown, which resulted in a third quarter 2020 loss of 11% revenues and $6 million in earnings from same period previous year, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics introduced a pilot virtual makeup consultation service that opened the eyes of the company to the intrinsic value of the brand that went unrecognized for too long.
Called Bobbi Brown’s Artistry Like Never Before, it transfers the educational approach to beauty that is a hallmark of the brand to the internet through a series of three sessions, a 15-minute one to match foundation, 30-minutes for customized makeup lessons and one-hour for groups of up to four people.
Launched first May 19 to its top-tier loyalty members, it then rapidly expanded to all loyalty members, and in little over a month, it was made available to all.
Stephanie Davis, gm of Bobbi Brown brand, reported a 15% increase in new customers as the program was rolled out. “The possibilities of scaling this program are enormous,” she told Glossy. “When you have that one-on-one engagement, you can create a connection and share information and engage customers online.”
Reportedly, 46% of people convert to buyers within three hours after the consultation from a followup email where the artist recommends three products to buy. And 51% of those customers come back to Bobbi Brown for a second purchase.
Yes, this program is notable for being successful in bridging the gap between the personal, hands-on beauty experience in physical retail to the virtual, digital world. But that’s only part of it.
The post-pandemic beauty customer is now ready for the Bobbi Brown approach to simple, let-your-natural-beauty shine through.
“The timing is brilliant,” says Karen Young, founder of the Young Group, a marketing services company supporting beauty brands and who also worked nearly two decades in various executive positions at Estée Lauder.
“Bobbi Brown is an older brand that’s got a simple, basic philosophy. Coming out of this lock down, Bobbi Brown is right in line with our focus on health and wellness that is accelerating at mindbending speed,” she says, adding that customers who’ve simplified their makeup routines while home-bound aren’t likely to go back to spending up to a half-hour or more applying makeup every morning when they return to work.
Even after Bobbi Brown left her brand, it stayed true to Brown’s original vision that it has maintained for nearly 30 years. For that, Young gives Estée Lauder credit.
“Trends in beauty come and go and I have great respect that the company never let Bobbi Brown go down that road,” she shares. “Brands get pulled in so many different directions, but Bobbi Brown stayed true to its DNA. There is a transparency to Bobbi Brown. It’s never tried to be something it isn’t.”
After months in virtual quarantine, younger consumers, who may have viewed Bobbi Brown as their mothers’ brand, are discovering that Bobbi Brown’s simple less-is-more makeup message is even more relevant than ever.
“Bobbi Brown has always been there and now everyone is going to that same place faster and faster,” Young concludes. “While its an older brand, this virtual educational offering and the brand values that stand behind it puts Bobbi Brown in a good place to speak authentically to younger consumers.”