Author: ahchow

Formula X: Collaborations

So many brands today are reaching out for collaborations. Collaborations allow brands to add a different dimension to their brand and explore a different look. Forming collaborations with the correct people is a way of showing your target market that you know who the influencers in the industry are and that you’re paying attention to who people in your market follow on their free time.

Recently, Sephora’s Formula X collaboration with Aimee Song and Patrick Starrr have caught my attention. I remember when Formula X first came out at Sephora a few years ago. I was pretty excited to try out the brand. Their pricing is in the mid-price range for nail polish and retails for about $10.50-$14.00. Needless to say, I grabbed a few colors when it first came out. I was sorely disappointed though when I realized that the formula became “goopy” and was difficult to spread on your nail after a few wears. The formula itself was standard and didn’t have more or less staying power compared to other brands that I had tried in the past. So, I ended up abandoning the brand in favor of other ones and didn’t think much about Formula X again until they started doing collaborations.

Collaborations are a good way to make waves about your brand and can help sway naysayers into giving your brand a try. Needless to say, I was tempted to try out Aimee Song’s colors and decided to give the brand another try. I got Mintfluencer, a light pastel mint color. After painting a few coats on my nails, I realized that I can’t pull off mint on my nails because my skin tone is wrong. Even though this purchase didn’t work out for me, I still believe collaborations are an effective way to show your target market that you’re paying attention to what they want.

Estée Lauder: Makeover gone too far?

When I think of Estée Lauder, I think of makeup that old ladies with perfectly applied blush would wear. Estée Lauder’s core demographic consists of older women with more mature skin. Their makeup is timeless, classy and well, a bit boring to me. I usually walk past their makeup counters without a second glance. The only time I’ve tried it in the past 2 years was for a powder foundation which I fell flat for me. The brand itself seems a little outdated to me and they don’t really have many cult classics, aside from their Double Wear Foundation. Because none of their products seem very innovative, I’m never tempted to go out and try them.

Lately, the brand has been trying to appeal to the younger makeup crowd. To do this, they have improved their Instagram posts by carefully placing their products in strategic positions and finding the perfect lighting to show them in. However, I do think their posts are a bit too planned. It’s nice to see some posts that are spontaneous and imperfect; it connects to the public more. The point of social media is to cast yourself in a good light but it should still be personable. Recently, Estée Lauder also made Kendall Jenner the new face of Lauder. This move has stirred up a lot of controversy being that Kendall Jenner is from the Kardashian clan, a family that thrives on scandal. Making Kendall Jenner a part of Estée Lauder seems a bit desperate. Their plan is to most likely attract young teens that want to wear some of Kendall’s favorite Estée Lauder products who probably can’t even afford to buy those products. I think celeb placement can only get them so far since their products don’t seem innovative or daring. There are many other younger celebrities that Estée Lauder could’ve chosen as their new face that would still channel the brand’s classic identity. I also wonder why they haven’t come out with any new and exciting lines that will get beauty bloggers and makeup artists talking about the brand. Besides their double wear foundation, there isn’t anything exceptionally rave worthy about the brand which casts it in a troubling position in the age of online makeup blogs and videos.

Estée Lauder doesn’t really have that appeal that would make younger makeup enthusiasts want to try their brand. For example, Chanel is for more mature women yet they have a certain allure that makes even younger women want to try it. I know many younger women would want to try Chanel because of their luxurious and classic allure. Even if they can’t afford Chanel products when they are young, they would consider saving and splurging on them in the future. There is something missing in Estée Lauder’s brand identity that separates itself from other classic brands like Chanel.

In order to keep up with the times, many brands often try to start appealing to the younger crowd, alienating their core older demographic. The problem I have with this is that the younger set isn’t really where the money is at and trying to appeal to them when your brand is clearly for the more mature set screams of trying way too hard to be cool. There’s a fine line between broadening your market group and trying too hard to rejuvenate your brand. I’m not entirely sure what their marketing team is trying to achieve. If they wanted people to start talking about the brand by using Kendall Jenner, then they’ve succeeded. Using Kendall Jenner’s name to gain some popularity seems like a cheap cop out at a new marketing initiative. They say no press is bad press but I think in order for Estée Lauder to stand the test of time, they’re going to have to start coming out with more innovative products to gain new customers and keep their old ones too.

