Fix My Face. Really.

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by: Jonathan Salem Baskin

Clarins Group, a French cosmetics brand, is rolling out spas in upscale department stores across the U.S., in an effort to provide facials as a catalyst for selling its products.

It makes sense from the perspective of the brand, of course: upscale cosmetics belong in spas, and are further credentialed by experts wearing white coats, wielding makeup brushes and handfuls of goop. The brand strategy is also intended to target Hispanic women, so I’m sure sometimes the spa experience will be conducted in Spanish. Voila. Brand experience equals product sales.

Not so much. 

Spa visits are optional, and your average consumer considers them a luxury. Last time I checked, luxury choices weren’t faring so well in this melted economy of ours. There’s a cadre of consumers who visit department store counters for a close approximation of an entertaining experience (getting eyes done, etc.), but Clarins can’t be planning on converting them, can it?

There’s a much bigger opportunity here, and it has to do with thinking about brand as behavior, not image. Clarins should think less upscale spa, and more downscale Starbucks outlet. Skip offering luxuries or other options relevant to the brand, but rather find the routines that address consumer needs, and prompt ongoing behaviors.

Here are a few nutty ideas:

  • Morning Prep: Why couldn’t women be offered a start-of-the-day treatment — sunblock in the Summer, moisturizer in the Winter — priced at something shy of a cup of coffee, and taking all of a minute to apply? Make it a daily stop, offering subscription pricing and frequency discounts/benefits
  • Mid-day Refresh: What about the lunchtime refresher experience…something all of 5 minutes long, but including a face wash and some makeup application? Heck, why not make a take-away salad or sandwich part of the deal? Throw in a hair wash and dry?
  • Evening Treatment: Take the mid-day deal and spice it up, letting women schedule customized visits prior to going out in the evening. Personal preferences could be stored, and a quick stop could let people prepare for a night on the town? There could be coordinated selling opps with other departments in the store

Here’s another wacky idea: offer the same deals to men.

The spa concept is generically inert; other than whatever presumptions the marketers possess about the brand, there’s nothing unique or motivating about the offer. Cosmetics counters at department stores are mostly the engagement corollary of a drive-by shooting.

But if Clarins focused its brand understand out to the routines and needs of its would-be customers, it might open up an entirely new approach to these time-worn ideas. 

Don’t offer merely to enhance my appearance. Fix my face. Really.  

Well, sort of.

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