What's with Lancôme's Unstoppable Energy?


Having only recently completed the third part of my fragrance brand launch project at uni, I can honestly say I have been looking at perfume and, in general, beauty brands with a different perspective. I can especially appreciate how difficult it can be to try and keep every single element of a launch campaign on brand, from the name, the logo and the strapline, to the colour palette, the symbols, the fonts, the online presence, and, of course, the various forms of advertisement, including print and video. Which is why I found the recent Lancôme "Energie de vie" commercial quite intriguing.

It is a pretty striking video whose intention appears quite clear to me: it is bold, it is engaging, it is inspirational and aspirational. The powerful voiceover features strong words and the footage itself is fast-paced, wild, adventurous, set in an urbanised nature and with a Thelma and Louise road trip vibe.

Still from Ridley Scott's Thelma & Louise (1991).

The first thing that caught my attention was how different the tone of voice of the video was from Lancôme's overall brand identity. Thinking I might have missed some pivotal change in consumer base or brand identity, I searched for other recent campaigns by the French luxury beauty house, but they only confirmed my intuition.

Lancôme's previous ad campaigns.

Lancôme is a high-end perfume and cosmetics brand with over 75 years on its back and known for its refined, French luxury and this is consistently weaved through their products, in-store and online experiences, and ad campaigns. They target mainly women in their 40s whose focus is to keep looking healthy and young.

And it's not even to do with their "new face". Lily Collins, the face of the Énergie de Vie video ad, is certainly an unusual spokeswoman for the French brand, whose campaigns usually feature Hollywood stars the likes of Kate Winslet (40), Penelope Cruz (42) and Julia Roberts (48), all actresses and women of a quite higher caliber than Collins as well as, naturally, higher age (Collins has just turned 27 in March). However, other previous Lancôme campaigns which featured the young British-American actress clearly conformed to the brand's usual approach to ads:

Lily Collins in other Lancôme's campaigns.

Yet this video's aesthetics and tone of voice seem to completely overturn these values. I honestly would never have guessed it was Lancôme hadn't there been a hovering logo on the top left throughout the whole thing! This ad is grungy, gritty, rebellious, it has attitude, it has spirit, it tastes of leather jackets and car tires on sand and urban streets. It has a decisive Millennial appeal, the sort of motivational "no-bullshit" type of narrative that this younger, but somewhat more cynical generation is attracted to like bees to honey. The style of it actually really reminded me of Baz Luhrmann's 1999 "Sunscreen" video. Both the music and script add to this feel, reaching their climax in a freedom-claiming and strongly feminist statement:

"you can do this, you can own this, you'll be proud
show the world what we're made of (...)
my energy is unstoppable
i'll show you what i'm made of"

There's nothing wrong with attempting to rejuvenate one's consumer base and to reach to a wider target audience by tweaking and matching one's brand's values to the aspirations of a new segment. As Françoise Lehmann, Lancôme’s CEO, explained, “The goal is not to rejuvenate the brand, only to target a wider population of women”. However, even the print ads for this same product which I found online seem to be completely clashing against the attitude of this video, maintaining instead Lancôme's traditional clean, fresh and organic feel which appeals to a sense of quality, trust and honesty in their products.

So my question is: what's your plan, Lancôme? You gotta make up your mind and pull all your strings together if you want your message to come through. As a matter of fact, I found it pretty hard to find a full version of the video, and none completely in English without subtitles: it has 4,000 views on Lancome Österreich (Austria), 2,193 in Lancome Suisse (Switzerland) and not even 1,000 on Lancome France YouTube channel. It looks good, so why hasn't it gone viral yet? Maybe because no one has got a clue what you've been up to with your campaigns.

Over and out,
B. x

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