Luxury cosmetics brand Nars is testing out a New York City pop-up experience to grow its mascara category.
On Thursday night, Nars is opening an interactive “House of Climax” installation in Manhattan’s Bowery neighborhood to spur interest and engagement around its new Climax mascara, which launched on Aug. 11. Tickets (which were free) for Nars’ “House of Climax” hit capacity within one week for the three-day event, according to Barbara Calcagni, Nars’ president. The company is expecting 2,000 guests from 7pm to 12am, and will guide viewers through sensorial rooms inspired by the mascara that include mirrored walls and surprise performances.
To fuel fervor around the night’s festivities, the brand created a guerrilla marketing campaign with 60 posters, shot by Founder and Creative Director François Nars, that were posted throughout downtown Manhattan and in Brooklyn. Shoppers were encouraged to direct-message the brand on Instagram to get an invitation to the event. Nars also gave out physical invitations to the pop-up in its stores and sent out emails to its database two weeks prior.
While each guest will receive a complimentary Climax mascara sample, no product will be sold at the pop-up. “This is less of a commercial endeavor and more about an opportunity to engage with our consumers in an environment outside of our stores and counters,” said Calcagni.
It’s a similar strategy that sister-brand Shiseido employed with its recent color cosmetics relaunch during New York Fashion Week. (Nars was acquired by Shiseido Group in 2000.) Experiential pop-ups have a been a widely used tool this year for prestige cosmetics brands, like Chanel with its Los Angeles-based Chanel Beauty House, debuting in March, and YSL with its NYFW Beauty Hotel.
According to Tribe Dynamics co-founder Conor Begley, luxury brands are pulling on this lever more as a way to manage messaging. “Historically, these brands lean into marketing tactics where they are in control,” he said. “Pop-ups, which are supposed to be ephemeral, quick and current, are their responses to the internet because traditional real estate is static. In these spaces, they are responding to the need for newness, and create and capture what they want.” According to Begley, YSL Beauty Hotel’s hashtag #YSLBeautySoHo inspired $286,000 earned media value (EMV) for the brand, while having power influencers like Manny Gutierrez (aka Manny Mua), Laura Lee and Karen Gonzalez making content at the event created a combined EMV of $749,000.
For Nars, the Climax mascara launch and subsequent pop-up event helps re-establish the brand in the mascara category (Shiseido utilized the same strategy to re-enter the makeup sector earlier this year).
Nars, which was founded by makeup artist and photographer François Nars in 1994, is largely known for its cult Orgasm blush and currently only has one other mascara product, the Audacious Mascara, which launched in 2015. Though Nars would not comment on its current mascara business, the brand is discontinuing Audacious in January 2019 to solely focus on the new Climax offering.
Last year, beauty brands sold $8.1 billion worth of mascara, according to Euromonitor International, but the category’s growth is expected to slow by 2 percent through 2022. The industry’s leaders include mega-companies, like L’Oréal and Estée Lauder. In the U.S., which accounted for $2.2 billion mascara sales in 2017, premium and mass mascara were evenly split, with both accounting for about $1.1. billion.
Those that are less established in the mascara category are taking their time getting into the product precisely because it is difficult to break into. Glossier reported that it took 248 formulations to launch its Lash Slick mascara in May and had to issue refunds because it claimed it was vegan when it was not. Milk Makeup took 18 months to develop its Kush High Volume Mascara. Nars’ Climax took over two years to launch.
To make a big impact in the category, Nars wanted to get its marketing right. Shiseido Group reported that in the first half of 2018, the company increased investment in marketing and brand development expenses by $196 billion, or 0.8 percent, with a focus on strengthening many of its brands, including Nars. Thus, in the lead-up to “House of Climax,” Nars has been thoughtful.
In mid-August, the brand held a three-day launch event in Ibiza to promote the Climax mascara with 60 international creators, like celebrity makeup artist Angel Merino and beauty and fashion blogger Bruna Santina Martins (known as Niina). These influencers blitzed Instagram with the #neverfakeit hashtag, which now has nearly 5,500 posts. Nars’ in-feed videos around Climax have been viewed overly 53,000 times, while in-feed posts have received over 47,000 likes.
More importantly, though, Climax has racked up to more than 2,600 reviews on NarsCosmetics.com, with a 4.5 star rating out of 5. Climax is also being sold at Sephora, Ulta, and department stores, like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom.
Nars would not comment on the investment in “House of Climax,” nor the marketing spend to promote the mascara, only acknowledging it was “significant.”
Calcagni hopes the event experience will only drive increased awareness for Nars in the mascara category: “We wanted to create something disruptive to really capture the attention of our consumers,” Calcagni said.