New York Fashion Week looked different this year, and that was good news for consumers. The high-profile event typically draws 230,000 VIPs, but amid the pandemic, the size of the show was cut in half. The setup paved the way for sponsors like YSL Beauty to take a democratized approach to their activations, catering to everyday people rather than influencers and industry insiders. And the results were picture perfect.
YSL timed the launch of its NU collection of minimalist skincare products to Fashion Week with its sights set on courting Gen Z. The luxury beauty brand highlighted the new line with a consumer-centric activation that gave attendees their 15 minutes of fame (Industria Creative, New York City, handled). Upon entering the pop-up footprint, consumers first received a fanny pack filled with samples, then consulted with a NU brand ambassador who determined their perfect Bare Look Tint shade and applied it.
Next, visitors could participate in their very own model-esque photo shoot surrounded by oversized campaign imagery. Their photos were immediately available for social sharing. To boot, attendees could pose for a GIF and dance along to tracks spun live by DJ Va$hti. For those not interested in participating in the full activation, a robust street sampling program was also in play.
“We basically put these consumers at the center of the campaign, and the goal here was to make them the star behind this line,” says Alexandria Ivanoff, director-integrated communications at YSL Beauty. “We wanted to kind of flip it on its head, and all of the amazing access to parties and all of the opulence that the models and amazing talent usually receive—we wanted to bring that to the consumer as well.”
The public-facing Fashion Week strategy was a first for YSL Beauty, so we tapped Ivanoff for her insights on what made the activation a success.
- How COVID Helped Democratize New York Fashion Week’s Sponsor Activations
- Kohl’s Takes Over as Presenting Sponsor of a Drive-in Fashion Show
Location, Location, Location
YSL Beauty’s activation was open to everyone, but with Gen Z as its target, the brand leveraged a strategic location to deliver the experience: Cooper Square. The area serves as a hub where college students from nearby New York University, Marymount Manhattan College and Cooper Union gather.
“A lot of our outreach consisted of going to colleges and fashion-focused clubs and beauty-focused clubs around the city,” Ivanoff says. “I think also with the location it was really evident that we wanted to interact and engage with that younger consumer. Using Cooper Square gave us access to all of those younger consumers that we’d love to target with this line.”
Embracing the Shift in Beauty Trends
A pandemic-induced shift in beauty trends has led to more honest conversations about beauty norms and a focus on a more natural appearance. Rather than go against the grain, YSL Beauty is embracing the change and developing messaging and experiences that align with it.
“There’s a much more realistic look into your life, even just as colleagues, right?” says Ivanoff. “You’re seeing your colleagues’ homes and you’re seeing them without a face of makeup, not in their best nine-to-five clothes. And I think that’s the same trend that we’re seeing from a beauty perspective. There’s a more honest conversation around beauty and the ingredients, as well as what does it mean to be good for you from a brand perspective? So as a brand, we are in favor of that raw, honest conversation to really drive connection between the brands and the consumers.
“And I think these are trends that are here to stay,” continues Ivanoff. “Those are things that now have become solidified in people’s routines, which then translates to beauty as we start to think about what is actually a product that I want to keep rebuying over and over again?… I think embracing what you’ve got and being proud of it, even when it’s not your best skin day or it’s not your best hair day, is what this whole line was about. It’s about really embracing that message rather than fighting against it as a beauty brand.”
Aligning a Product Launch with Fashion Week
Timing the launch of its NU collection to New York Fashion Week gave YSL Beauty a leg up, as the brand was able to leverage the energy of the event to build meaningful interactions with consumers. It was critical, Ivanoff says, that the brand show up in person.
“There’s something really special about the magic of New York Fashion Week and feeling, even as a New Yorker that maybe isn’t even going to events or shows or afterparties, there’s an energy in the air,” Ivanoff says. “And I think that energy really aligned with this launch, and we didn’t want to lose out on that. We felt it was such a good moment to interact.
“There’s such a significant fatigue when it comes to virtual events. And there’s a way to do it amazingly with opulence and stunning imagery, but really nothing is the same as that tangible moment where you’re with your friends, or maybe you’re meeting someone new, or you’re having this moment where you’ve been sitting inside for a year and a half, and it’s your time to shine—even if it’s just for two minutes in front of that camera. I think it’s something so powerful, and it’s something we really didn’t want to miss out on with this launch.”
Experience Over Social Impressions
Although YSL Beauty’s photo-centric activation lent itself well to social sharing, the brand was more focused on delivering a great in-the-moment experience than racking up impressions.
“The goal here was really to interact with consumers and spread the message of NU. And we saw a ton of social coverage from the event where people were sharing the photos they were taking,” says Ivanoff. “But a lot of consumers’ profiles are private and, at the end of the day, the goal isn’t always necessarily social impressions, but how did we sample people?”