Analysis: Sephora inks deal with stationery brand Stabilo. Yes! And why?

 

LVMH-owned Sephora has collaborated with stationery brand Stabilo to launch liquid eye liners shaped and packaged just like the latter's iconic highlighter. According to a description on Sephora's website, the felt-tip eyeliners were inspired by pocket-size version highlighters Stabilo Boss Mini, and was aimed at bringing a bit of the classroom to the bathroom. 

A quick check by Marketing saw that the partnership is not just for the Singapore market, and is also available in Malaysia, Italy, United Arab Emirates and France as well. Marketing has reached out to Sephora for additional information on the partnership. As unconventional as the partnership is, this is not the first of its kind quirky collaboration.

Some other unconventional partnerships include that between office supplies brand 3M and adidas - a partnership that has endured for over 43 years. Inspired by its 1970s Nite Jogger – the first reflective running shoe in the industry – adidas worked with 3M last year to create a new runner that meets the needs of modern-day road runners but adds progressive design elements. That included swapping out one of adidas' three-stripe marks for a giant "3M" in 3M Scotchlite Reflective Material. The 3M Scotchlite Reflective Material has been used on the adidas line since its 1976 launch.  

Co-branding comes in many shapes and sizes, says Graham Hitchmough, regional chief operations officer at Bonsey Design. Speaking to Marketing, Hitchmough explained that "ingredient co-branding" is found in the premium space, with the likes of BMW tapping Mont Blanc or Louis Vuitton for interior designs to accentuate its luxury proposition. It can also be used to reflect common interest and values such as for GoPro and Red Bull, or to enhance and differentiate service experience such as Spotify and Starbucks. It can also be used to create new levels of consumer engagement, loyalty and community (Nike and Apple), or to strategically dominate business sectors (Apple and Mastercard).

As such, the Sephora-Stabilo link-up is an example of a particular type of ‘disruptive’ product co-branding, in which the brands involved on the face of it have no affinity whatsoever. 

“However, dig a little deeper and it is clear there is a winning crossover of brand and product equities. The neon palette, distinctive design and precision of the Stabilo brand actually plays perfectly into the cosmetics territory and fully supports Sephora’s stated purpose to ‘create inviting beauty and shopping experiences and inspire fearlessness in or community’,” he added. Overall, it is a win-win situation for Sephora and Stabilo.

According to Hitchmough, while the actual sales of the product might not sustain after the initial excitement wears off, both brands will be left enhanced both commercially and in terms of brand affinity and recall. He was also quick to add:

As our industry emerges globally from lockdown, we can expect to see much more co-branding. 

“Not only are the costs and risks of such initiatives shared by the brand owners, but consumers might also need some extra enticement to venture back into physical retail. And we would all welcome a bit more fun, creativity and variety in our lives. So hopefully Stabilo eyeliners won’t be the only highlight we can all look forward to in the near future,” he said.

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Adwright’s creative partner, Nafe Tong was of the view that Stabilo’s venture into the cosmetic space generates good PR to showcase its creativity and innovation. Moreover, Stabilo is a familiar brand to youths, hence this encourages the younger audience to start exploring make-up with the Stabilo brand. According to Tong, this may present Stabilo to a new market entry, and at the same time prove to the old-time fans who grew up with the brand that they are truly ambassadors of being "vibrant and creative" and are here to stay.

In addition, Stabilo gets to expand its brand presence to the Sephora audience and gain brand recall too. This is an interesting opportunity to not miss out on, and that he foresees beauty influencers vying to try on this product.

It's almost as if the narratives have already presented itself.

“Perhaps this collaboration also brings childhood aspiration into reality, it really brings a sense of nostalgia and reminiscence to those fun times,” he said.

In terms of unique partnerships, Tong said SKII launching its Mickey Mouse design at the start of 2020 was a clever, albeit eyebrow raising, move. “SKII was not disrupting its own elegance it had built for years, but simply borrowing star power from Mickey in the year of Rat to tap into the younger community as they may have initially thought of SKII to be too unattainable,” he was quick to add. According to Tong, collaborations and partnerships these days lend one another influence to stay relevant and to gain wider fan base.

“Think of it this way, keeping to one's brand integrity does limit itself to expand beyond its own horizons, hence one way to work around such is to be associated with a brand from a new environment. If anything, such collaborations can serve as a testing phase to see if it works and if it does, a new product range may be born and further developed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dominic Mason, managing director, SEA at Sedgwick Richardson said both brands achieve access to and kudos among a segment of young women who have recently “graduated” from picking pencils and markers at Popular to exploring and expanding their repertoire of beauty products. He was quick to add that the both brands cleverly tapped into a new generation who are experimenting with products for other uses than what they were intended. These days beauty hacks can be found everywhere online, one trend which has gone viral sees people using Sharpie markers and other branded highlighters to colour their hair.

“Isn’t it clever? A smooth transition from colouring examination papers to eyes and a seamless product category cross-over from stationery to cosmetics,” he added, explaining that while the partnership does seem unconventional, Stabilo is a German stationery brand that is actually part of Schwan-Stabilo. Schwan is the company’s cosmetics brand and appears to have emerged from the first eyebrow pencils created around a century ago. According to Mason, one could argue this launch was prompted by beauty hack videos which saw people melting down crayons and using them as DIY lipstick. 

"Ultimately, this highlights the importance of social listening and responding to trends to stay relevant and find new sales avenues. Responding to demand and these trends can also make consumers feel part of the collaboration, increasing the chances for brand loyalty," he added. 

For Mason, the Haagen Dazs and Carlsberg partnership on a co-branded communications campaign many years ago stood out. “Unlike Sephora + Stabilo it did not involve product design but it was a truly memorable partnership that played on gender stereotypes at the time. That remains a unique co-branding initiative for me,” he said.

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