A milestone for Mary Kay

U.S. cosmetics company Mary Kay Inc. is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year – and its 35th year in Canada – and the alternative distribution model that the company launched half a century ago shows no signs of going away.

Mary Kay 50The beauty brand has a unique retail model, with its products available exclusively through its network of beauty consultants, rather than online or in stores.

Although this strategy strikes me as one that would limit the brand’s scope of potential customers – since many people likely more comfortable buying products in stores rather than through a catalogue – it clearly hasn’t hampered Mary Kay’s success.

In total, the company has 2.5 million beauty consultants and $3 billion in global annual sales. That seems like a large enough scope, to me.

Having personally ordered products through a beauty consultant in the past, I can see why the model works. By buying products through a consultant, consumers immediately associate the brand with a friendly face and a personalized experience.

The scope of the interaction goes much farther than a typical interaction with a sales associate in a store. Mary Kay consultants form relationships with their clients, making individual product recommendations based on each client’s age, skin type and personal taste.

And, they keep in regular contact via phone, email and mail-out catalogues. For example, my Mary Kay consultant often gives me a call right around the time she suspects my last purchase is running out, and sure enough, I’m usually ready to order a refill.

Some other retailers have pretty savvy email campaigns and customer service initiatives, but nothing quite compares to a personal phone call from someone you’ve gotten to know.

Clearly, the beauty brand has found a model that still seems to be working 50 years later.

Special-Edition Beauty That Counts® Mary Kay NouriShine Plus Lip Gloss, $18

Special-Edition Beauty That Counts Mary Kay NouriShine Plus Lip Gloss, $18

The company also keeps customers coming back by continuously revamping its product lineup. In total, it offers more than 200 products, including a men’s skin care and fragrance line that launched a couple years ago.

In celebration of Mary Kay’s 50th year, it has launched a special edition lip gloss in a shimmery colour called, fittingly, ‘Celebrate’. And, $1 from the sale of each lip gloss will be donated to the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation, in support of its efforts to assist women living with the appearance-related side effects of cancer and its treatments as well as those affected by domestic violence.

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