When Brands Are In Denial About Who Their Customers Are: The Demise Of The Estee Edit

When Estee Lauder launched their ‘Estee Edit’ sub-brand a year ago, I did a bit of a double take. What was an iconic and classic brand so steeped in history doing launching a throwaway ‘cool and hip’ collection that was so drastically different to what we were used to? With the face of a generation, Kendall Jenner, to back the concept and help encourage those digital natives via her Instagram account to buy everything from illuminators and pore vanishing sticks, to metallic eyeshadows and coconut lipgloss, it probably seemed like a great idea in the boardroom – but as they announce they’re to close the brand and discontinue all products less than a year after its launch, it’s definitive that it didn’t work in reality. So where did it all go wrong? Why couldn’t an infinite budget, the most premium stockists, a super cool boutique in London’s Carnaby Street or even a Kardashian save this bright and edgy brand from failure? In a nutshell, Estee Lauder forgot who their customers were.
 

If you ask anyone over the age of 30 to describe Estee
Lauder, they’ll undoubtedly use words that include ‘classic, iconic,
premium, trustworthy’ and ‘used by my mum/gran/sister.’ However, those
under the age of 30 probably see it as a bit stuffy, boring and not for
them at all; (this is totally my own opinions and perceptions, and not
based in scientific fact by the way!) Digital natives have been spoiled
for choice, with colourful, fun, edgy and attainable brands (including
Urban Decay, Too Faced, MAC, Kat Von D and Benefit) vying for their
attention with something truly unique and Instagrammable. Even if they
don’t want to spend a lot, they’re overwhelmed with the likes of Makeup
Revolution, Rimmel and Collection offering up dupes and pretty good
alternatives at pocket money prices. Although brands are falling over themselves to recruit this generation of beauty enthusiasts in order to turn them into long-term customers, those young girls that are better at eyeliner flicks than you are actually increasingly disloyal and have less disposable income than the generations that have gone before them.

They simply don’t have fifteen quid to chuck at a lipgloss, nor do they need to when there are about fifty different options in Superdrug that will set them back less than a Strawberry Frappacino. Premium makeup is something they aspire to own, or is saved for birthdays or Christmasses – rather than being able to rush out and buy anything and everything a celebrity tells them to. (This isn’t rocket science; what teenager do you know that can chuck £30 at an eyeshadow palette without blinking? Thinking of it, what 30 year old can?!) With the growth of the influencer, they’re also more wised up about where they should invest their money and where they can simply dream/stalk their favourite YouTuber to live vicariously through them.

Although the Estee Edit products, from what I’ve seen, were actually quite good and a touch more affordable than the traditional Estee Lauder range (a lipgloss would set you back around £10.50, while a metallic eyeshadow is priced about £14.00,) there was such a huge discrepancy between the products their core consumer demographic (who are probably in their 30s, 40s and 50s) knew and loved, and this new bold collection that was developed for an instagram generation. Too much emphasis was placed upon the influence of Kendall Jenner, rather than communicating core values or a reason why people should buy into the products – something that’s increasingly important in such a noisy marketplace. It seems that Victoria Secret models aren’t the answer to everything.

Estee Lauder have such an amazing and long-standing reputation, with products that are beloved across the world. However, those customers are much older than those they were so focused upon capturing – regardless of what they like to think. Over the last few years I’ve seen so many brands attempting to converse with teenagers or 20-somethings, when actually their core customer base is ten or twenty years older; we may not be as pretty, we may not be as aspirational, and we may not look as flawless in your pictures, but there’s no shame having a long-standing loyal customer over the age of 30. It’s so blooming frustrating. For me, the failure of The Estee Edit to capture the attention and imagination of a younger consumer says more about the reputation the overarching company has than the performance of the products, or even the direction or branding; Estee Lauder forgot who their core customers were and what they were doing so well (in terms of NPD and cult classics) instead, sailing off into the complete opposite direction and entering a market that’s never been harder to succeed in.

