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Monday, June 27, 2022

how revlon became a bestselling icon

It’s one of the most famous images in advertising history: an imposing Dorian Leigh clad in a silver halter dress and covered by a flowing cape. On the nails and on the lips, Fire and Ice red, the tone that would become one of the most famous in the Revlon catalog. The creator of the photograph was none other than Richard Avedon, but the real protagonist of everything was the copywriter of the campaign, Kay Daly. In 1952, the advertising executive came up with the ‘revolutionary’ idea of ​​selling makeup by appealing to women to feel good about themselves. For the first time, the stars of color cosmetics ads weren’t looking to win over a man. The person in charge of approving the idea? The misogynist Charles Revson, who was macho but also knew how to sell millions of cosmetics to the women of his time. Leigh’s snapshot was accompanied by a personality test in which she urged women to find out if they were made for the bold tone. A precocious approach to that gamification that today’s big firms like so much, asking questions like ‘Does mourning clothes excite you, even in other women?’, ‘Would you dye yourself platinum without telling your husband?’ or ‘Have you ever danced barefoot?’ At more than eight yeses, the result indicated that she was ready for the passionate scarlet. The campaign worked as a good viral does today and served to increase the fame of a company, Revlon, which at that time already boasted three decades of success thanks to its visionary creator, Revson. Now, having just turned 90, he is on the verge of bankruptcy. Owned by the holding company MacAndrews & Forbes, it has just begun preparations to file for Chapter 11 in the United States, an equivalent to insolvency proceedings. The pandemic, supply problems and a long-term debt of 3,000 million dollars have put its future in jeopardy if it does not find a new owner. The 1952 Kay Daly campaign for Revlon revolutionized the way makeup was sold to women. Magic and foundational myths are popular in the beauty industry, which sells cosmetics but also illusions. The creation of Revlon, at the beginning of the 20th century, incorporates several basics of the time: a clever entrepreneur, a story of overcoming, some anecdote that mixes with the legend and a revelation that could be summed up as plagiarism. The two great ladies of the sector at that time, Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, rivals between them, had something in common: they both hated Charles Revson, who made gold selling what they considered vulgar, nail polish. Like Estée Lauder, Revson came from humble beginnings and was disparagingly called “the nail man” by Arden. Until Revlon popularized the color, the only polishes available were clear. But while many credit him with ingenuity, Revson was actually just a salesman for a company called Elka, which already produced those colorful lacquers. A tremendously good commercial, according to all those who knew him, that he also knew how to intuit a good deal. In 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, he founded the brand together with his brother Joseph and the chemist Charles Lachman. He improved on Elka’s formulas, which were slow to dry and short on nails, and in the first year he sold $4,000 worth of nail polish, a small fortune in those years. Although these improvements are also disputed by several, the truth is that the American brand was the one that knew how to capitalize on them. According to Diana Vreeland in her biography, they owed the idea to her, who found a nail polish in Europe that worked better than any that he could buy in the United States. She asked her manicurist, Revson’s girlfriend (because New York a century ago was a handkerchief), to copy the formula for her, and Revson kept her. “I always knew that he knew that he had made his incredible fortune from a small boat that was mine,” said the editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Revlon nail polishes popularized the gesture of painting your nails in bright colors. Photo: getty images The entrepreneur was a born salesman who understood very quickly that he could tempt women, submerged in the midst of the Great Depression, with the whim of a nail polish. Almost from the first years he knew that mass advertising, which he was taking off, would be his great ally. Even if he had to twist the message, dancing between reality and invention. “Advertising is honest fiction,” he said, according to his biographer Andrew Tobias in Fire and Ice. “Revlon’s first ad in The New Yorker, in 1935, featured elusive business uses,” says Lisa Eldridge in Face Paint, “he was not averse to twisting the truth in order to get sales. In the campaign, the enamels were described as ‘created by a New York socialite’, which, unless it was referring to Vreeland, was not true”. His work ethic dictated that his work trumped any moral conception. He was able to run over his employees, his family and, of course, the competition. He spied on the latter and shamelessly copied, so much so that Estée Lauder created her Clinique line in a room without windows and under a code name that misled him. “You let the competition do the legwork and make the mistakes. And then, when they come up with something good, you take it, improve it, package it prettier, advertise it better and bury them, ”he said, as one of his directors recalled in Fire and Ice. Not everything was foul play, there was also a lot of instinct, especially when it came to creating new needs. In 1940, in the midst of World War II, he had the idea of ​​combining lipsticks and nail varnishes, once again revolutionizing the market. By 1960, shortly after Leigh’s legendary campaign, he was the market leader in the makeup segment. One of his last decisions at the head of his company? Sign a very young Lauren Hutton as the image of the brand. She outlasted several of her peers, but kept their rivalry and hatred alive to the end. When she died, Rubinstein bought his Park Avenue apartment and redecorated it in a style the entrepreneur would have hated. There he lived until the end of his days. Painting her nails with his nail polish, because he was always in charge of personally checking that everything worked. Because even though he had many flaws, he was always very perceptive and insightful.

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– Article Written By @Patricia Rodríguez from https://smoda.elpais.com/belleza/revlon-charles-revson-historia-quiebra-superventas-maquillaje-ice-fire/

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