P&G cosmetics startup sets out to be different

By Published on .

When it comes to creating a brand identity for reflect.com, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Personality traits and empowering mantras are the focus of print ads appearing in November magazines and direct mail pieces for Procter & Gamble Co. and Institutional Venture Partners' Web-based purveyor of upscale personalized cosmetics. Print will run in magazines such as Jane, People and Vogue.

With taglines such as "Create your own beauty" and "It's the image of you," reflect.com is breaking the rules of traditional brand development, said Nathan Estruth, co-leader of the reflect.com startup team and marketing director for beauty care at P&G.

"The key point for us is we have built the reflect brand and marketing plan in a completely new way," Mr. Estruth said. "We're committing brand equity heresy in a way. This is focused one-to-one marketing with the consumer. The look, the feel and even the packaging are defined [by the woman and created online]. That's why we did direct and Internet [marketing] first. The traditional media avenues will come later."

P&G, which holds a 51% share in reflect.com, went to direct shop Rapp Collins Worldwide, New York, to develop its print and direct-mail ads.

Rapp Collins had worked with P&G on custom-designed direct-mail products in the past, including Millstone coffee.

SIMPLE IMAGES

The ads are purposely designed with simple images and very little information to tease women to explore the site. Each direct-mail piece includes a code a consumer uses to gain access to the site--and allows reflect.com to track potential customers.

Instead of focusing on developing a strong brand image in its initial ad, reflect.com emphasizes individuals' unique features and the ability of the beauty products line to be all things to all women.

"I'm not ready to talk about numbers of the campaign, but already the return on the direct mail integrated with the site has exceeded our highest expectations," Mr. Estruth said. "So far, we're thrilled."

When Rapp Collins initially spoke with P&G about its plans for custom-designed beauty products, the idea was to create a line sold via direct mail, said Doug Klein, VP-group creative director.

Over the past 12 months, however, the plan for the product line evolved to a combination of direct mail and the Web, and then to the final incarnation of an exclusively Web-based line.

"Only the Internet allows you to do this, where you create personalized products for consumers," Mr. Estruth said. "We're starting a service business, which means thinking in a different way [for P&G].

'UNSETTLED' TARGET

While the initial direct mail and print campaign targets women between 18 and 24 years old, reflect.com won't be aimed at a specific age group.

"We really wanted to be different," Mr. Klein said. "We felt this target audience was going to give us the greatest permission to be different--they haven't settled into a lot of the beauty industry norms. The other side is the technology side, they would seem to be a little bit more inclined to go to the Web."

Direct mail included a series of message cards in vellum envelopes and a toy cube with images designed to direct women to the Web site.

The strategy behind the single catchwords and statements--such as "There are hundreds of rules on beauty and they're all wrong"--is to tease people into checking out the site.

"It's such a simple, compelling call to action," Mr. Klein said. "The copy we settled on was to give [women] a voice [in their beauty choices]. To give them a taste of what we're about and then tease them."

Mr. Estruth said reflect.com will eventually have an online and offline media campaign, but the current focus is on tracking customers and finding out what they think about the site.

He also declined comment on plans for TV advertising or to discuss what other agencies might be involved in promoting the site.

"We're not too focused on revenue in the next six months," he said. "We're focused on developing the concept. If we develop the concept, we're going to change the world."

Copyright October 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

In this article:
Most Popular