Those of us over 30 have the disposable income, desire and need to spend more on our beauty products, but few brands are speaking to us directly or attempting to give us what we need. With far too much focus on the young-uns that actually need little more than a moisturiser and flick of mascara in the mornings, many big names are in fear of alienating us altogether. Although it’s a sad story and a disappointment for all those involved, the demise of The Estee Edit is also a warning to other brands who are thinking of doing the same: don’t forget who your core customer is and don’t think you can fool the younger generation into parting with their cash so easily.

What are your thoughts on The Estee Edit and it’s quick demise?

If you want to stock up on The Estee Edit before is is lost forever, you can still buy it online via Selfridges here – prices are set to reduce by 30% to clear stock too.

 Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  

27 Comments

  1. Jane O'Sullivan
    June 16, 2017 / 2:06 pm

    That's a great post Hayley and certainly food for thought for some of the brands out there. I never actually bought anything from the Estee Edit range although I have been a EL customer for many years. I think the problem is that the target audience would not see EL as a go to brand and those that are customers probably wouldn't see see Kendall Jenner as an icon or role model. I can see why they would want to try and cash in but its a huge market out there now especially with so many brands now coming here from across the pond. Maybe they should just stick to what and who they know best customer wise.Might have to have a nosy at the sake though! 😉

    • Hayley Carr
      June 16, 2017 / 2:46 pm

      That's exactly it Jane – the younger end of the market wouldn't even consider EL, but the older end of the market didn't see it as a range for them at all. So it didn't hit either customer! I hope they keep some of their products within the main EL brand though.

  2. Rebekah Gillian
    June 17, 2017 / 1:06 am

    This is such a good warning for other brands looking to follow in a similar direction! I'm eighteen, so probably in the demographic that Estee Lauder were aiming for, but I'd never even heard of this brand. I'm friends with a lot of people who are also obsessed with makeup and none of them had mentioned it, either. I think what you said about money is definitely true, too–I don't know whether we're more cautious or just don't get as much free cash to spend, but I'm much more likely to have a conversation with a friend about a drugstore brand than a high-end, designer brand. The only exception, really, is Jeffree Star, who has a massive social media presence. I think that can make a real difference, too–a lot of the makeup me and my friends buy is influenced by what we see on Instagram, or YouTube, where we can see products tried before we buy, and keep up to date with our favourite brands, and I don't know if it was just me, but I saw nothing advert-wise about this brand online. This is a really thought provoking blog and my thoughts are all over the place, so I'm sorry if this comment didn't make much sense, but I definitely agree with what you've said! 🙂

    • Hayley Carr
      June 18, 2017 / 6:48 pm

      Your comment and thoughts were very well constructed Rebekah, so thank you! I do find it really interesting that you saw nothing of this online; they clearly didn't do their marketing job effectively and the result was that it simply didn't make the money it needed to. Estee Lauder is such an iconic name, but that doesn't necessarily translate to new audiences.

  3. Abbie Whitehead
    June 17, 2017 / 11:46 am

    Aged 18, I used to save up for makeup for special occasions as you mentioned in your post and then when I got a job aged 16, working in London part time I loved spending money on high end makeup now that I could treat myself to it. It is because of this that I would like to add how ironic it is that we are seen as the aimed market by these companies but are treated despairingly as customers. Being so young and as I look about 12, approaching any makeup counter only leads to two responses. I am either completely ignored by representatives, having such a foul experience at Charlotte Tilbury once that I had to get my mum to get someone's attention so I could buy something as otherwise I am just ignored as there is the idea that we can't afford the products and therefore shouldn't be helped. This attitude also envokes the other response which is being followed around and questioned on everything you do as obviously there is no real reason why you would be there, such an experience I have encountered in more Space NK stores than I count. My funniest story is how I worked at a mid-range store and before my shift entered one of the partner companies with my boyfriend, only to be followed around by multiple shop assistants and I could see them reporting us over radios- despite the fact I was considered an equal employee as them under the overall company. I believe this attitude and social media has allowed my generation to dramatically move away from 'traditional' high end brands, as I have found that while their products may be becoming more aimed at us, they will still turn away from us. I approached the Estee Edit store in Carnaby Street myself, and after just having another awful experience elsewhere, I decided against it predicting what would happen. Perhaps it is deserved that Estee Edit failed, they should be treating us like any other customer in the first place, rather than trying to separate us from the main market. I hope my comment has provided more opinion on the debate, and hope that soon high end makeup companies fully sort it out, before it is too late.Best Wishes Hayley,Abbie. x

