Past Is Prologue for Chanel, Revlon Marketing


There is a pattern developing in the retail industry: retailers that run the gamut from mass market (Revlon) to luxury (Chanel) are taking days-of-yore advertisements and recreating them in a modern way.

The idea that “to understand the future, we need to understand the past” is on many retailers’ minds these days, especially with the rising popularity of pre-1960s period shows like Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men. By understanding what succeeded for them in the past, companies are looking to re-create that old magic with modern consumers.

Chanel’s delve into the past began with the resurgence of its founder. After seeing success from numerous films based on fashion legend Coco Chanel, the couture house used Coco as inspiration for its recent campaigns. Nostalgia-inducing sepia tones and that infamous tweed jacket (first designed in the 1920s) were prominently displayed in the Fall 2009 and Spring 2010 ad campaigns. Fall 2010 featured flapper-era styles.

Rather than merely hinting at its past, Revlon’s latest collection is much more blatant. The cosmetics brand recently re-issued the “Fire and Ice” collection, one of its most popular lines of lipstick and nail polish that initially launched in the 1950s. Revlon also enlisted actress Jessica Biel to recreate the original “Fire and Ice” ads from that era – same poses, similar outfits and all. This return to retro has brought an influx of attention back to a brand whose revenue has been steadily decreasing over the years. Hopefully, history will repeat itself – the original “Fire and Ice” collection boosted overall sales to $25.5 million in 1952 — the equivalent of over $200 million in today’s dollars.

Though Revlon is the second largest cosmetics company in the U.S., revenue has steadily dropped since 1998. It took ten years, in 2008, for Revlon to overhaul its marketing strategies by hiring makeup artist Gucci Westman in the hopes that her expertise and fame in the industry would boost revenue. The “Fire and Ice”re-release is a continuation of these efforts – one that may soon see dramatic results.

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