Cover Girl encourages consumers to take beauty into the streets

a Cover Girl vanity station in Manhattan (image courtesy of the brand)

The color cosmetics brand, owned by Coty, launched a new campaign this month that it’s calling #ProjectPDA, which is designed to make it more socially acceptable to apply makeup in public.

It’s common practice to apply makeup in private, to go to the power room to freshen up; and, most women who wear makeup daily apply it at home (though some intrepid commuters makeup on the go).

Even at fashion week or in Hollywood makeup is done behind the scenes, out of view of the general public or audience. And while plenty of online beauty tutorials feature small groups of friends sharing tips and trying out looks together, most show a solitary person applying makeup in private.

Moreover, data that Cover Girl shared with Cosmetics Design from a recent study, conducted by market research firm Ipsos, shows that “more than half of women who wear makeup stated that they would feel uncomfortable doing their makeup in public,” and that “74% of women expressed that they feel they need to wear makeup in social settings.”

So Cover Girl has set out to make it okay to reply lipstick or apply a full face in plain view.

The message

The PDA in #Project PDA stands for Public Displays of Application and seems to be intended as a spin on the expression ‘No PDA’ which means that ‘public displays of affection’ aren’t welcome.

Beyond that, it’s plainly meant to be an empowering campaign. “This effort is important to COVERGIRL because we believe there is beauty in diversity, in honoring what makes each of us unique, and in empowering people to express this authenticity through their makeup choices,” Ukonwa Ojo, global SVP of Cover Girl, explains in a press release. “This campaign is a celebration of the many ways women use makeup to represent themselves – however, whenever, and wherever they choose,” she says.

The medium

The new campaign is something straight out the viral marketing playbook. In his best-selling book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger explains how some marketing efforts “provide better behavioral residue than others.” By ‘residue’ Berger means physical, observable proof. He goes on to point out that “giving away makeup carrying cases is fine, but women usually apply makeup in the privacy of their bathrooms, so it doesn’t make the brand that observable.” 

From a sheer marketing point of view, Cover Girl’s #ProjectPDA “figured out how to make the private public,” as Berger would say.

The mirrors

Cover Girl set up vanity stations outdoors in Manhattan, asked people to apply their makeup in public and then be interviewed by the brand “about what this act meant, how culture has influenced their choices around makeup and how they express themselves, and what role beauty plays in their lives.” The resulting video is the start of what the brand hopes will be a viral and inspirational marketing campaign.

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