For years, sex has been used overtly to sell everything from beer to hamburgers and everything in between — so it’s no surprise NARS cosmetics has done the same with its product line. But such labels as Seduction, Sex Machine, Get Dirty, and Strip Tease are now deemed a blemish on the company’s product line.
Brighton Haslett, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., told LifeZette that when she realized she had been applying a blush on her cheeks called “Deep Throat,” she was so shocked and disappointed she took up her concerns with the cosmetics company directly.
“I would love to walk into Sephora, sift through some different colors, and fall in love with a shade named Ambition, Drive, Passion, Courage, or Fierce.”
“I’ve been an avid and loyal customer of yours for years now, but we need to talk,” Haslett wrote in an open letter to NARS. Then she spelled out her concern with their sexually explicit labels.
Haslett called out the company for choosing to sexualize its products instead of using its marketing power to positively influence young girls who use the cosmetics.
“I understand that branding is hugely important to your business model, and that as a cosmetic company, you are selling an appearance. However, you are also selling a persona,” Haslett wrote.
Haslett emphasized she’s not “advocating that we deny women their sexual autonomy, and I’m not asking NARS to completely abandon its sexy marketing campaign. Nor am I suggesting that the cosmetic industry start naming its products ‘Responsible Choices,’ ‘Academic Excellence,’ or ‘Diverse Investment Portfolio.'”
She added, “But I would love to walk into Sephora, sift through some different colors, and fall in love with a shade named Ambition, Drive, Passion, Courage, or Fierce. Aren’t these the traits and values we’d like to teach the girls and young women who are first exploring the world of makeup — or reinforce for those, like myself, who have been using these products for years?”
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Haslett told LifeZette that though she grew up surrounded by strong, empowered women, she understands that not every girl is as fortunate to have those role models and encouragement.
“I’d love to see some brands take advantage of the opportunity to influence girls in a positive way,” said Haslett.
She wishes companies that target women, like NARS, would consider naming their lipsticks after positive female role models such as “the iconic [Katherine] Hepburn and [Rita] Hayworth.”
“I think cosmetic companies have a unique opportunity to present girls with a sort of ‘menu’ of personas and values through their branding, and I’d love to see some brands embrace that and take advantage of the opportunity to influence girls in a positive way,” said Haslett.
She noted in her letter that some brands are already embracing this concept. Sephora, for instance, does sell products labeled “Resilient, Enduring, Invincible, Persistence, and Tenacious; Dior offers Confident, Power, and Bold; and Estee Lauder offers Dynamic, Dominant, and Powerful.”
However, she said, these seem to be the exception rather than the rule. “Names such as Call Girl, Belly Dancing, Unfaithful, Undress Me, Safe Word, Foreplay, and Carnal are far more common,” which still pale in comparison to the ones that prompted her to write to NARS in the first place.
Brighton points to Aerie’s #AerieREAL campaign as proof that positive ad campaigns are not only a financial success but also a PR boon.
“Forbes pointed out that Aerie’s ‘strategic avoidance of hypersexualization’ appeals not to just Aerie’s target audience — teens — but also to those teens’ parents, who fund a majority of their shopping trips,” Haslett wrote. “Those same parents are unlikely to be thrilled if their teen or pre-teen returns from the mall with a lipstick called Sex Machine.”
Haslett believes that now, more than ever, consumers are ready for a more empowering marketing strategy.
“In 2016, it is clearer than ever that millennial consumers want to be inspired. So let’s give our girls something to aspire to.” Haslett told LifeZette she has not heard anything from NARS or any other companies in response to her open letter. But she’s thrilled that others seem to be paying attention — and perhaps giving their own say on the matter through the power of their purchases.