Sidestepping Celebrity for a Rare Breed of Influencer: The Socialite.

Princess Stephanie of Monaco for La Prairie Skin Care

There is a lot of conversation these days about “Influencers” in beauty.  In the past this breed of brand ambassadors ranged from mothers and girlfriends on one end to Hollywood celebrities on the other; simply, women who influence other women on beauty products. Today the Influencer has expanded beyond mom and the celebrity to vloggers, bloggers, and anyone with a large enough following that listens to what she has to say.  Her influence has the power to make or break a new beauty product with a simple yes or no. But some 30 years ago a beauty brand with little awareness in the U.S. selected a very unique type of influencer, the Socialite.   All of the socialites selected for the campaign were unknown to the majority of women in the country.  However, the 1% of women aware of them was exactly the highly targeted audience that La Prairie Skin Care wanted to reach.

I was at Peter Rogers Associates, the ad agency that created the La Prairie beauty campaign “Beauty Is Not Only Skin Deep” back in the mid-80’s.

What made this skin care campaign unique at that time was that none of the women were Hollywood celebrities — they were prominent Socialites that were highly influential in their elite social circles.  Mind you back in 1985 La Prairie Skin Caviar was the most expensive skin care product on the market (it even came with its own silver spoon!).Screen shot 2016-01-10 at 6.43.47 PM

The challenge for La Prairie, then a Swiss owned company, was to overcome low awareness and distribution in the U.S. prestige market.  What the “Beauty Is Not Only Skin Deep” campaign did to tackle this marketing challenge was to create a “social buzz” using these “influencers”.  The beauty ambassadors were hardly household names, however, within their elite social circles they reigned supreme creating a consumer demand for the product in department stores. Beside the influencing power of the brand ambassadors the campaign provide an additional unique component – philanthropy.

Each ambassador received $50,000 for the charity of her choice. Beginning with Princess Aga Khan of Palm Beach the money was donated to Alzheimer research – her mother Susan Hayward the actress was an early famous face of what was then a hardly understood diagnosis.  Ann Getty passed along the money to the San Francisco Opera – she was a board member.  Mrs. Judith Peabody’s from NY donated her ‘stipend’ to the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Mrs. Oscar Wyatt of Texas donated her share to the Houston Grand Opera. Princess Stephanie, featured in the ad above, donated her $50K in honor of her mother, Princess Grace, and her foundation supporting new talent in the arts.

Princess Yasmin
Princess Yasmin

The impactful portraits of these socialite influencers was shot by the legendary photographer Horst P Horst known for his signature black and white photography that capture elegance and timeless glamour.  Next to her photo was the only copy on the page that identified the individual and her charity.

Screen shot 2016-01-09 at 4.43.40 PM
Horst P Horst

Unique and incredibly bold for the time was the absence of a product photo in the ad, only the La Prairie logo discretely placed in the lower right hand corner.

With the classic portrait of socialite influencers, a philanthropic cause mentioned under the headline “Beauty Is Not Only Skin Deep”, a new skincare line was launched with great success.  The unexpected and powerful influencers created an awareness of both La Prairie in skin care, and a variety of causes and charities. The brand remains one of the most prestigious names in beauty today and is still in demand by “socialites” and other mere mortals around the world.

To learn more about beauty influencers go to MR. BEAUTY: AN AFFAIR WITH THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY.

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