The fact that everyone was forced to hide behind a face mask for two years must have been disastrous for lipstick sales. The costly mistake of accidentally paying out $500 million too much to creditors certainly did not help either. Yet the question remains of where things actually went wrong with Revlon. Plus: tips for the future.
Just ten years shy of the company's centenary, it looks like the show is truly over for the iconic brand Revlon. The company owned by the American billionaire Ron Perelman - which also includes Elizabeth Arden, among other labels - recently filed for deferment of payment. In a statement, the board says it has been hit by "ongoing global challenges such as supply-chain issues and rising inflation." The company's debts are also said to be insurmountable.
But let's be honest here; that is not the whole story. "What has really hurt the brand is its own inability to adapt. Not just in terms of their products, but especially with regard to their marketing and how they advertise," says American beauty blogger Kelly Gooch in a video about the "rise and fall" of Revlon. "I myself have stopped buying Revlon products because they are not cruelty-free. But even if they were, there is still nothing that really draws my attention as a make-up reviewer. They do not keep up with the latest trends and have lost their connection to their target group," says the twenty-eight-year-old YouTuber.
Missing out time and again
The Dutch Inge de Munnik, online marketing strategist for e.g. various cosmetics brands, sees Revlon as a brand that has failed to keep up with the times. "So much has happened, especially in the last twenty years. You have to have an excellent feel for your market if you want to keep up. If you miss out time and again, the same thing that happened to Revlon will happen to you," says De Munnik, who grew up during the time when top models like Cindy Crawford defined our concept of beauty. She remembers her own mother loyally following the latest trends, as dictated by the major fashion labels. "If the models wore blue eye shadow on the catwalk, everyone would be wearing it that summer. That is not how it works anymore. Younger generations are more assertive than my generation. Everyone used to slavishly follow the example set by the fashion designers; as long as you owned a Chanel bag and blue Dior eye shadow, you'd be golden. That trend has gradually disappeared over time."
Influencers set the tone
De Munnik says that today's thirty- and forty-year-olds want to decide for themselves what they like and don't like. "Then there is the youngest generation of people who have grown up with a phone in their hand. They don't even watch TV anymore. Instead, this group of consumers is looking at influencers like Nikkietutorials." Through them, they learn about niche brands that are easily available online, such as NARS, and the cosmetic products of celebrities like Kylie Jenner, who doesn't even need a advertising budget because she has an army of followers who hang on her every word. According to Kelly Gooch, Revlon's marketing strategy has hardly changed at all since the forties, fifties and sixties of the last century. In that era, Revlon saw an exponential increase in its sales figures after every TV commercial, such as the sponsorship deal with the legendary game show The $64,000 Question. "That was very effective at the time. In the eighties and nineties, there were the well-known celebrity endorsements from top models such as Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Iman."
Celebrity endorsements are not effective anymore
The brand has continued to rely on its celebrity strategy to the present day. Last year, Revlon signed an endorsement deal with rapper Megan Thee Stallion. A similar deal was signed this year with actress Sofia Carson. Gooch sees similarities between the cosmetics brand BH Cosmetics, which filed for bankruptcy in January, and Revlon. The former brand actually stated that its financial difficulties were partly the result of its partnerships with Iggy Azalea and Doja Cat. "Those were costly partnerships with disappointing results. Celebrity endorsements are not as effective anymore as they were in the nineties," says Gooch.
Plastic surgery and lifestyle
The manner in which brands must reach out to consumers is not the only thing that has changed, De Munnik says; the same is true of the landscape in which cosmetics brands operate. "Cosmetics offer a promise of beauty. However, there are many more ways to achieve beauty today than there were in the past." A jar of wrinkle-concealing foundation is not nearly as effective as an injection from a plastic surgeon. Those bags under your eyes can also be dealt with by adopting a healthier lifestyle with a better diet, more sleep and less stress. "Beauty used to revolve entire around your physical appearance. Today, women not only look at their make-up, but at themselves as a whole. The cosmetics industry faces indirect competition as a result of the rising popularity of wellness and health. People today have a more holistic perspective on beauty. This means consumers not only spend their money on cosmetics, but also on trips to the sauna, healthy food and sleep coaches," De Munnik says. De Munnik believes many brands have spent too much time trapped in their own little bubbles; meanwhile, trends such as plastic surgery, wellness and health have drastically changed the market. "A cosmetics brand like Revlon has been caught in its own 'cosmetics cocoon' for too long."
If Revlon were to make a fresh start, De Munnik believes the brand should transition from a product-oriented to a customer-oriented approach. To an extent, the same can be said for all cosmetics brands. "Brick-and-mortar stores and webshops should not be divided into product categories such as concealers and lipsticks. Instead, the division should be based on the customer's skin or hair colour. The best approach is to divide your products entirely by target group. That makes you unique and also far more inclusive." A potentially groundbreaking tool that can help with this is artificial intelligence. L'Oréal is currently paving the way with an app that analyses a consumer's skin and makes recommendations based on the results. This means people don't even have to leave their homes to buy the perfect new shade of lipstick.
The French parent company of such labels as Lancôme, Kiehl's, Garnier, Redken and Maybelline New York has also begun exploring the metaverse. The cosmetics conglomerate has recently registered trademarks for seventeen of its subsidiaries. It looks like we will soon be able to buy virtual versions of cosmetics in the metaverse - all in a downloadable format.The question remains if Revlon will still be around to see it.