Analysis: Max Factor strikes Gold with Madonna link - P&G’s Max Factor cosmetics brand has signed up pop diva Madonna to promote its Gold range. Alexandra Jardine reports on the brand’s recent image problems and whether it can revive

It’s strange how the most unlikely of couples sometimes get together. Staid Procter & Gamble and raunchy Madonna were, until recently, about as unlikely a pairing as you could imagine. But P&G has persuaded the material girl to get in bed with its make-up division and star in a campaign to promote its new Max Factor Gold cosmetics line.

It’s strange how the most unlikely of couples sometimes get

together. Staid Procter & Gamble and raunchy Madonna were, until

recently, about as unlikely a pairing as you could imagine. But P&G has

persuaded the material girl to get in bed with its make-up division and

star in a campaign to promote its new Max Factor Gold cosmetics

line.



A TV, print and outdoor campaign, created by Leo Burnett, breaks this

Friday in the UK. The print ads feature Madonna in Rita Hayworth mode,

the TV ad shows her using make-up on a film set. It is a significant

coup to have signed Madonna, who has never before endorsed a beauty

brand, at a time when she is staging yet another comeback with her album

Ray of Light.



Intriguingly, the star’s two-year contract with the brand covers the

European and Asian markets only. P&G says this is because there are no

plans to launch the Gold range in the US. But, while Madonna’s motives

will no doubt remain a mystery, more to the point what can she do for

P&G?



Currently battling it out with Unilever for second place in the global

beauty business behind L’Oreal, P&G is determined to strengthen its hold

on mass market colour cosmetics. In 1996 it sold off several fragrance

brands, including Le Jardin and California, allowing it to invest more

heavily in its make-up brands: Cover Girl, Oil of Ulay and Max

Factor.



In the UK, Max Factor is number 3, with only one other P&G brand, Cover

Girl, in the top ten.



Founded in the 1920s, Max Factor was the ’studio’ make-up of Hollywood

and was associatied with filmstars Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth in the

1940s and 1950s. But, after passing through several owners, including

Revlon, by the time P&G acquired it in 1991 Max Factor seemed to be

losing its way.



Faded glamour



’It wasn’t communicating a strong brand message. It was traditionally

glamorous, but had lost sight of this by aiming at the mass market,’

says Emma Fric, managing director of branding consultant Cato

Consulting.



P&G decided to return to Max Factor’s Hollywood roots and capitalise on

its movie heritage. It linked up with Paramount Home Video for a

co-promotion on the release of Titanic, and created new advertising

featuring endorsements from professional make-up artists.



P&G believes signing Madonna, who as an all-round entertainer is perhaps

the closest thing the 90s has to an old-style Hollywood star, will

cement the brand’s position as the technically sound ’make-up of make-up

artists’ as well as creating an ’emotional connection’ between the

spokesperson and consumers.



It is also taking the brand slightly more upmarket with the Gold range -

reflecting the success of brands such as Boots No7, which relaunched

with classier packaging and mid-range prices to become the top UK

make-up brand. Gold’s packaging is classier and prices have between

tweaked - a lipstick is priced at pounds 10 compared with pounds 6.50

for other Max Factor lipsticks.



But what about Madonna as a role model? Fric says choosing a ’face’ who

is also a celebrity is a gamble. Lancome ran into trouble when its

’face’, Isabella Rossellini, starred in the controversial film Blue

Velvet. ’You are relying on her to behave in a way that epitomises the

brand’s values.



Madonna has always been unpredictable. She may be an earth mother now

but she could turn around tomorrow and become a monster.’



P&G believes Madonna’s constant self-reinvention will bring it

publicity, with a ’new’ look in the ads. But then there is the problem

of whether her face fits the brand. Ill-fated Yardley chose Canadian

model Linda Evangelista when the brand’s strength was its English

heritage - and confused even loyal users.



But Fric says Madonna could be good for Max Factor, providing she

behaves.



’She appeals to a wide range of age groups; she’s aspirational for the

younger generation, but she’s also a mother. And if Max Factor is trying

to go back to its roots, she does epitomise a Hollywood prima donna who

doesn’t care what people think.’



Fric adds: ’She’s a ’real’ woman with more appeal than the Spice Girls,

for example, who have been marketed from the start. In the end, Madonna

is out to market herself.’



TOP FIVE GLOBAL BEAUTY PRODUCERS

Company    Sales (1997)              Chief brands

L’Oreal

Group      dlrs 9.6bn (pnds 5.6bn)   L’Oreal, Lancome, Maybelline,

                                     Garnier

Unilever   dlrs 7.2bn (pnds 4.5bn)   Elizabeth Arden, Calvin Klein

Procter

& Gamble   dlrs 7.1bn (pnds 4.4bn)   Max Factor, Cover Girl, Oil of Ulay

Shiseido   dlrs 4.6bn (pnds 2.8bn)   Shiseido, Za

Estee

Lauder     dlrs 3.4bn (pnds 2.1bn)   Estee Lauder, Clinique, Bobbi Brown

Source: Women’s Wear Daily International Beauty Report, 1998