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Lady Gaga: Haus Labs rebrand reveals beauty industry complexity

Launched in September 2019, Lady Gaga’s beauty brand is being refreshed for June 2022. Does it mean she failed?

Haus Labs is moving from a mass market line of cosmetics to a premium clean beauty collection of innovative beauty products. While there is no suggestion that the brand has failed, it has nonetheless had a rethink of its marketing and market position. But the question that’s on our minds at _shift is, how does a talented and well-funded star like Gaga need to rebrand her makeup line?

Image courtesy of amazon.com

When it was launched in autumn 2019, Haus Laboratories, as it was then titled, advocated accessibility with its affordable products sold only through Amazon. However, in less than three years, a total rebranding has taken place with art, science and kindness as brand pillars – and a wider distribution. On the @houselabs Instagram account, it says: “Introducing Haus Labs by Lady Gaga, a new brand reimagined: supercharged clean artistry makeup powered by innovation.” With what the brand describes on Instagram as: “high-tech + high-pigment + high-performance,” the products will also provide skincare benefits. And this is how the Gaga brand wants to win customers.

Flop or not ?

Fashion marketing course leader at London College of Fashion Anthony McGrath says: “For a brand to succeed in this market it has to have a real USP (unique selling point). Simply being a vegan and cruelty-free and being backed by Lady Gaga isn’t enough, particularly in this industry.” Being a celebrity is not enough, and the position of Haus Labs contrasts with Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, part of LVMH. McGrath explains that the reason Fenty is successful is not only that Rihanna was behind it but that: “It launched with a strong, and at the time, unique USP of being available in over 40 skin shades.” And this USP has proved vital for Fenty.

Despite the criticism, the question of the brand’s success is difficult to assess. McGrath says Haus Labs recorded revenue of $141.7 million in 2020. In comparison, the OLBG show business celebrity earnings report shows that Rihanna brings in $570 millions a year with Fenty Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics makes $200 millions. Kylie is also the most-followed beauty brand on Instagram. All in all, in terms of revenue, Haus Labs has done pretty well.

Amazon exclusivity

For a brand to stand out today, potential buyers must see it everywhere; people need to see celebrities wearing it, on buses, online and offline, McGrath says. And above all, the customer experience remains paramount as customers like to try before they buy. As the Haus Labs products have only been available on Amazon so far, the campaign has to be all the more powerful and striking to combat this exclusivity: “Clean makeup, more futuristic and innovative ingredients is an important message but it’s secondary,” says McGrath. “What is the primary marketing factor to be discussed here is, Gaga and Haus Labs took a real gamble in making the range only available from Amazon.”

The harsh reality of the industry

According to McGrath, Gaga has taken another very bold gamble in making the courageous decision to be an independent company in a competitive and tough industry: “The beauty and cosmetics industry has six key players including L’Oréal and Estée Lauder, with the top two earning nearly $56 Billion from this market alone. If a smaller rival brand becomes too competitive, they simply buy them.”

McGrath believes that Gaga might has been too busy shining as an actress to take the time to promote her brand properly. Merely being a celebrity is not enough to make a brand the next trend. As much as others, they must take the time to communicate their products so that consumers can, slowly but surely, integrate them into their daily lives.

Being a celebrity in the beauty market

Indeed, one might think that celebrities have a head start because they already have a community that will potentially buy their products. But the reality is that the public has much higher expectations for a star brand than for an average brand. It is assumed a celebrity would not fail. Onik Zeqiri, a makeup artist who worked with brands like NYX and who grew up as a huge Gaga fan expected a lot from the brand. He tried the Glam Attack liquid eyeshadow, the Le Riot lipgloss and the Glam Room palette. He says: “I’ve had big expectations for the products but the quality was just not what I was hoping for them.”

Ruth Jacobs, LCF lecturer in fashion marketing, digital and international marketing strategy, identifies another downside: “Celebrities could end up being restricted with future collaborations as they may be expected to use their own product range or show exclusivity to a specific brand or label.”

Gaga remains an example of perseverance. By redirecting her brand, she has proven that she has bounced back, whatever the reasons.

Find Haus Labs from June 9 only at hauslabs.com, Sephora.com in the US and Canada, and in 26 Sephora stores in the US. It will be available in other countries from autumn 2022.

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