JCPenney: Will you survive?

JCPenney is a place of mixed feelings for me. I’ve visited a few locations spanning 2 different states and they each vastly differ from the other. The California locations in San Diego and Orange County are so sad and depressing that I usually can’t wait to get out of there. I only visit them if someone I’m shopping with wants to go or if I really want to go to the Sephora inside JCPenney. The California locations are often empty and the clothes do not look appealing. The displays look outdated and the floors are usually dirty. I view JCPenney as a place to score some cheap clothes that are better quality than the usual Forever 21 standard. I can’t even bring myself to browse the store for a quick deal since it looks so unappealing to me. I’ve also been to an Ohio location and the store and vibe is much different there. The JCPenney there was clean, the store was easy to navigate, and the displays looked appealing. The last time I went was for Black Friday, a day where stores can become messy but the store was brimming with shoppers yet wasn’t messy.

There is obvious potential for JCPenney. Clearly, they are doing something right at some locations since they are brimming with people but not at others because those stores are empty and rejected.  I think JCPenney needs to tap into their different markets and research how different locations view JCPenney as a company. There has been talk of JCPenney losing sight of their core customers because of their pricing. Instead of giving out coupons like they normally do, they started to slash prices instead. Personally, I like the coupon method because I can choose what item I want to buy for a lower price instead of seeing something I want and passing it up because it’s not on sale. Now, they’ve mostly reverted back to the coupon method but they lost many customers in the process since the lower price method was too confusing for them.

Their partnership with Sephora was most likely started to help with foot traffic and advertising. However, if people go inside JCPenney to shop at Sephora and aren’t enticed to browse the clothes there as well then this needs to be changed by adding trendy displays near the Sephora stores. Whenever I go to JCPenney in California for the Sephora stores, I don’t stop to browse the store on my way out. The displays don’t call out to me or look trendy so I am not tempted to make additional purchases there.

Overall, JCPenney as a whole looks sad and dejected. I’m not saying they should become a fast fashion trendy company but no one wants to shop at a depressing place. In fact, becoming a fast fashion store would most likely hurt them and alienate them further from their current customers. There has been talk of closing down JCPenney stores that are not doing well and aren’t making profits which is good so that they can focus on the remaining stores. JCPenney has been working on rebranding the company by carrying some trendier brands and working on partnerships with designers. One partnership they pursued is the one with Aaron Marino, or Alpha M. Increasing their partnerships and endorsements with influential people in the fashion and entertainment industry will help potential customers view JCPenney in a new light. Hopefully, they can work on the overall appearance of the store itself so people will want to actually shop in them. As for the online shoppers, I don’t believe that JCPenney will be able to gain more shoppers that way unless they make their stores and brand more appealing. People currently reject JCPenney because they don’t find it appealing so they will not be likely to shop online if they don’t find items they want there. JCPenney has potential and I’ll be watching to see if they tap into it or continue their downward spiral to join Sears.

Urban Outfitters: Still relevant?

Urban Outfitters is a line that is unique and trendy, with a slight hipster vibe to them. Their visuals are what really set them apart, and they take the time to change their wall decorations to complement your shopping experience. At least, this is what the brand meant to me a few years ago. A month ago, I passed by an Urban Outfitters store and  I couldn’t remember when I had last gone into one. I decided to walk in and look around, breaking a very long Urban Outfitters dry spell for me. I was greeted with a store layout that was considerably messier. Urban Outfitters sells accessories, home merchandise, books, and clothes and it can be difficult to arrange all the items in a visually pleasing layout. I found myself having to do a lot of loops around the store in order to take everything in, and there was a lot to take in. The entire vibe of the store was overwhelming and would serve as a good reason to opt for the online experience instead.

