For Valentino Beauty’s upcoming U.S. launch on July 1, the brand is doing things differently.
On Tuesday, Valentino Beauty held a press and media event, as well as a consumer-facing event to introduce the brand to the world. The 40 shades of foundation, 49 refillable lipsticks in red, pink and plum shades, compact powders and a mascara, among other products, will be available for pre-order on its website Valentino-Beauty.US. The line retails for $25-$235. In August, the brand will expand to retailers such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s both online and in-store. The press and media event was held on a dedicated microsite with a live chat function, while the live consumer-facing event was hosted on YouTube, where viewers could also chat and respond live. Both events featured Valentino Beauty’s global makeup artist Raoul Alejandre and were co-hosted by influencer Christen Dominique (@christendominique, 1.5 million Instagram followers).
Laura Azaria, gm of designer fragrances L’Oréal, which owns the Valentino Beauty license and oversees other designer portfolios like Prada, Valentino, Mugler and Victor &Rolf, describes the brand’s point of view as a mix of the brand’s classic maison style with modern edginess. For example, while the brand’s packaging is red, it is not the signature Valentino red shade. Alejandre’s artistry is also more avante garde than the couture brand is perhaps known for. During the live events, he showcased a “draping” technique for eyeshadow that drips down to the cheek.
“The collection was inspired by what’s happening in the indie side of the beauty industry in the U.S., where there is inclusivity and a focus on self-expression and individuality,” said Azaria. “The [ad] campaign includes 16 [diverse] men and women. There is a tension, if you will, of couture and clash that makes it very unique and different in our approach for the launch of Valentino Beauty.”
Valentino Beauty joins a host of other luxury designer brands that have launched over the last two years. In 2019, Gucci Beauty launched, followed by Hermès in Sept. 2020 and La Perla in June. L’Oréal already owns YSL Beauty and fragrance licenses for Giorgio Armani, Prada and Ralph Lauren, among others. It acquired the Valentino fragrance license in 2019. L’Oréal declined to share sales expectations for the brand, but in first-quarter 2021 earnings the company’s luxury division experienced a 12.4% revenue increase year-over-year.
Valentino Beauty worked with events agency TH Experiential to develop the virtual launch strategy. The objectives behind the launch events were threefold: to generate traffic to the e-commerce website, to increase the follower count on the brand’s social accounts across YouTube and Instagram, and to foster #ValentinoBeauty user-generated content. At the time of this reporting, Valentino Beauty had 300 YouTube subscribers (the masterclass launch video had 88 “likes” and five “dislikes” and had 12 comments, not including comments made during the livestream) and 53,900 Instagram followers. When Alejandre demonstrates a product in the YouTube video, a call-to-action appears on the YouTube page, directing viewers to the product page on the e-commerce site. YouTube live viewers were also given a discount code for shopping at the beginning and end of the event. According to TH Experiential’s own data, 52% of people still want virtual events, and 59% prefer watching events on YouTube.
Rather than creating a buzzy, show-stopping event, like brands including E.l.f Cosmetics, Marc Jacobs Fragrance and Fenty Skin, Valentino Beauty wanted to center itself on artistry by focusing on the products and Alejandre, said Nicole Falco, TH Experiential agency partner and head of brand strategy. The event was filmed live in a studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and models wore Valentino dresses from the latest collection.
“Valentino launched a full product line with some divergent approaches to makeup. Why would we move away from that story?” said Falco. “There’s a huge focus on artistry, and there is messaging around beauty dreams and expressing who you are. It’s also a prestige beauty line that’s launching with a huge Gen-Z focus, which you don’t see every day.”
The threshold a new luxury brand must meet is exceedingly high, given the number of new luxury beauty brands on the market. When the makeup Instagram account @Trendmood1 (1.6 million Instagram followers) shared the Valentino Beauty product lineup and photos on May 31, the comments indicated people were underwhelmed by the assortment, stating that 49 versions of red lipstick is unnecessary, the “universal” shade of bronzer did not seem universal and the price points were too high.
To promote the live launch events, Valentino Beauty took over the homepage of Allure.com and gifted free products to influencers to build momentum. It will continue with its paid ad campaign and influencer strategy to build momentum ahead of the July 1 launch.
“There is an appetite for entering a luxury brand via makeup,” said Azaria. “Now the question is, ‘How do you make it different?’ For us, it’s the couture and the clash, it’s the refillability of the products, and it’s how we want consumers to feel — that they can express themselves and be individuals.”