Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blog 5: On the "Scene"

“The terms used in the tabloid press to describe those youngsters who, in their conduct or clothing, proclaim subcultural membership  (‘freaks’, ‘animals… who find courage, like rats, in hunting in packs’) would seem to suggest that the most primitive anxieties concerning the sacred distinction between nature and culture can be summoned up by the emergence of such a group.” –Dick Hebdige, “Subculture”

When I read this I immediately thought of the Goth and scene kids who were once looked at as freaks of nature. They were outcasts because of their piercings, tattoos, and heavy makeup. Apparently people assumed these kids were devil worshipers and troublemakers. As if looking into their eyes would make them be able to cast a spell on you. Because, based on the way they dress and how they look, they all have to be witches and warlocks, right?

For this once small sector of the population, this style of dress and appearance was just a way for them to break away from the “mainstream” and express themselves and be different.  However, these days it is not so uncommon to see this style of dress anymore. It seems everyone either has a tattoo or many tattoos or have piercings in other places than just their ears.

In terms of makeup, it is no longer as offensive to see someone with heavy black eye liner or bright eye shadows. In fact, many higher end makeup companies, have come out with collections and campaign ads that feature “Goth-esque” makeup and more dramatic looks.

Examples of Goth and “scene” makeup:

And of course the ultimate example of Goth, but more like Goth gone wrong is Marilyn Manson:

Major makeup companies have hopped on the opportunity to try to appeal to the people of this subculture while still being able to appeal to the mainstream people who are frequent purchasers of their products as well by focusing on the more artistic side of this underground culture.

In September of 2009, MAC Cosmetics released a limited edition collection called “Style Black”. Below are the pictures from the ad campaigns:

The collection featured darker than usual shades for MAC, even including a black lipstick and lip gloss. The ads are dark and somewhat extreme, but they are still artistic

Another makeup company called Illamasqua, almost always features unconventional yet “artistic” looks.

The Illamaqua ads aren’t necessarily Goth, but they are certainly not the conventional “pretty” or sex sales ads that are normally released.

Aside from makeup, even stores like Hot Topic, which was opened primarily for the Goth or scene teen, has now somewhat become mainstream. It has been featured in magazines like “Seventeen” and have customers who would not consider themselves Goth.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Blog 4: The International Appeal

This week most, if not all, of my blog post is going to be based on Henry Yu's "How Tiger Woods Lost His Stripes," and I will be focusing on the section "National Diversity and International Marketing." The quote, "There is a perverse irony in selling products back to places where capital has gone to find cheap labor,"  is what really caught my attention in this essay. So many beauty companies outsource their products these days. Whether it's for the product itself to be made or just the packaging, you will very likely see "Made in China" somewhere on the box. The beauty industry is a billion dollar industry all over the world in countries ranging from the US, Italy, France, and yes, even China. These same companies that outsource for cheap labor are still able to sell their products in that area.

How do you ask? Through print ads, commercials, and magazine editorials.

Celebrity endorsement ad in Asia
using American actress Angelina Jolie
Celebrity endorsement ad using Asian
celebrities Aishwaria Rai and
Rachida Brakni
Much like with any other product, the best way to sell is through advertising. And the best way to advertise is by using a celebrity. Many companies spend millions of dollars on celebrity endorsers in order to sell their products and reach many different demographics. More often than not the celebrity chosen is usually an American celebrity. While quite a few Americans spend their time trying to look more "exotic" with self tanners and long wavy hair extensions, some women in other cultures, some not all, strive to look like what they consider American beauty. Knowing this, companies use women who fit this ideal image. Slim, fair, and wide eyed. Even if they use a celebrity from their own country, they would still fit this model is ideal beauty.

 Although many women in Asia are naturally slim, not all of them have fair skin and wide eyes. But no need to fret because there are products and procedures for that. Skin lightening cream is a very popular among the women of all areas of Asia. 
Skin whitening ad

Friday, September 10, 2010

Blog 3: Commodity as a Spectacle

"The spectacle is the moment when the commodity has attained the total occupation of social life. The relation to the commodity is not only visible, but one no longer sees anything but it: the world one sees is its world. Modern economic production extends its dictatorship extensively and intensively." -Guy Debord

What I take from this is, in relation to makeup, the spectacle is whatever has taken over as the dominant brand in a certain industry. Whatever sells the most and is used the most.

The spectacle in the makeup industry would be MAC Cosmetics. MAC, a division of $6.3 billion cosmetics giant Estee Lauder, got credited in the company's last annual report for being a significant reason for the parent's 13% net makeup sales increase ($274.8 million). Amped-up sales from MAC's Small Eye Shadow, Studio Fix, Lustreglass, and Pro Longwear Lipcolor products alone contributed $70 million in revenue.