    • Hayley Carr
      June 18, 2017 / 6:51 pm

      Thank you SO much Abbie for such a thought proviking comment. You're so right: these companies treat young potential customers so appalingly, that many simply shy away from spending their money there. I can remember vividly being ignored or waiting so long to be served that I put my purchase down and walked out of the store. The irony is that every brand wants to be seen as hip and cool, but the reality is those customers don't always want their offering – and even if they do they're treated badly by staff and don't go back to repurchase.

  4. thedianaedition
    June 17, 2017 / 12:24 pm

    Thanks for your insight Hayley- tbh, I never even knew what the difference was with Estee Edit vs Estee Lauder… I knew it was blue lol. But in all seriousness, I just never understood what made it different which is where they might have failed…. they used Kendall Jenner as the face but yet again, she's the face of tons of companies so how was I supposed to know that the Estee Edit was aimed at younger individuals?https://thedianaedition.com

    • Hayley Carr
      June 18, 2017 / 6:53 pm

      So many brands think that an influencial young 'it girl' is the secret to success; but the truth is they're often pimping out everything to everyone, so the message gets lots. I don't think the Estee Edit appealed to old or new customers – and therein laid the problem!

  5. Lynnsay
    June 17, 2017 / 5:04 pm

    I found it so interesting to read this! When I seen the Estee Edit at first, I knew it was never going to work. First of all – blue metallic packaging?! I found the aesthetics poor and in a marketplace where everyone is obsessed with the insta-worthy Charlotte Tilbury rose-gold packaging or the cute & girly Too Faced products, that was their first downfall. Also, I find the whole Kendall Jenner thing so uninteresting. Perhaps I'm in a minority, but having a Kardashian-type brand ambassador won't sell anything to me. Then there was the products themselves, which to me seemed a little gimmicky on the whole. I feel like they do have potential to create a brand that would appeal to us younger consumers but they really missed the mark here. Lynnsay xwww.sartorialscot.com

    • Hayley Carr
      June 18, 2017 / 6:55 pm

      I think they tried to create something different that would stand out (and their higher end branding is often navy blue, so there's a subtlety there) but you raise some interesting points! Maybe they tried to focus too much on gimmicks and not enough on convincing of quality.

  6. nessaclayden
    June 18, 2017 / 6:41 am

    I never knew estee edit was a spin off brand. I always saw estee lauder as the upmarket womans brand so having the brand aimed at younger people would be a hard one as younger people want the hip and trendy stuff which they can afford. I didnt even know Kendall Jenner was the face of the brand. Personally I dont even think there was enough advertisement to the younger audience. Great post this was a great insight!Vanessawww.therealnessonline.com

    • Hayley Carr
      June 18, 2017 / 6:55 pm

      So many people have said the same thing! I just don't think their marketing efforts worked at all; we all missed the point.

  7. Elsa Kruger
    June 18, 2017 / 1:15 pm

    I couldn't agree more. You are spot on. The exagerated focus on millenials and the Instagram "influencers" generation will cost brands like Estee Lauder dearly in terms of their loyal traditional following. I've noticed it even here in South Africa. EL seems to have an identity crisis… I much more applaud their snapping up trendy, disrupter brands like Glamglow and Becca for the new markets.

    • Hayley Carr
      June 18, 2017 / 6:56 pm

      Exactly – acquire great brands that are already speaking to new audiences, and focus on your core demographic that really sets you apart/generates long term customers that are brand loyal. Thanks for your comment Elsa!

  8. Honeypot Blogs
    June 18, 2017 / 7:32 pm

    I work with a lot of different type of brands for work and I think it's shocking how little some brands actually know their own demographic and yet they have all the data to find out who their customers actually are! I think it's really difficult for brands to branch out and target different types of consumers which is why we see so many get it wrong! Really interesting post!!xxHoneypot Blogs

    • Hayley Carr
      June 25, 2017 / 4:56 pm

      I never understand why they get it so wrong, when all it takes is a little research. Sometimes just asking questions helps enormously – and probably would've saved them millions.

