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For almost a year, beauty brand Avon has been undergoing a makeover of its own with the introduction of a new logo and brand campaign, which has led to producing its first “John Lewis-style” Christmas campaign. It’ll debut later this year while its portfolio revamp and packaging redesign get set for release in early 2024.
“You don’t completely change a 136-year-old brand overnight,” said global chief marketing officer Kristof Neirynck as he discussed the 18-month process he is overseeing. He admits that he had never initially intended to commission a rebrand when he set out to introduce a packaging redesign across the main brand and its sub-brands of 120, which it is currently in the process of reducing to around 30.
Having joined Avon from Walgreens Boots Alliance in March 2022, where he was also CMO, one of Neirynck’s first acts was to commission design consultancy Free the Birds to redesign the brand’s packaging: a brief that would quickly expand to something revolutionary for the brand.
An unplanned rebrand
Neirynck discussed the project alongside Free the Birds CEO Nick Vaus, revealing that the agency suggested the new identity design without a brief. The previous marque was found to be applied inconsistently across the various brand touch points, which led Vaus to suggest the need for a rebrand ahead of the packaging redesign, offering just a single suggestion that was quickly adopted to represent the strength of its community of women customers and representatives.
“The brand was apologetic, the brand was misused, the brand needed some strength behind it,” claimed Vaus.
As a result, they decided not to release everything at once. Instead, they began with the release of the new digital identity, followed by the first element of the new campaign while drip-feeding more changes over the following 18 months.
“I felt because it was such a powerful brand transformation, a much more modern expression of the brand, that it was better to do it in every touch point as soon as we could. And yes, it was a bit messy for six months, but I’d rather have that than the contrary because our packaging will start flowing in from early next year. We could have waited, but that meant sitting on something good for a year,” said Neirynck.
This strategy aims to build momentum around the redesign and give time for stakeholders and the community to embrace the changes at headquarters, in retail stores and pop-up booths around the world.
The first phase of the rebrand began in February with the release of a new ongoing campaign, “Embrace Your Power,” developed by Wunderman Thompson.
It is now in its third phase with the release of an ad focusing on the ambitions of an astronomer to promote its fragrance “Far Away Beyond the Moon,” featuring the new pink logo at both the beginning and end.
Alongside the campaign, the new identity has been rolled out across the brand’s digital touch points and printed brochures to feature a new tone of voice and visual style for Avon, ahead of the packaging redesign’s release.
With iterations of the third part of the campaign now rolling out to local markets such as the U.K., Czech Republic, South Africa, Poland and Romania over August and September, it’s Neirynck’s belief that the creative quality has improved along the way. He added that they are monitoring it with regular brand lift studies and a brand health check every six months.
After a decade of decline, the increase in brand marketing is already proving a success, as owner Natura&Co reported that its beauty category had grown 3% year over year in its most recent financial results.
When you really strike gold is when there is an amazing story.
Kristof Neirynck, global chief marketing officer, Avon International
This was partly credited to the digitalization of the brand, with the use of digital tools reaching 30.6% and digital sales penetration increasing to drive 6.5% of Avon International’s total revenue. Use of the Avon On app (active representatives who logged in at least once) reached 30.6% of its 5 million representatives since the launch of “Embrace Your Power” too.
“To see the brand starting to turn a corner is rewarding,” stated Neirynck.
The reduction in its 120 brands to around 30, he also explained, is part of an overall refocus on building 13 core brands, especially although it continues to produce 1,200 beauty products across its portfolio, excluding shade variations. That will be a reduction from the 2,700 produced last year.
Delivering deeper human insights and Christmas expectations
Having spent over a decade working in the heath and beauty category, including at P&G, Neirynck also talked about how he sees the development of campaigns that form a personal connection with audiences. The campaigns that resonate strongly tap into a deeper human insight than simply promoting the main product, he explained.
“When you really strike gold is when there is an amazing story,” he said, citing the story of musician Hamzaa, who appeared in the first campaign film in January.
“If we think about the war context, and some of the toxic masculinity that is flowing, they’re actually celebrating some of the feminine powers,” he said of the brand’s campaign work. This will also be present within its first Christmas spot, which he hopes will help Avon tap into the culture zeitgeist.
He believes that Avon is “a purposeful brand” in which millions of people make a living from being a representative for it. While a brand needs good products to sell, he sees that purpose as a potential differentiator, with customers purchasing directly from people who will use that money to support their families.
“That purposeful nature of the brand has not been spoken about enough in the past,” he admitted, and that will be at the heart of the campaign being released before the Christmas holidays.
Having only returned to advertising in key markets after seeing its budgets cut for years, the Christmas campaign will be seen as a key moment, with the success of John Lewis over the last 10 years an inspiration, and Avon having named Matt Richmond as its global creative director, having previously worked at the department store chain as director of creative and content.
“We feel that Christmas is an important moment of thinking about the bigger society around you. How you potentially give back,” continued Neirynck, who said he wants Avon to be present in such key cultural moments in the future.