There’s one sure fire way to sell a beauty product: tell people it’s ‘cult’. From Pixi’s Glow Tonic, to Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream and Collection’s Lasting Perfection Concealer via a Naked Palette, Touche Eclat and NARS lipstick, are these products so incredibly popular because they’re really rather awesome – or because we’re told their cult classics we need within our beauty collection? It’s easy to fall for the hype and part with good money in the hope that you’re discovering the holy grail, but how much of a ‘cult’ product is based on actual performance and how much is built-up in the media to keep the advertisers happy?
In my opinion there are two types of cult product: those that genuinely do perform and over a number of years develop a cult-like following of fans, and products that are hyped-up in the media in order to shift more stock. There are many genuinely brilliant products that either pushed the boundaries when they were first launched, or have multiple functions that make them a great buy. Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream has developed cult-like status because it really works, while having about three hundred different uses and fans in beauty journalists, celebrities and consumers alike; it’s taken decades for them to build this status (its original launch was unbelievably in 1930) and a huge amount of love from women across the globe. Similarly, the Pixi Glow Tonic has developed a huge fan base after it slowly proved to be an unbelievably effective product with an affordable price point; customers have been known to queue outside the store and stock up in their dozens to ensure they never run out. These kind of products really do deserve their cult status because impartial users have sung their praises over a number of years.
However, there are also ‘cult’ products that have developed that status by nothing more than advertising, magazine hype and blogger sampling activity. The Urban Decay Naked palettes are a perfect example of this – yes, they’re a great selection of shadows that really do blend seamlessly and provide a fabulous colour result, but a cult product? Can an eyeshadow be cult? Can something that’s re-packaged every year to flog more of the same really be deserving of the same status? In my opinion the Naked palettes just re-packaged and repositioned something that’s been around for decades, albeit in a swanky case with a rather large price point. The magazines went crazy for it, bloggers soon followed; the Urban Decay PR department did an incredible job. Although I do really love the UD eyeshadows and use my Naked Basics palette regularly, there’s something I can’t quite understand about it being called ‘cult’. Is it different, unique or effective enough to be categorised with something such as Liz Earle’s Cleanse and Polish?
Similarly, MAC’s Ruby Woo lipstick is possibly the most cult lip product of all time. You can’t swing a cat without a blogger sporting it, a celeb praising it or a magazine presenting it with some kind of award. It may be a great shade of red that apparently suits all skin tones, but it’s still effectively a red lipstick… From my experience MAC makeup is drying, uncomfortable and overpriced, which makes me question any cult status associated with their brand. Has this lipstick developed cult like status because we’ve been told so often that it’s a cult classic? How many of us would be perfectly happy with a L’Oreal or Bourjois number that was a fraction of the cost, given a blind test?
Retailers like Cult Beauty have really helped to cut out the rubbish and only celebrate genuinely great products that beauty experts would thoroughly recommend; I love the fact that they highlight singular products from across multiple brands, as well as promoting brands you’ve never heard of that offer the most incredible formulas. From Stila’s bases, to Lipstick Queen’s Jean Queen and the BeautyBlender, you know their featured products have been tried and tested in order to bring you the best edit of things you really need to know about. However, magazine awards that recognise ‘cult’ products or best buys are often manipulated to showcase the best of their advertisers’ products as a way of securing future budget; I often flick through the pages of magazines to see which products they’ve highlighted, only to find 90% of them come from the major advertisers or those brands that have taken them on a rather nice press trip that year.
As bloggers we’re equally as guilty of building up products and accrediting them with cult-like status, deserved or otherwise. From the Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer that sold out last year and saw bloggers venturing out to up to eight different stores to track it down, to the Seche Vite topcoat that promised to be the answer to our chipped-nail nightmares, we do like to hype a product and classify it as the next big thing. However, more often than not I find these don’t work for me and leave me somewhat disappointed – which again makes me question any product’s ‘cult’ status and whether or not it’s become a way of saying ‘I really really like this!’
In my opinion, a product is only deserved of the status ‘cult’ if it’s a) been around for longer than three years and b) genuinely works for at least 75% of people that use it. Otherwise it’s just a pretty good product for some people. I don’t have the magic answer and think this is definitely a topic that’s up for debate, but it’s an interesting question to answer oneself – both as a beauty junkie and someone that works within the industry. So, what do you think: are cult products labelled as such because they’re great, or because of the hype created by a clever marketing department that surrounds them?
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