Origins Embraces 'Quarter-Life Crisis' to Sell Anti-Aging Cream to Twentysomethings

Estee Lauder Cos.' Brand Uses Semi-Ironic All-Digital Effort Backed by Influencers

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Image created by app for Original Skin Renewal.
Image created by app for Original Skin Renewal.

They can finally rent cars just about anywhere. The prefrontal cortices of their brains have just finished developing. Yet their student debt payments have only begun. And now women at age 25 have a new problem, according to the marketers at Origins: Their skin is getting old.

It's the Quarter-Life Crisis, as the marketers at the Estee Lauder Cos. brand see it. And though the term got the most attention when the Quarterlife series of webisodes made its jump to MTV in 2008, it lives on, with irony, in the collective consciousness and social media.

So the marketers at Origins have adopted the concept for a nearly all-digital campaign to back the launch of their Original Skin Renewal serum aimed at twentysomethings with an "entry-level price point" just under $40.

What was probably the brand's biggest consumer-research project ever, centered on entering the "white space" of skincare for women in their 20s, unearthed the quarter-life social-media phenomenon, which often involves such tongue-in-cheek quandaries as: "Should I buy expensive shoes or take a backpacking trip to India?" said Yann Marois, executive director-global marketing of Origins and Ojon.

At the same time, "We were learning from our research and development folks that your skin is also going through a biological change," said Mark Ferdman, VP-global consumer engagement for Origins and Ojon.

"There's a protein synthesis called carbonylation where the skin becomes more opaque," said Trenesa Danuser, VP-global communications and strategic alliances for Origins, Darphin and Ojon. "We're validating what the consumer is seeing in the mirror."

Millennials "lead a very public life," Mr. Marois said, pointing to the ubiquitous selfies of social media. "Looking your best is a real concern for that age," he said, "especially when you're going through all these changes that make you more vulnerable."

The campaign, launching in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East now, will hit Asia in six months, Mr. Ferdman said. One element popular in China and other Asian markets being incorporated elsewhere is use of QR codes linked to a "lottery scratch off" with instant prizes of free products, Mr. Ferdman said.

The effort includes an app that helps women embellish their selfies with illustrations. The campaign eschews banners and leans heavily on 40 social-media influencers, led by Tanya Burr and Jen Chae, who are also faces of the brand's merchandising in Sephora, where Original Skin Renewal launched exclusively. Pre-roll ads on YouTube are product reviews from Ms. Chae, instead of typical pitches.

Facebook efforts include paid promotions of free samples and the app. On Twitter, Origins will use Promoted Tweets from its influencers and internal team of millennials. And the campaign will include three pieces of native content for Buzzfeed, including two listicles and a quiz around the quarter-life crisis theme.

Agencies for the effort include Laundry Service, New York; Plaid Social Labs in Provo, Utah; and Illuminati Creative, New York.

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