SEBON – Three Concepts

“Don’t look like a country garden.”

Note to self – please keep remembering not to design something that looks like an early 90s armchair.

With this particular sentence in the brief, it’s clear what the client does not want – no floral fussy antique aesthetic, like old country lavender soap.  I’ve done a bit of research and looked at some big cosmetic companies to see the differences in how they market themselves and what image they’re trying to get across.

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I quickly looked at The Body Shop, Lush Cosmetics and Mac.  The Body Shop has a typically garden-themed aesthetic.  The stores themselves are decorated to a certain specification, with certain touchpoints in all stores and a definite theme.  The Body Shop started in 1976 selling naturally fragranced soaps and an initiative to train and employ immigrant women in America.  They drive a lot of sustainability campaigns, looking at moral and environmentally friendly produce.  This is reflected in their branding, with stores adorned in large images of rainforests and other fauna, trickling down to their packaging which is sustainable, recyclable etc.  The Body Shop is useful as it ticks the ‘responsible’ box, with obvious pointers to the work that they do.  They have partnered with Greenpeace in the past, and vehemently oppose animal testing.  This information is obvious on their packaging and described in detail through livery throughout the stores themselves.  This is something to emulate in terms of creating a real sense of sustainability and responsibility, but I’d like it to be something a little more implied than images of trees and fruit (not that there’s anything wrong with it).

Lush Cosmetics have many of the same brand values as The Body Shop – opposing animal testing, all natural/sustainable etc.  The difference with Lush would be it’s target market, or at the very least the impression it gives off to consumers.  The products are brightly coloured and full of glitter or bits of coloured tissue paper, they’re packaged simply – the emphasis is clearly based on the product itself.  This is something worth noting also, where the product speaks for itself rather than excessive and expensive packaging costs.  The gift boxes you can buy come filled with popcorn or other little bits, and it all feels quite youthful.  I can’t be sure what their target market is, but it’s definitely not your average M&S shopper.  That said, they’ve become something of a cult brand, drawing in consumers with their attractive and ethical produce.  They sell tote bags within the store that say ‘Fighting Animal Testing’, so it’s clear that they’re shouting a very clear message.  In terms of branding, the hand-drawn handmade feel of Lush is something to look at closely too, as each store almost manages to feel like one of a kind.  They have hand-drawn signing and A-boards within the store with changing information on their products, and it all feels very approachable.  I certainly can’t think of anyone else doing what Lush is doing.  In this way they stand out and they do it really bloody well.

Mac again is different.  They feel up-market, ‘classy’, and sophisticated but with a definite edge.  Their products are on the more costly side which reflects the quality, and the branding is very chic and modern.  It is bold and colourful but not fussy, and again they do it amazingly well.  They have devout followers, achieving a cult-like status in the world of makeup and cosmetics.  They use a lot of black (all the packaging is usually black, aside from when they do celebrity endorsed products or a particular campaign where the branding will change to reflect the nature of the campaign – see Rihanna/Mac pairing).  This simple choice means that it is instantly recognisable as a Mac product.  Even down the shape of the lipsticks and compact powders, and the famous black with white text.

With that said, there are certainly similarities between them, but still easily recognisable and differentiated.  I keep thinking about the brand value Victoria highlighted, ‘Unexpected’.  Looking at what exists already will definitely help to inform the decisions I make about the brand identity of Sebon, even if it mostly serves as a guide of what to stay away from.  I’m keen to create something unexpected and luxurious, but I don’t want it to look like Mac.

Having had a look at a few different cosmetic companies it’s certainly given me a fresh perspective on how they market and brand themselves depending on who they’re selling to and what they’re selling.  Such well-established brands who have large groups of loyal followers are able to rely on existing ‘templates’ as it were, but changing these subtly alongside a new campaign or product.  This is definitely something I’d like to try and achieve with Sebon, particularly being able to change certain aspects of the branding depending on different campaigns.


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