My dressing table is choc-full of premium products: Tom Ford, YSL, Laura Mercier, Dior, Chanel, oh my – all the big names are present and correct. My name is Georgina Caldwell, and I am addicted to luxury beauty. And I’m not alone – prestige make-up is enjoying a real moment right now.
“The strength in color cosmetics sales growth lies in prestige products, which are growing at nearly twice the pace of the mass market,” reveals Charlotte Libby, Senior Beauty Analyst at Mintel.
No wonder one of the week’s biggest stories was yet another high profile make-up acquisition – this time, Estée Lauder snapping up Becca Cosmetics for an undisclosed sum. Even QVC is getting in on the act with the launch of Beauty iQ, a multi-platform shopping channel for prestige beauty. Indeed, this year has seen L’Oréal spend big on IT Cosmetics – its largest acquisition in eight years; Shiseido invest in Laura Mercier, and Revlon pick up Elizabeth Arden.
The latter is particularly interesting, as Revlon’s acquisition not only gives it a hold on the fragrance market – one it’s been trying to infiltrate for the past year – but also a premium make-up brand to renew and, if it pulls it off, Revlon could be onto a winner. Work has already started over at Arden, in the form of a digital strategy aimed at under 25s.
Digital has certainly helped fuel sales for this sector. I’ve already explored the Selfie-effect on this very platform but beauty vloggers and bloggers are also getting tills ringing. “The beauty blogger phenomenon has been one of the most beneficial factors for the color cosmetics market, inspiring women to experiment with new looks and trends and invest in a wider range of products,” adds Libby. Queen of digital L’Oréal knows this of course, which is why it recruited its very own YouTube #squad earlier this fall.
But I think that the appeal of prestige, as separate to mass, must boil down to something else – Mintel says innovation is the key driver, with prestige seen as at the forefront of innovation, but there’s no shortage of snarky articles suggesting that buyers of prestige beauty are merely paying for the name. The Daily Mail recently pitted Louboutin’s £60 lipstick against a £5 Rimmel rival and, according to its calculations (not verified by either brand), the cost of the raw materials is not only remarkably similar (19p for Louboutin’s 3.8g versus 21p for Rimmel’s 4g) but the ingredients themselves aren’t that different either.
So are we paying for the product or the packaging?
And if it’s the latter, does that make me, and consumers like me, a teeny bit gullible? I refer you back to my opening paragraph. Even if prestige make-up products didn’t offer anything extra in terms of functionality, they sure do look pretty. This is Leonard Lauder’s lipstick index in action – a daily dose of luxury in an otherwise humdrum post-Brexit, Trump-threatened world.
Packaging maketh the product, IMHO. And I’m happy to pay for it.