Alison Garwood Jones

Rimmel Underground

Originally published in June 2007 in Cosmetics Magazine

(Originally appeared in The Coty Trends Report — special supplement to Cosmetics Magazine)

When Coty launched Rimmel Underground this past February it closed one of its most important real estate deals to date. Several recent failures in colour cosmetics—namely, L’Oreal’s HIP line of intense shades for ethnic consumers and Revlon’s Vital Radiance for women over 50—opened up 10 feet of extra space at every mass retail counter across the U.S. “The only way to maintain that space for colour cosmetics and prevent it from being sold to skincare companies,” says one Coty insider, “was to develop a brand that would be competitive and compelling enough to a appeal to a different core consumer.”

Enter Rimmel Underground. Sliding her way next to industry veterans like Maybelline’s preppy Great Lash Mascara and Cover Girl’s demure eyeshadow quads, Underground introduced herself as Rimmel London’s little sister. Judging from her look—acid greens paired with moody greys and girly-girl pinks all pressed into jagged patterns and packaged under see-through lids in shiny black compacts—she’s clearly the edgiest kid on the aisle.

But nowhere is her experimental image more clear than in her logo: — a coat of arms designed by a London tattoo artist featuring a capital “U” that stands for “Underground” and the text messaging abbreviation for “you” favoured by the 17-24 year old technosexuals this brand is targeting. The “U” is topped by a crown, the hottest symbol going for Generation Y (other than the skull), and book-ended by a unicorn, a perennial girl favourite, and a lion, symbolizing the brand’s all-important British roots. “London is the DNA of Rimmel,” says our expert. “It’s home to most of the music and designers these kids are inspired by—everyone from Björk and the Sugababes to designers of street chic togs like Triple Five Soul. It’s one of those places where you truly have a fully developed Generation Y culture.”

By increasing its presence at mass retail counters, Coty hopes to take back a substantial market share from popular niche brands like Pout, Smashbox, Two Face, Urban Decay and Hard Candy. “Ten years ago the niche category represented 11 percent of the market and today it’s 44 percent,” says our expert. “I don’t know how girls can afford these brands, but they’re willing to pay more for the eye-catching colours and gimmicky packaging. We offer a niche feel, but for considerably less.” Underground shadows and lip lacquers retail for $7.95 and $8.95 respectively.

Noticeably absent from the Underground brand is any mention of technology. “This is not a group who responds to claims like, ‘This mascara is going to make your lashes 30 percent longer’ or ‘This foundation is going to keep away the shine for this many hours,’” says our expert. “They’re young and fresh, so they don’t care about performance claims. These girls are poets and artists at heart, and they’re drawn to textures, finishes and shades they can manipulate to tell a story.”

Underground’s latest story is Light Beam Lipgloss, an all-in-one fruit-flavoured floss in cherry, silver and mauve shades. It comes with a mirror and LED light designed for those occasions when you find yourself lost in the haze of smoke in a club and unable to claw your way to the bathroom mirror. In the language of Y, “It’s slammin’!”

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