Courtesy of Heidi Klum
Frau Heidi Klum, aka The Body — wife of Seal, mother of four, hostess of Project Runway, hostess and co-producer of Germany’s Next Top Model, Victoria’s Secret model, designer (did you know that? For Jordache, Birkenstock and Victoria’s Secret Beauty and Body), fragrance maven (Heidi Klum, and Me) and triple Gemini for those of you who wonder who the real Heidi may be — has just inked a deal to be the Creative Director and face of Astor, Coty’s European-only brand of cosmetics. Whew.
Astor is at an interesting moment in their brand development. They have been around since the early 1950s, selling modestly priced make-up allowing women to “express her beautiful best in any situation.” According to their website, Astor Live Beautifully is about the pleasure of feeling beautiful and confident; it is about the beautiful moments of life; above all it is about how beautiful it is to be a woman, to be yourself. Meanwhile, it’s clear that they are entering a moment of brand reinvention and are looking for a way to be relevent in the crowded beauty marketplace. The voice of the brand seems a bit out of step with the products and lines that women seem to gravitate towards these days, everything from Maybelline (Maybe she’s born with it, still with the best-selling Great Lash mascara beloved by women everythere) to Chanel (every time they launch a new nail polish color, it sells out in a megasecond — it’s the perfect blend of classic and trendsetting) to a playful and accessible brand like Stila.
Bernd Beetz, chief executive officer at Coty, said: "We are very excited about the new partnership between Heidi Klum and Astor. As one of the most beautiful, talented and most recognized women in the world, Heidi will play an important role in ensuring that the Astor brand continues to be seen as relevant, modern and sophisticated." Stephen Mormoris, senior vice president of global marketing at Coty Beauty, said: "Heidi Klum was an obvious choice for us for brand ambassador for Astor. Her beauty is glamorous and feminine but she's also down to earth and approachable, that's why she is an inspirational role model for women of all ages." So there you are. The brand is trying to spread out, modernize, and become a more relevent player. At this point, Heidi’s powerhouse brand is bigger than theirs, and will bring them credibility and visibility through her incredible reach. According to the brand, she is going to be involved in the design of product collections "inspired by the latest runway trends". Project Runway designers, watch out! Your brand extensions are knocking at the door!
I was reading an interesting interview with the Grace family of Spartanburg, SC, who own and operate the Grace Management Group, which specializes in fragrance research and development for four distinct brands: Bridgewater Candle Company; Votivo; Willowbrook; and Greenleaf. The brands operate as four separate and independent brands, each with their own target markets, marketing strategy, product development, packaging and retail base. At the same time, the company's core values infuse all of their business practices: family, personal (e.g., grandpa and grandkids handing out product samples plus ice cream at trade shows), an early commitment to sustainable and environmental products and production, and individualism, as the company is structured so that each family member is encouraged to find their own voice and vision within the family business.
I've always been interested in the Votivo candle line, as it was one of the first domestically produced luxury candle lines, known for its quality fragrances and consistent, beautiful packaging. Each Votivo product is hand-wrapped and each seal is hand-pressed. These candles are for people who are into candles, and they have carved out their niche in a very crowded field. It's important to note that this brand has been in production and distribution since 1994, proving the branding and marketing axiom that early entrants into the field will scoop up a big portion of the market share. Then it's about brand management -- keeping production consistent, solid distribution, product development that is consistent with the values, voice and visuals of the brand.
So, we have a family-run operation that fosters individualism at different tiers of the market, and delivers a solid and differentiated brand voice with their different product lines. Votivo is only one of the lines, and has had a solid brand presence and delivers a great product on a global basis. Love that!
Interestingly enough, the Polaroid brand seems to be going in two different directions simultaneously. January 2010 found them at a big event announcing the appointment of Lady Gaga as Chief Creative Officer, Imaging Products. Her job is to "create" fashion, technology and photography products. She said that, "I'm working to bring the instant film camera back as part of the future." Okay, that sounds vague and compelling because it's Gaga + Polaroid. Why did they pick her? Their sound bite: "The core of the brand is that it's real, it's unedited, and it captures the moment." So the Lady and Polaroid ostensibly dovetail in the unedited part of their brand.
Today it was announced that The Impossible Project, a company of former Polaroid employees, have come together to save the last existing plant manufacturing Polaroid film. This has been percolating for awhile. They have opened stores in New York, Berlin and Vienna (hotbeds of analogue film users, I guess). They are selling SX-70 film and have re-issued the classic Polaroid 600 camera from 1958, pictured here.
I find this fascinating. The corporate move is towards a superstar who does not deal in the realm of the personal. The former Polaroid workers are in the analogue space, responding to people's desire for instant communications with an instant film camera. I find their move to be more in line with the way we connect through social networking -- very personal and immediate. So they have taken an old medium and are making it accessible to a new generation of consumers who want a quick fix. It's much more reflective of where we are now as a culture.
I read in the March issue of Home Accents Today that Hearst Magazines is debuting the Esquire Home Collection of furnishing and accessories at the April High Point Market, which is one of the most important markets where the home decor business unveils its new offerings each year. I quote the announcement by Glen Ellen Brown, VP of Hearst Brand Development that appeared in Home Accents: "The Esquire Home Collection extends the 77-year-old magazine's philosophy of "Man at His Best," a lifestyle of luxury, sophistication and comfort," and that they want to embark on delivering the ultimate "man space."
Interesting brand extension, isn't it? This is a topic I address all of the time in my presentations, because you want to make sure that your brand extensions are grounded in something credible and sustainable, much like your core brand. Esquire has a long history to build on, and it is something that they communicate right up front in their communications. This is one of the ways in which they differentiate themselves from other men's magazines. So there is the connection: heritage in publication, and as their tagline has said for years, "Man at his Best."
For those of you who read the NY Times online, there was a front and center article today talking about how amateur photographers are affecting professional photographer's abilities to make an income. It's a rather simplistic view of the profession as a whole, and concerns itself primarily with an analysis of photographers who make a living by shooting editorial photography, and amateurs whose images are being found online through Google's arrangements with Flickr.
I've been saying for quite some time now that there is going to be a shake-out in the photo business, as there is elsewhere in the current US economy. Photographers who continue to shoot, edit and market based on a branded model and who continue to put new work out there will yield results. You simply can't sit in the corner and wait for the sky to fall. Interesting research studies that I've read have shown that companies that continued to spend money on marketing and advertising during the Great Depression came through positioned well to reap the benefits of the improved economy, and that their businesses prospered as soon as the economy turned. I do feel that there is something to be learned from the past, don't you?
The other night I debuted a new branding presentation called Brand Like the Big Guys at ASMPNY. Rather than give a topical view of the branding process, I decided to give a grad school level talk with case studies on some uber brands based around one person, or persona. Pretty interesting stuff. At least no one was snoring out loud! I'm going to post a essential point for all brand analysis tomorrow. xo beth