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Beauty brands collaborate with games in limited edition products: a hit or a miss?

(Nyupenko, 2021)

The global beauty industry generates $500 billion in sales a year; it took a big hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic, making the sales drop by 35% in the US alone (McKinsey, 2020). The brands needed to adapt to the new reality of higher demand for self-care products and loss of interest in makeup for many. Collaborations with games to produce exciting products was one of the strategies to keep the sales from flat-lining completely.

NYX came out with a Tetris collaboration earlier this week; surprising the beauty community with this seemingly random partnership. This is a debut gaming partnership for NYX, and it features multiple products such as eyeshadow palette, eyeliners and lip kits inspired by the puzzle game that has been a household name for a few decades. The collection received mixed reviews so far despite not releasing its physical drops at ULTA yet, mainly due to most of the products not being unique to the collection but rather a repackaged version of pre-existing shades of NYX makeup as well as much higher pricing than their regular products.

Only time will tell whether the collection will be a success or a flop; however, NYX isn’t the only brand to come out with gaming collaboration recently. Coulourpop Cosmetics collaborated with Animal Crossing: New Horizons back in January 2021, which was a success, the collection is still available on the website and had multiple re-stocks. The success of the collaboration was attributed to interesting packaging, shades and products that weren’t previously featured in Colourpop’s range as well as the storytelling and design that was very consistent with the game, instantly charming all of its fans.

MAC also didn’t shy away from the gaming world opportunity, collaborating with Tencent’s game “Honor of Kings”, a Chinese online game, back in 2019. The makeup brand released a lipstick collection inspired by the female characters of the game, which was a well-planned strategic move since the majority of “Honor of Kings” players are female. MAC is also one of the top-four most selling makeup brands on the Chinese market; making it an already strong player. The collection was an incredible success as it sold out in under 24 hours. This year the partnership has been renewed for a second installment, this time inspired by the male characters of the game. This time around it won’t be a China exclusive; it will also be available online in the UK and the USA by popular demand.

Not all collaborations between games and makeup brands end in success. Back in January of this year, MAC has partnered up with Sims 4, releasing a makeup palette in stores as well as in-game makeup range. The collaboration was quickly met with a lot of criticism, branding some in-game MAC looks weird and straight up inappropriate. The eyeshadow palette also wasn’t doing any better, the shades had nothing to do with the game and looked like something MAC already sold in their stores. The description of the palette also raised a lot of questions since it said that the palette was inspired by the skin tones present in Sims 4. Sims has been known to be criticized for their limited skin tone range of the characters, excluding players of color. Overall the collection was a one big train wreck from start to finish and MAC even had to pull it from their stores.

Makeup and gaming collaborations can be very beneficial to both the brand and the game, allowing to tap into new audiences and increase sales as well as brand awareness; however, it has to be meticulously executed with a solid plan behind the collection and its target audience. Inclusivity for all skin tones needs to be the key point the brands should pay attention to when releasing collaborations, making the collection more appealing to younger consumers like Gen Z. Re-using already existing products in new packaging is never a good idea and mostly shows the brand’s lazy attempt at marketing to a new audience without any thought behind the collaboration.

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