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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

Mass Appeal

Executives at Markwins International Corp. had strong ideas about what a new model for their Tropez line of cosmetics should look like. She had to be Hispanic, but couldn’t appear too Hispanic.

After a search, they finally settled on Bianca Christians. Her draw? It’s hard to tell exactly what ethnicity she is.

Normally, such a muddled selection wouldn’t work for a company targeting specific demographics, but for Markwins she was perfect. The company, whose Tropez line has largely appealed to Hispanics, was seeking to entice a wider group of ethnic customers to its lip gloss, lipstick, nail polish, eye shadow and foundation.

“What you don’t want to do is sit here and look and say, ‘If I am Asian, I can’t relate to that,” said Tina Perez, vice president at City of Industry-based Markwins, which recently launched a revamped Tropez line.

In short, Markwins had decided that Tropez should go multicultural.

Multiculturalism, a cultural phenomenon in which different groups celebrate their own ethnicities but also share in others, has been slowly creeping into a cosmetics industry that has mostly marketed its products to separate ethnic groups.

Other brands have begun to market multicultural products to pull in new consumers. Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Prestige Cosmetics Corp. has distributed its multicultural products to Rite Aid and Walgreens, while Victoria’s Secret Stores Inc. has developed Zalia Cosmetics, a multicultural line.

The moves reflect the growing diversity of the U.S. marketplace, where slicing consumers into specific ethnic categories is becoming less appropriate. Together, Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians are projected to make up about 50 percent of the nation’s population by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s up from over 30 percent in 2000.

“It’s an assimilation thing. When minorities become so large and gain so much economic power, they do in fact become more mainstream,” said Timothy Dowd, an analyst for consumer research firm Packaged Facts. “It makes perfect sense that Markwins is trying to go for a more general audience.”

Tailoring Tropez

Tropez, which was originally designed for African-Americans, was acquired by Markwins in 2003, along with brands Black Radiance and Wet ‘n’ Wild, as part of its acquisition of AM Cosmetics.

Tropez had begun to attract Hispanic customers when AM infused the line with more colors. The variety of foundation shades, for example, was expanded so it didn’t compete head on with the brand Black Radiance, also targeting African-Americans.

At the time of Markwins’ acquisition of AM, Tropez was stumbling, generating $3.5 million in sales. In researching its new lines to determine how to boost market presence, the company wanted to gain deeper distribution of the products, which were sold at mass-market chains such as Walgreen Co., Rite Aid Corp., and Kmart Corp. and cost 99 cents to $3.99.

Changes were decided in three areas: packaging, products and advertising.

The restyled packaging was made more contemporary, and the main color was changed to bronze, not the silver that graced old Tropez products. Another issue was language: Would having Spanish on the packaging increase sales? In the end, Markwins went with English, while adding Spanish to store displays. (Too much Spanish would make the brand unapproachable for non-Spanish speakers.)

However, different ethnicities do have distinct cosmetic preferences, so more body shimmers and lip glosses were added to the line because Hispanics tend to purchase these products more than other women. The color palate also was expanded to fit the needs of women whose skin covers a wide range of pigments. “Anybody can buy those colors,” said Perez. “We get a lot of Indians. We get a lot of the darker skinned Hispanics. Even some Caucasian, tanned women.”

Markwins launched a national marketing campaign, the first of its kind for Tropez, with ads in magazines like Latina and Estilo.

The line was re-launched this summer, and Markwins projects sales for the year will hit $6.5 million, about double from when AM was purchased in 2003. All told, sales for the privately held company are expected to top $300 million.

Wendy Lewis, a beauty consultant with Wendy Lewis & Co. Ltd., said the multicultural market is underserved, even as Procter & Gamble Co.’s Cover Girl and Revlon Inc. offer a wider array of product colors tailored to the complexions of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians. In so doing, they are tapping celebrities like Queen Latifah, Halle Berry and Eva Mendez as spokeswomen.

Meanwhile, higher-priced department stores lure ethnic consumers by customizing products for them, such as foundation. However, that can easily top $60.

“If you are looking for young Latinas, where are they buying their skin care? Probably not at Bergdorfs. ” said Lewis. “There has been a massive void in the market for a very long time.”

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