  9. Vivian Yuen
    June 19, 2017 / 5:04 am

    This is so spot on. I remember walking in Estee Edit and then straight out, there was nothing new or innovative – it was a brand created for Instagram amongst many other cheaper more creative alternatives. Vivian | LIVE . IN . LOVEIG | @VIVIYUNN_~

  10. The Lavender Barn Blog
    June 19, 2017 / 4:00 pm

    Fantastic post Hayley, I actually voiced my annoyance at the time of it's arrival, only to be met with stoney silence and disagreement on social, maybe people were worried EL would stop being their friends ? at the time it totally put me off a brand that I had grown up with and had the highest respect for, I guess you can't blame the trying, but seriously ? you have hit the nail on the head when you say know your customers, also the older we get the less we are sucked into fads and go back to where we have had the best results for our age range. As a youngster working on a Revlon Counter I idolised the "older" EL consultant she looked so classy and flawless and it's an image of EL that has stayed with me until I saw KJ face looking back at me 🙂 Lyn x

    • Hayley Carr
      June 25, 2017 / 4:57 pm

      I very much have the same perception Lyn – that EL was a brand I wanted to grow into and associated with older sophistication. It's a shame they went down a totally different route, alienated their customers and lost a fortune in the process.

  11. Caroline Hirons
    June 19, 2017 / 9:37 pm

    I never, ever, use this term but the first thing I thought when I saw the Estee Edit was 'stay in your lane'. ELC wants to be all things to all people, and we all know even Beyonce hasn't got that covered. 😉

    • Hayley Carr
      June 25, 2017 / 5:06 pm

      I love that phrase Caroline! And it's so true… Why try to be the opposite of what you're so well known for?

  12. Mrs Tubbs
    June 20, 2017 / 4:04 pm

    It looked like a collection designed by a committee, without any understanding of the customer base. Or any real interest in them apart from as a potential money making opportunity. The products seemed okay, but nothing particularly innovative that you couldn’t get elsewhere. Cheaper. All style and no substance.

  13. Kirsty Merrett
    June 21, 2017 / 9:05 pm

    i'm a big fan of EL, it was the brand I first ever used, my mum always gets a christmas beauty box (she still remembers taking her vanity case into hospital when she had me, and she still gets one to this day, every.single.xmas!) so I often got her unwanted red lipsticks and i loved them! They have some great hero products and fragrances, but when it came to the EE's, it was a great concept and i loved the highlighters. Personally, I do see EL as a 'cool brand' but in a chic, elegant way. CT wouldn't have branded her make up like she does if it wasn't for EL. They should harness their heritage and really utilise it, because that's what makes them 'cool' for me!

    • Hayley Carr
      June 25, 2017 / 5:07 pm

      That's a really valid point Kirsty – they could've harnessed that heritage and used it to their advantage, instead they tried to create something totally new and talk to a customer that wasn't really interested. I'm fascinated to know what they're going to do next!

  14. Jenny
    June 24, 2017 / 3:45 pm

    This is such an interesting post Hayley. I didn't realise they were shutting that part of the brand down. I must admit, I would never think of purchasing anything from Estee Lauder personally and I don't know anyone who ever shops with the brand xLuxeStyle

  15. Bethany Jones
    June 24, 2017 / 9:23 pm

    I had no idea the estee edit range existed before I read this post. Certainly wouldnt have expected to see this from Estee Lauder, as i associate them with a mature demographic. It was a really nice idea by them, but it just hasnt worked out in practice. There are a lot of makeup brands out there for the younger demographic so i think it just got drowned out before it had a chance to swim i guess.Still, i enjoyed reading this post, completely agree with what you've said.:D – Beth

  16. Lena
    June 26, 2017 / 10:46 am

    I'm 26 and neither the Estee edit nor Estee Lauder really appeal to me that much. I have EL products I have from PR samples, which I like, but their counter is not one that I ever approach in department stores.

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