M.A.C.keting 101 with John Demsey

macWe have been talking music biz but time to revert to what we love best, the business of fashion. Of concern to us is how you market and promote your fashion brand. Indeed, it is no secret that at the heart of a successful fashion business is its marketing and public relations. Simply put, to expand your business and generate profits, you must have effective business and marketing communications. If you have a unique service/product but fail to garner consumer interest or demand, you could be headed for financially troubled waters. So, how is it that some businesses have strong marketing success and others do not? With a limited marketing budget, how do you get your marketing dollars to work harder and to be efficient? How can your marketing/advertising/public relations be creative, authentic and yet sufficiently persuasive to attract attention? Is traditional word of mouth better than large advertising campaigns?

The best example that answers these questions and, at the very least, provides pragmatic tips on effective marketing, is the giant makeup company M.A.C (Makeup-Art Cosmetics). Founded in 1985 with a motto that reads, “All Races, All Sexes, all M.A.C,” this company changed industry and public attitudes by creating makeup for persons of color from all genres of life. Now, it is one of the most respected giant beauty companies in the world.

In this interview with John Demsey [now global brand president of Estee Lauder, parent company of M.A.C], Demsey gives us straight talk on M.A.C.keting as he reveals how the company through its marketing became the giant it is today. Hi John, could you briefly tell us the history of M.A.C?
Demsey: M·A·C Cosmetics was founded in 1984 by Frank Toskan and Frank Angelo who recognized a void in the professional community and wanted to support the needs of the professional makeup artists. M·A·C Cosmetics were used behind the scenes by makeup artists whose client list ranged from supermodels, music idols and Hollywood actresses. M·A·C via a grass roots outreach became an industry insider brand. They opened free-standing stores on Bloor Street in Toronto, Canada and then opened freestanding stores in the West Village, Soho and a boutique at Henri Bendel -all in New York City. M·A·C continued to grow as mavericks in the beauty/fashion industry and the Estee Lauder Companies recognized this company as a great investment and acquired the brand in 1998. M.A.C., from the onset, is famous for manufacturing beauty products for all people. What about M.A.C’s marketing philosophy sets it apart from its competitors?
Demsey: M·A·C’s mantra is All Races, All Sexes and All Ages. We have always remained from the onset, faithful to this mantra which has proven to be an amazing and organic brand positioning. M·A·C developed a cult following among retail customers by first establishing its credibility with professionals and a core makeup junkie audience. We are more an attitude and headspace than simply a line of products. In many ways, M·A·C is branded from the inside out. We market to our staff, they represent our core audience-in fact our employees are our customers – developed by professionals for professionals. In fact, if our artists don’t believe in a product, it won’t sell. With the exception of the VIVA GLAM lipstick campaign, which we will get to later, what fascinates most is how the company’s popularity grew, around the world, mostly through traditional word-of-mouth endorsement from industry and non-industry persons. Why doesn’t M.A.C run huge promotional/advertising campaigns like its competitors?
Demsey: M.A.C Artists at the point-of-sale are the voice of the brand. We invest primarily in talent/people. While the traditional business model has been driven largely by advertising and promotion, our artists are essentially M.A.C’s form of advertising and promotion. We also reach customers through creating an experience at the point-of-sale with dynamic retail events, high-impact, innovative visuals and continue to nurture strong ties with the fashion and entertainment communities. a very competitive environment, how has M.A.C. been able to stay competitive and flourish even in economic downtimes?
Demsey: M.A.C. delivers superior quality and value – strategically priced at the lower end of prestige. Within every point-of-sale, the brand strives to deliver a unique, dynamic experience that continually evolves; continually surprises and keeps customers coming back via continual newness and excitement. Let’s talk about M.A.C’s strong sense of social responsibility in marketing and promoting its VIVA GLAM lipstick. Established companies generally fidget when asked to associate their names or products to a charitable cause [although this is now changing]. M.A.C. has acted to the contrary [even when it was unpopular]. Expand on the VIVA GLAM lipstick campaign?
Demsey: The heart and soul of M·A·C Cosmetics is the M·A·C AIDS Fund. It began in 1994 and has raised over $44 million. We are the only company that gives 100% of the sale price directly to the Fund. [Note the importance of this cause to the M·A·C staff as well as customers]. Are contributions to charitable organizations an effective marketing tool?
Demsey: Definitely. M·A·C has increased its brand awareness around the world through our Viva GLAM lipstick campaign, which not only brings recognition to the M·A·C AIDS Fund but the M·A·C Cosmetics the brand. M.A.C. has effectively expanded its operations from Canada where it first started to the U.S., Far East, Asia and Africa. What tips do you have on how our readers can use effective marketing to expand their business operations?Demsey: Selective distribution. Know what you’re about and don’t try to be everything to everyone or be everywhere. Keep demand ahead of distribution. What could you point to as the biggest problems or issue in the marketing/ advertising industry today?
Demsey: Ideas. Today’s consumers are more savvy and informed than ever – it is crucial to understand your customer base and to avoid getting stuck on the past or molded into a formula that no longer works.

~Interview by Uduak Oduok

Ladybrille Magazine

Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.

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