MAC has made more revenue than any other beauty brand on the market. It is used by both makeup artists and regular consumers alike and receives high praise from many of its consumers.

With single shadows ranging from $11-$15.50, lip gloss and lipstick $14.50-$16, and foundations and concealers upwards of $30, the products can get a little pricey. Even a regular face powder brush can set you back $52.  But these prices are just for the regular permanent items. Limited edition items can cost well over $100 on sites like eBay if you are not lucky enough to get them when the collections are first released.

But even with these prices and the many limited edition collections that come out each year, is MAC really the end all be all when it comes to makeup? Is it worth the hype?

Even though MAC is an expensive brand compared to drugstore products, it actually one of the least expensive department store products. Even though MAC’s lip gloss can be as much as $16, companies like NARS and Make-Up Forever charge $24 and $20 respectfully. Even those are cheaper than Dior and Chanel who charge $29.50 and $36.30 for their lip glosses.

In terms of quality, many loyal users of the brand who have been with them for years say MAC’s quality has deteriorated. It seems as the brand grows, it takes a toll on the quality. Some have even said MAC does not care about the customers anymore, they just care about getting as many products out as possible and making more money. Which seems to be true with 30 limited edition collections that came out in just this year alone, many of which received not so favorable reviews.

Below is a picture from a makeup artist’s blog where she swatches the shadow Plum Dressing by MAC.

On the left is the one she purchased in 2005 and the one on the right is one from this year. The pigmentation in the shadow has greatly diminished and she mentions that the application of the shadowed has worsened as well as the formula is not as smooth as it once was.

Even with these faults, MAC is still pushed as one of the best makeup brands and is one of the highest selling brands out there. Even though there are other brands, both more expensive and less expensive, that rival and could even beat MAC as the better brand. This just goes to show that the more a brand is forced on people, the more people will buy the hype.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Blog 2: Makeup Is For Whores!

Okay, the title is a little misleading. However, at one point in time, makeup was seen as something lower class women would wear.

Originally, makeup was worn by the "elite" or royalty. The earliest known makeup was made from copper and lead and worn by the Egyptians, most notably, Cleopatra. Famously depicted in her gold eye shadow and thick black liner, she wears one of the most noticeable makeup looks in history. The trend of makeup being only for the elite continued for a while until around the 1800s when social etiquette became more frigid and makeup was frowned upon.  Pale skin was a sign of pureness and gentility. Around the 1900s makeup was beginning to be worn by the "society ladies" but was still not spoken of. Cosmetics were actually kept under the counter and sold discretely because the ladies did not want anyone to know they were buying let alone using the products. In the 1920s, the ideal image for women was to be slim, completely natural and free of makeup and to keep a boyish silhouette. The 1920s was also the era of the flapper. Flappers were frowned upon because of their drinking, smoking, style of dane, and heavy makeup. Because of this they were seen as lower class. However, around the 40s and 50s, once everyone's favorite movie stars were seen wearing makeup, it was no longer taboo and then became "popular".

Now, that brief history of makeup may not be the most interesting or detailed, but it is just an example to show the cycle of something that is popular. What was once seen as something for the elite and royalty was then turned into something only "loose" or lower class women would wear. And then the cycle continues thereafter. 

In the 1900s, makeup was originally colored creams, waxes and flower petals for blush and lipstick and burnt matchsticks to darken the eyelash area. In 1909 the first known cosmetic company was started. This company was and still is known as Max Factor. Although there were other local companies that sold "makeup", Max Factor was the first company to distribute outside of their local area in 1927. Due to his strong connection with the film community Max Factor was able to use celebrity endorsements in advertising his products. This definitely came in handy when appealing to the masses. 

The same thing happens today. When someone sees their favorite celebrity wearing something whether it is clothes, makeup, or a hairstyle, they try to copy it. Think of Jennifer Aniston's hair from when she played Rachael in the shoe "Friends". That was the most copied celebrity hairstyle at that time. If you search "celebrity makeup tutorial" on YouTube, you will end up with over 2,600 results.

This boom in the interest of makeup has been very beneficial for the makeup industry. The billion dollar industry is able to market products for the "high end" clientele with the most expensive beauty product (a $600 for 1 oz. skin serum) to the lower end of the spectrum with products you can pick up from the beauty supply store. Even though now makeup can be and is for every woman, the industry still finds a way to divide the masses.