From beauty behemoth to bankruptcy: Five lessons companies can learn from Revlon

makeup brushes beauty industry revlon

Source: Unsplash/Raphael Lovaski

When the news broke last week about Revlon filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US, many weren’t surprised. It’s not just the external supply, cost issues and debt that the company was experiencing but its gloss and lustre seemed to have faded many years ago with the inability to read its consumers’ lips. 

Here’s five lessons for business owners to take note of to avoid suffering the same fate.

1. Stay relevant

In business, there’s a saying: “Out with the old and in with the new.” The bottom line is, you’ll eventually be out of business if you can’t keep up with the competition. As the world changes, companies must stay relevant and evolve to survive. Take Revlon as an example; with its 90-year history, the company attempted to grow with its customers, striving to reach new audiences by advertising its products across verticals such as print, TV and even TikTok.  

On the other hand, its marketing campaigns weren’t resonating with the next generation of consumers that it needed to attract. Most of Revlon’s clients are from an older demographic, so as its consumers aged, it failed to attract a younger audience to use its products. With the influx of celebrity make-up brands bursting onto the market, Revlon hasn’t been able to keep up.

2. Be innovative and bold

We’re always curious about new fashion trends and this is no different whether you’re selling beauty or booze. To survive, brands must continue innovating and developing attractive offerings for their customers. For instance, Gucci, Hermès and Louis Vuitton regularly update its collections once or twice a year so that other luxury companies won’t knock them off their perch. 

Revlon was originally known for its classic, colourful shades of lipsticks and nail polishes, but we have moved beyond that. The company needed to continue to remind its audience that it has moved into anti-ageing creams and even skin-revving rollers (just like those influencers that you may have seen, effortlessly gliding a jade roller across her face).

But no one seemed to have been aware of its offering. 

Having an innovative collection is only half the battle, you must also be innovative with your marketing and PR efforts too. Just November last year, Revlon Australia appointed its first ambassador,  Delta Goodram to be the face of its brand, yet this may have been a little too late.

3. Cheap is expensive

In times of a crisis, there are numerous studies that show women flock to purchasing lipsticks and makeup to make themselves look and feel better. However, companies need to be strategic with pricing models. It’s not a race to the bottom. 

The sweet spot often is in the affordable luxury arena, Revlon’s products can readily be found in pharmacies and grocery stores, and often a few mark-down bins, that makes the brand less aspirational. 

From Mega Max to Colour Pop, women now have numerous choices with affordable luxury brands to choose from when they want to give themselves a makeover inside and out.

Make sure that you stand out from your competition and your inexpensive price point isn’t your only point of difference.

4. Continue to tell your story

We buy products based on other people’s experiences and stories, not from faceless companies. Revlon’s original tales and wins were lost over the past 90 years. It created history in 1970, when it was the first beauty brand to feature an African American model along with the first brand to create its own line of beauty products for women of colour. Revlon was never afraid to take risks and this fearless energy needed to be communicated in its advertising and communications across the decades. 

The brand’s force to be reckoned with status needs to be continued to be told to each generation but has seemed to have been lost along the way. Make sure that your customers know about your story and heritage, ensuring that you weave it into everything you do, so you don’t get untied.

5. Diversification

Revlon may have attempted to diversify its offering by developing an anti-ageing makeup collection but failed to transform its product lineup to keep up with the trends that today’s consumers demand. While in the 1970’s and 80’s in always impressed with its packaging and colour palettes, these seemed to have not evolved over the years

The company also tried using new ambassadors, such as Gwen Stefani and Reese Witherspoon, to resonate with younger customers but you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. The four key elements to marketing are product, price, place and promotion and just promoting your new faces of the brand will do little to grow when the other areas may need a makeover.

It’s always sad to see iconic brands, such as Revlon filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy but hopefully, you can learn how to avoid the same fate from the five lessons above. Wearing red lipstick may still be on-trend in the beauty world but being in the red financially has never been popular.


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