Photo Credit: Holtsman
I’ll never forget the summer of 2002.
I was home from college after completing my freshman year. My mother excitedly told me about a mineral makeup line that she had ordered from QVC, that was “so good for your skin that you can sleep in it” and promised “maximum coverage.” Uhhhh-huh. I rolled my eyes and responded with something like “Mom, honestly, a powder could never legitimately give you that much coverage (she doesn’t even need much). You are going to be disappointed. What are you doing ordering makeup from QVC*, anyway?”
Add this conversation to the list of allllllll of the other things that she has been right about over the years. Don’t worry, she’s not afraid to point it out. No sooner had the package arrived, was I breaking into her stash so that I could swirl, tap, buff my way to glam perfection. Long before fall rolled around, I had gotten my hands on my own set to take back to school with me.
Before bareMinerals, I’d slather on foundation to hide red blotches on my nose and cheeks. After using bareMinerals, the redness went away even when I wasn’t wearing makeup. I sincerely believe that the very product that I was using to cover up the uneven skin tone was actually making the problem worse. Becoming a BE customer wasn’t just about having access to a product that worked for me, it was coming to a realization very early on that some of the most common beauty products could actually be doing damage.
So, it is clear – I love the product. But, you know what? I love the company too. Know what else? They are really darn good at marketing.
I’m such a sucker for the startup underdog that takes a leap-of-faith and makes it big. Bare Escentuals is one of those stories, which according to a recent article in the New York Times and a profile in Inc., went a little something like this:
After building a fabulous resume in the cosmetics industry, Leslie Blodgett was hired as CEO of the struggling Bare Escentuals. Using her understanding of color, complexion and the cosmetics industry, Leslie led their small team to re-launch an improved version of the mineral makeup line – bareMinerals. It was scary, rocky and uncertain. Sleepless, wondering if the company would make it through the next quarter, Leslie stumbled upon a product demo on QVC. Boom. Idea. She pitched it, booked it, and appeared on QVC, selling $45,000 of product (the entire supply) by the end of the first broadcast.
That’s the point in the story that gives me chills.
That was a big break, and nothing if not confirmation that there was a legitimate market for the product. Even so, Bare Escentuals would not be what it is today without the marketing savvy of Blodgett and her highly skilled team of makeup marketing masterminds. Here are a few reasons why I think they have been so successful:
- They are solving something. Although there are plenty of imitations on the market these days, bareMinerals was the first mineral makeup and remains the best today (just trust me). The need for safe makeup that wasn’t full of harmful chemicals? Solved. The need for a makeup that actually improves the quality of the skin, rather than detracting from it? Solved. The need for makeup that doesn’t clog the pores and leave a noticeable line of demarcation at the jaw line? Bingo. The product’s debut on the market was a value-add. There is a reason for the company to exist, and it is a compelling one.
- They show you how it’s done. Like many products or services, there is a significant level of complexity that needs to be addressed in order to adequately communicate the value of the product. Initially, the Bare Escentuals team had to do a lot of education, such as proper application of bareMinerals and the advantages to mineral makeup vs. traditional formulas. Instead of just talking about it, Bare Escentuals chose mediums that would allow them to demonstrate the product, such as QVC and infomercials. Anyone who is familiar will remember Leslie Blodgett demonstrating what happens when traditional foundation is applied to a piece of tissue (let’s just say, it isn’t pretty).
- They practice community management, rather than traditional customer service. From the start, Bare Escentuals focused on building strong relationships with customers instead of pursuing a traditional, transactional approach to customer service. The mindset is to build and manage long-term relationships with customers around a shared experience, rather than limit interaction to isolated events (a purchase, a return, etc.). They’ve been doing this all along, but in recent years, social media has only enhanced BE ‘s ability to facilitate discussion, foster connection and increase interaction with customers.
- They get me. Me, and the rest of the customer base. They are so tight with their customer base, that they have cultivated a superior ability to understand needs, wants, styles, concerns and preferences. They’ve also responded consistently with product and messaging. The most successful marketers see the world through their customers’ eyes.
The brand is truly about more than just makeup. The company has only been strengthened by Leslie Blodgett’s leadership, and it is clear that not just anyone could have done the job. Initially, I looked to Leslie Blodgett for guidance on how to rock a killer smoky eye or to learn which colors were hot for spring. As time has passed, and I’ve moved into my professional life, I look to Ms. Blodgett as a role model for the women of my generation who strive to combine their passion with a career. She gives credit to her mother, a feminist, for instilling her with her professional drive. Arguably, Leslie Blodgett has facilitated the most empowering movement for women: allowing them to feel beautiful, naturally and as themselves.
*I would later learn that QVC is actually the best place ever to buy makeup, especially Bare Escentuals. It is the place to be for amazing deals, exclusives and new product launches.