When Giants Fall, Look for the Influencers

Updated: Aug 4

By Amanda Deseure

After 90 years in the business, cosmetics giant Revlon has filed for bankruptcy.

The beauty brand dominated the makeup aisles for decades beside competitors such as Covergirl, and Maybelline. Today, the industry is practically unrecognizable, and it’s due to the rise of celebrity cosmetic lines, influencer marketing and partnerships, and accessible online shopping.

Consumers no longer need to toil in drugstore aisles reading packaging to figure out whether our mascara is just black, or the blackest black. Instead, our favourite influencer is reviewing mascaras sent to them in lavish PR boxes by popular celebrities. Celebrities are no longer used as spokespeople for a product; they own the products and influencers are the spokespeople. Amazon is the new aisle, influencers are the new salespeople, and celebrities are the new label.

While we can’t diminish credit where credit is due – these celebrity make-up lines are filled with innovative products and modern packaging – influencer culture has once again proven that it can turn traditional business models on their heads.

That is, when executed properly.

Recently, Jones Road, the company owned by beauty mogul Bobbi Brown, sent out PR packages for her newly release product, What the Foundation, to all the major beauty bloggers. The product did not land well, and influencers turned on their cameras to show the world just how much they disliked it. This high-reward approach turned into a high-risk gamble – but Jones Road and the Bobbi Brown team were ready. Not only did they address the issue head-on and turn the tides in their favour, but they used TikTok humour to do it.

Jones Road, compared to Revlon, is the modern case study for launching a new product, conducting crisis communications, leveraging influencer strategies, appearing transparent to buyers, and fundamentally keeping up with modern marketing solutions and approaches to reaching consumers.

Revlon, in comparison, has dismal TikTok engagement, hasn’t garnered the love and attention of big influencers, and is still using traditional marketing techniques in a changing social media landscape that requires authenticity and relatability – not over-produced video clips. Most shocking is that the Revlon blow dry brush has been a huge hit on TikTok and YouTube, with most influencers deeming it the perfect alternative to more expensive blow-out styling tools. Yet, Revlon’s accounts have hardly leveraged the attention, nor did they take advantage of the hype to solidify strong influencer partners.

Marketers, digital strategists, and communications experts should heed Revlon’s misfortune as a warning – don’t take the effectiveness of established techniques for granted. Our field is meant to forever evolve and keep on top of trends or our marketing efforts are no longer purpose-driven. In today’s market, influencer strategies must be considered and thoughtfully leveraged, regardless of whether you’re selling make-up, raising money for a cause, or seeking investors.

Make no mistake, PR boxes and influencer strategies are not inexpensive. They take time to do properly, and if your strategy flops, the risk is bigger than ever. But, if done well, the pay-off could be massive – so massive that you disrupt a decades-old, established industry giant.

Amanda Deseure is the Director of Digital at Syntax Strategic.

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