The Brand Radar: MAC, Keith Haring and celebrating creativity in cosmetics

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes looks at MAC’s recent collaboration with Keith Haring and how it highlights the creativity of both art licensing and the cosmetics industry’s attitude to working with brands.

Personal care, fragrances and toiletries have long been active categories for licensing.

In the recent Christmas gifting period, retailers such as Boots and Superdrug in the UK featured a variety of branded gift sets in their personal care ‘gifting’ offers. Brands such as Peaky Blinders, GOLA and Disney featured strongly.

In the UK, there are a number of expert licensees who operate in the category including SLG, Mad Beauty, Corsair and Kokomo. Outside of the Christmas period, products such as lip balms are frequent users of licensing, with companies such as Crackerjack using brands such as Tango and J20 to create lip balms sold in retailers such as Primark.

Ian Downes, The Brand Radar

Of course, there is a long history of licensing being a go-to technique for NPD in the perfume and fragrance category, with celebrity driven products featuring to the fore. It’s a category worth watching from a licensing point of view as it’s innovative both in terms of NPD, but also in its selection and use of licensed brands.

A recent example of this dynamic approach to licensing is MAC’s special-edition VIVA GLAM lipsticks featuring art from Keith Haring. MAC have launched three lipsticks in Keith Haring’s signature primary-colour palette.

Ian Downes, The Brand Radar

The lipsticks are part of MAC’s long-term VIVA GLAM programme. This cause-related programme has been running for 27 years and seeks to support “local organisations fighting for healthy futures and equal rights for all”. MAC report that 100 % of the RRP of the product (minus VAT) is donated to local good causes. Since this programme started over $500,000,000 has been raised globally by the programme.

The Keith Haring range was launched on December 1st – World Aids Day. The lipsticks feature Haring’s unique pop art and colour schemes and the three colour shades are St Mark’s Yellow, Red Haring and Canal Blue.

John Demsey, executive group president of The Estee Lauder Companies – owners of MAC -commented on the partnership: “For our 27th anniversary year, we’re thrilled to honour the late iconic artist Keith Haring and carry forward his mission of using his imagery to drive positive change for those most of need of support.”

Ian Downes, The Brand Radar

This is a great example of a brand partnership that is a great fit on multiple levels. The cause and the artist work well together, while the vibrance of Haring’s art is a perfect fit creatively for the category. It’s also a partnership that will play out well in terms of PR, social media and retail activations.

Keith Haring’s artwork has enjoyed wider success in licensing in categories like apparel with retailers such as Uniqlo developing ranges. It is a proven success story in licensing terms and, of course, in a wider sense Haring has a broad appeal.

Ian Downes, The Brand Radar

It is also interesting to note that MAC use limited editions frequently in this context and seemingly consumers look forward to these collaborations. It gives the whole campaign a lot of ongoing energy.

As noted, Keith Haring’s artwork has enjoyed considerable success in consumer products and the programmes associated with it are a shining example of how pop art and street art can work well in the licensing market. Other artists and their estates, such as Warhol, perform well in licensing terms.

Ian Downes, The Brand Radar

There seems to be a greater intersection between licensing and street art in general terms. Events such as Bristol’s Upfest have helped drive this, but also – in general terms – street art is increasingly recognised as a legitimate art form. Aardman developed a street art trail in Bristol recently in conjunction with Upfest to mark the launch of their new Netflix broadcast film Robin Robin. It’s also not uncommon to see licensed property owners use street or pop art styles within their style guides to add some freshness to character ranges.

Ian Downes, The Brand Radar

As the MAC x Keith Haring range shows, it is worth taking a look at what is happening in the cosmetics and personal care aisles – there are some very intriguing and innovative partnerships happening.

It’s a category that licensors and licensees can take a lot of inspiration from and one that’s prepared to push the boundaries and to be bold with its use of design.

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