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Ethnic Cosmetics Fit New Beauty Paradigm

By: Sara Mason
Posted: December 10, 2008, from the December 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

BlackUp recently launched a collection of high-pigmented lipsticks, rich in natural active ingredients, in a redesigned package.

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Brands can strengthen awareness or build a following through targeted line extensions, promotional sampling and public relations. “Channel marketing should be included in the strategy to integrate ethnic media, authority experts or spokespersons for credibility, visibility and reach,” says Sue Devitt’s Bernard.

Traditionally, non-ethnic companies strengthen brand awareness by using non-Caucasian celebrities to endorse their brands in print and on TV: from Beyoncé Knowles and Aishwarya Rai for L’Oréal Paris to Halle Berry for Revlon and Liya Kebede for The Estée Lauder Companies. “But advertising and promotional dollars also must be allotted for specific, ongoing outreach—it’s not always enough to put an ethnic model in an advertisement,” continues Bernard. “Consumers today are quite discerning and appreciate an authentic approach.”

Effectively marketing beauty to ethnic consumers is about content, connection and community. First of all, content must be relevant, throughout the packaging and advertising. One of Thambirajah’s goals was to provide sophisticated, educated, affluent women a prestige makeup brand with high-end packaging. “Traditional ethnic brands have been weak on packaging and marketing,” says Fagot-Coste. So, stunning and innovative packaging, with up-to-date visuals, is definitely key to compete with mainstream products, not just in terms of winning the ethnic crowd, but also by enhancing product credibility.

While exceptions to this rule are rare, one is the exclusive French line BlackUp Paris, a product with a good distribution network, including prestigious department stores Galeries Lafayette and Le Printemps Haussmann, and cosmetics chains like Sephora in Europe and Africa, as well as its first makeup bar in London’s Morleys department store. Through its sales outlets, the brand boasts personalized advice and customized makeup sessions. Since its creation by Fabrice Mahabo, each package is handled following strict guidelines and carries a “handmade” guarantee.

A brand’s element of connection has to resonate with the consumer emotionally, through ethnic cues, a tagline, music or a compelling message. Susan Yee and her sisters rediscovered their Asian heritage while creating international niche makeup company Zhen Inc., which relies heavily on online retail, although the home party business is being explored for future growth.