Beauty powers brands

  • Business
  • Saturday, 21 Feb 2009

“Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships?” – Marlowe, Dr Faustus

THE famous lines above refers to the absolute power that beauty has, through the ages, wielded over men and driven them to fight wars or throw caution to the wind.

Less is known or said of the power that beauty wields in the modern world on the battlefronts of marketing and how brands are leveraged with the equity of beauty.

Beauty can come in many forms. Beautiful specimens of manhood have for years projected an ideal of male machismo in the Marlboro man prototype.

But it is the power of female beauty that has wielded huge power when used strategically through consistent sponsorships that leverage this value as an intrinsic part of the ‘soul’ of the brand.

Cleopatra did no less when she wanted to rule Egypt. She used her beauty to conquer hearts that in turn made great men of power like Caesar and later Mark Antony putty in her hands.

The power of strategic sponsorship

Let us first understand that power brands have different levels to their impact on a consumer. They move from the basic level of brand awareness, to brand acceptance, brand preference and then the ultimate brand loyalty. It is here that devotion comes in, and for devotion there is no better trigger yet than beauty.

Beauty that makes men or women slit their wrists to be associated with, or inspire them at least to say, “Yes. This brand is for me. To have and to hold.” It is a union in their hearts and minds.

However this is a state that brands need to engineer. No mere celebrity or beauty can deliver this. It must have a strategic lock into a brands DNA and ideally it should be linked to a property that engenders beauty as an idyllic theme rather than to one person. It should have media legs to give it the return on investment (ROI) that makes its business sense on the endorsement. It must be relevant and experiential in its branding.

Sadly many brand managers often set objectives that stress ‘awareness’ as the objective to their communication initiatives, especially in sponsorship programmes. Have they not realised that strong brands yield power and that power is lowest in the mere awareness rung?

If Beauty, which wields so much power, is used with strategic intent (like Lux did with its constant association with beautiful movie stars), it has a long-term platform to build true brand equity.

This is why beauty pageants are not passe and title holders have their power, and it is why the Indian fashion and apparel industry is mounting a multi-pronged beauty power platform to help weather its industry across a global downturn in luxury fashion brands.

It is also why the music and movie business has seen its spate of beautiful people launch their own brands.

Take J-Lo. She had her movie Out of Sight and her record breaking album On the 6. She had the power, she had the platform, and she had the beauty.

She leveraged it to a brand and created a restaurant, a perfume and clothing’s line. Catherine Zeta-Jones in turn proved you can have a multimillion-dollar contract with a telecommunications company (T-Mobile).

When Madonna appeared in an ad campaign for the Gap, it not only raised her profile among younger consumers but also provided a promotional opportunity for her children’s book, which is carried in Gap stores.

Industry observers agree that Lopez’s fall campaign for Louis Vuitton it elevated her perceived value through association with a high-end product – and, at the same time, it advertised her own brand at no cost to her.

The power of beauty when linked to music and fashion is possibly the strongest power broker formulae.

If sponsors can find properties like the American fashion idol or a beauty pageant with a music industry base they are working on power blocks that can leverage high ROI in media visibility.

Avon’s participation

One of the world’s largest beauty products company, Avon, has tried to own the beauty platform through product lines which include such recognisable brand names as Avon Color, Anew, Skin-So-Soft, Advance Techniques Hair Care, beComing and Avon Wellness.

Avon also markets an extensive line of fashion jewellery and apparel – the core components of a brand’s identity.

For more than a decade now, Avon Cosmetics in the Philippines has actively participated in the country’s most prestigious pageants – like the Binibining Pilipinas, Miss Philippines-Earth and Mutyang Pilipinas, as well as the “proudly Filipino-owned” Miss Asia-Pacific Quest and Miss Earth – and paid tribute to a woman’s beauty and allure via the Miss Avon Color special award.

By using the Miss Avon title with Miss Philippines earth beauty pageant, Avon has tied up the Beauty concept to an environmental issue and has leveraged touch points for creating moments of truth that bring the value proposition to life.

Building brand equity 101

Understanding the ROI of a property like beauty and how it can be locked into a brand’s value is not an ad hoc exercise.

To assess brand value, one can use a few fundamental principles on understanding how brands create and manage value.

Fundamentally, a brand creates a proposition that differentiates itself from its competitors. A brand’s DNA must include its values, and its reason for being, and its visual and verbal identity.

Brands are also crafted at the level of both product design, and in its messaging Strategic sponsorship uses the core values of the brand essence to build stories that resonate with its target prospects and ensure that customers buy in.

Taken it one step up into experiential branding, brand soul looks deep at emotional triggers that create brand transcendence. A cause, a dream, an ideal to pursue.

If a brand decides (like Disney that sought to create happiness), that they want to create beauty, they have a brand canvas to sketch in beautiful people or properties that project beauty.

It is the key driver of equity in the fashion and lifestyle category. It has power, and used appropriately, it can be the best pheromone for brand attraction.

Shehara de Silva is managing director of Interbrand Malaysia. Readers’ feedback is welcome. Please email to

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