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Will Christian Louboutin Beauté dilute the brand name?

May 14, 2012


French footwear designer Christian Louboutin will begin selling beauty products in late 2013, which could leverage the brand across a mainstream category as long as it does not dilute the name.

Louboutin announced last week that it will partner with Batallure Beauty to create and market Christian Louboutin Beauté products. While some experts say this is a good move to broaden the consumer base, others feel that a beauty line could dilute the brand.

"Christian Louboutin has established a strong brand around a single product line of high-end designer shoe with the immediately-recognizable red sole," said Karen Kreamer, president of K2 Brand Consulting, Overland Park, KS. "Extending the brand into beauty products is a good first step before determining how, or if, the brand should be further extended.

"Correct execution is critical to the success of this brand extension," she said. "Every aspect of the new beauty product line – product development, packaging, pricing, retail presence and promotion – must be consistent with the values and attributes of the core brand.

"If the brand extension is not perfectly aligned with the core brand, it can result in brand dilution or damage to the core brand."

Christian Louboutin did not comment directly.

Batallure Beauty is a business development company that creates beauty brands and in-store experiences for labels and retailers.

Louboutin lipstick
Louboutin entered into a joint venture with Batallure to establish Christian Louboutin Beauté. Products will be released in late 2013.

Batallure will assist the label in establishing a beauty line that will help women transform their look through beauty products as a pair of Louboutin shoes transforms a woman, per Batallure cofounder Robin Burns.

The beauty line is a natural extension of the label to further empower women, per Louboutin.

Louboutin has not yet announced the types of products that will be offered or its marketing plans, but it is likely that it will rely on a seemingly untouchable reputation in the footwear industry to leverage the beauty products.

"A branded line of beauty products can reinforce the Christian Louboutin brand attributes of quality, style and exclusivity," Ms. Kreamer said.

"Most importantly, this strategy has the ability to evolve brand perceptions from simply a footwear brand and start to establish it in the minds of consumers as a broader style brand," she said.

The beauty of business
Beauty is an emerging trend among fashion brands such as Chanel, Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Jacobs, but it may confuse consumers, sway from the original label image or get lost in a cluttered marketplace (see story).

Dior spring/summer 2012 lipstick

“I think there is real danger of hurting the core brand [with a beauty extension], rather than helping it,” said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, Stephens, PA.

“The marketplace is getting more and more crowded with brands that really do not mean a thing,” she said. “Christian Louboutin might look at this launch as low-risk, because if it does not work it can be closed down with little notice.

“I think the real danger is taking the focus of the business and the executives that work there from the core brand.”

Many fashion labels have successfully launched beauty lines, but only time will tell if a brand will stick in the industry.

For example, storied beauty brands including Christian Dior and Chanel remain leaders in the industry most likely through an association with a high-fashion label or a time-measured status, according to a recent study by Brand Finance (see story).

“In earlier days, there was a purity to luxury where a brand had to be a specialist in a specific category.” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, New York. “Chanel has dispelled that myth and now there are many brands that are in multiple categories.

“In reality, consumers are willing to accept new line extensions from revered and loved brands like Chanel, he said. “Consumers have become flexible.

“It is true that specialists can do extremely well, but the facts also now prove that mutlicategory brands can do extremely well, which was not the case five years ago.”

With more than 45 percent of searches for the footwear giant, Christian Louboutin is the most sought-after shoe heritage brand, according to findings from a study by Digital Luxury Group (see story).

The label will most likely attempt to translate the attractiveness of its footwear into Christian Louboutin Beauté.

“Christian Louboutin has established such luxury, quality and chic credentials that he can leverage the brand into many categories,” Mr. Pedraza said.

Meanwhile, taking a label away from its core in order to learn the ins and outs of a new product category threatens the integrity of its base, per Unity Marketing’s Ms. Danziger.

“When are designers finally going to figure out they cannot be all things to all people?” Ms. Danziger said.

Final Take
Tricia Carr, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York