On top of that, the only time I hear about Urban Outfitters anymore is when they sell some kind of clothing that ends up offending someone. Granted, I used to applaud their efforts to push the envelope but their attempts to sell shock-worthy clothing have been particularly distasteful lately (see: Kent State Sweatshirt and Navajo print clothing). What is even up with Urban Outfitters’ obsession with using the term “Navajo“? I’m all for a risqué PR campaign that gets people talking about your brand but having your brand constantly associated with offensive clothing is way overdone. In fact, in between each offensive clothing incident, I don’t really ever hear a peep from Urban Outfitters for any other reason. I’ve pretty much forgotten about the brand except for the times I see them in the news for doing something offensive or if I pass by their stores. Relying on offensive clothing to stay relevant is a poor way to market to your demographic. Urban Outfitters, while you were uploading pictures of “omg such cute Navajo” clothing, a lot of your fans moved on to lower priced attire. It is not a secret that their sales have been down.

That isn’t to say that Urban Outfitters can’t pick itself back up. In fact, a lot of their styles are still spot on, albeit a little pricey for their quality. Urban Outfitters needs to clean out their closet and stop relying on offensive clothing to bring in the sales, as it clearly doesn’t really work anymore. In this day in age, everyone is offended by something and the line between cheeky and offensive is thin. Furthermore, Urban Outfitters needs to redo their layout so that their vast assortment of merchandise is not such a headache to take in. A store like Urban Outfitters has historically relied on foot traffic in their stores as part of their appeal. It was a place to hangout and shop at with their gag gifts and trendy clothes. Hopefully Urban Outfitters can get it together and clean out their closet before they become completely irrelevant.

Brandy Melville: Who is John Galt?

Who is John Galt? Or, J. Galt as he is now often referred to at Brandy Melville. I’m sure the majority of the pubescent girls that crowd the Brandy Melville stores are unaware of the store’s close ties to Ayn Rand’s collectivism ideals. Upon entering the store, you might just think that this is another young girl’s store filled with cropped tops and casual beach wear. If you can get past the gaggle of teenage girls, you’ll see that the store is one size fits all, which hilariously angers a lot of people that can’t fit into their clothing. The whole one size fits all mentality doesn’t really bother me. Sometimes I’ll fit a shirt, and sometimes I won’t. But, anyone with an understanding of how marketing works will know that you can’t cater to everyone, lest you lose your selling edge.

So, who is John Galt? Look closely and you’ll be able to catch the store’s subtle messages scattered around. Sometimes there are copies of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand lying around Brandy Melville which in my opinion, is the book that captivates her message the most. Ayn Rand’s writing often has elitist sentiments throughout her stories and it is this elitist aura the Brandy Melville feeds off of. I remember when I first walked into Brandy Melville, I saw a shirt with one of her quotes on it: “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Intrigued, I did some browsing and saw some John Galt labels on some of their shirts while others just said Brandy Melville on them. It wouldn’t surprise me if most teenage girls just thought to themselves: “Wow, I love this cropped top. Hmm, this shirt says John Galt on the label. Who is John Galt anyways? Oh well, this top is cute.” The subtle curiosity over who John Galt is in Brandy Melville perfectly aligns with Atlas Shrugged. I had read Atlas Shrugged a few years ago so I knew immediately “who is John Galt.” John Galt is an unidentified character throughout the majority of Atlas Shrugged. Throughout the story, the characters in the book wonder to themselves: Who is John Galt? In the third half of the book, it is revealed that he is an entrepreneur and a symbol of Ayn Rand’s individualism. Ayn Rand believes in objectivism, acting in your own self-interests, capitalism, and prevailing over mediocrity.

Is anything actually unique in this world anymore?  A quick search into any fast fashion clothing store will reveal collections of clothes that are similar to Brandy Melville’s style. With the rise of Brandy’s popularity, one has to wonder if the clothing line is a step above the fast fashion mediocrity that they try to scoff at. If all the teenage girls start to wear Brandy or styles that are similar to Brandy, then they are no longer embracing individualism and will all start to look the same with their similar styles. Can one really claim to be an individual if their peers look the same as them? Who is John Galt? John Galt is an idea that Brandy Melville tries to embody to distinguish themselves from the other fast fashion brands. We’ll see how long this trend lasts in the quickly changing minds of teenage girls.