Megan Fazio

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					Megan Fazio

            Propaganda in Action Case Study: Benefit Cosmetics
                    Training Team and Sales Tactics

This case study is a detailed examination of a particular propaganda practice in a present

day campaign and was selected as a prime example of how cosmetics companies, one in

particular, Benefit Cosmetics, appeals to its selling team and thenceforth how the selling

team utilizes the propagandized tactics to sell the cosmetic line to the general public.

Applying the 10 step analysis in Dr. Jowett/O‟Donnell‟s book Propaganda and

Persuasion, this case study will examine the propagandist, audience and several

techniques exploited.

The Background

       Benefit Cosmetics is a quirky makeup line that has been in establishment since

1976, however its recent success has allowed it to become a top cosmetic corporation

with the most growth out of any major department store cosmetic line, nearly doubling its

growth in just seven years. Not only is this information impressive, it‟s a wonder exactly

how this company expansion was even achievable. In general, most major companies or

business owners know that it takes time and money (and a lot of both) to expand a

business. That rule is no exception for the owners (yes, there are two, twins to be

specific) and founders of the quirky cosmetics line that I have been employed with for a

little over two years now. Jean and Jane Ford were formerly the Calgon Fragrance
advertisement twins, and have been in the beauty industry ever since. In 1976, Jean and

Jane opened a tiny 455 sq. ft. make up boutique in San Francisco‟s Mission District

called “The Face Place”. Three decades later, the twins have opened nearly 2,000 Benefit

counters in over 25 different countries world wide, propelling the brand to a $200 million

dollar global business that it is today.

        The tale is told in nearly every training class that these two business-made women

actually flipped a coin to decide whether they wanted to open either a casserole or

lipstick shop to pursue their entrepreneur dreams after their Calgon modeling contract

terminated. However no matter which side the coin had landed, (though it is quite

obvious which side prevailed) these twins were destined for success due to the Ford

sister‟s coveted “8 Step Magic Formula” sales technique. This case study analyzes the

propaganda behind this “magic” formula, how the training team appeals the method to

the sales people, and thenceforth how the sales team of make up artists inconspicuously

appeals the product to the general public utilizing the sales technique.

        Below: Jean and Jane Ford,

        Founders of Benefit Cosmetics
The Context, Ideology, and Purpose of the Propaganda Campaign

       These former models have developed a cult beauty brand that continues to grow

world wide. The ideology and purpose of the campaign is to promote high end cosmetics

products that enhance beauty with instant gratification products focused into two

subcategories of “Fake its” and “Fix its”. The context in which this propaganda occurs is

through retail sales in department stores and free standing boutiques. Using a highly

recognizable ideology of a kind of “old school Hollywood glam” stylized packaging and

counter schematics, the line focuses on a classic kind of makeup look, good for the „every

day‟ kind of gal. It is said that “Integration propaganda attempts to maintain the positions

and interests represented by “officials” who sponsor or sanction the propaganda

messages” (1, pg 271). Considering Jean and Jane Ford grew up in the 1960‟s era, this

ideology seems to branch from their personal familiarities with that time period. Some of

the product names include: Hollywood Glow, Oh La Lift, and Dr. Feelgood for example.

The twins are said to still have product naming sessions on Thursday afternoons for

product and shade names (2).

       Another type of purpose of the propaganda campaign is what is recognized as

agitation propaganda. “Agitation propaganda seeks to arouse people to participate in or

support a cause. It attempts to arouse people from apathy by giving them feasible actions

to carry out” (1, pg 271). This is where the actual program side of propaganda comes in

to play. The bees knees, the bread and butter of all sales… and this cosmetic company

has every single employee behind any given Benefit counter able to repeat this selling

process in his or her sleep: The 8 Step Magic Formula. These Benefit Cosmetics beauty
artists have been trained selling machines, and this formula is the sole reason why this

cosmetics line has been able to compete with top selling brands in such a short amount of

time. These eight letters are the secret to success: TSDCCCSA, the acronym for: To Sit

Down Customers Can Create Serious Activity. In other words, the whole concept of the

sales formula is to get the customer to sit down which in turn can create serious activity,

or sales. Though this process sounds simple, it is in fact very complex and also quite

innovative. To continue, the process is even more specific: (Please also refer to

attachment „Magic Formula‟ from employee handbook).

This formula (TSDCCCSA) is also the acronym for:

   1. Traffic Stop

   2. Sit n Spritz

   3. Demonstrate

   4. Commitment/Stockpile/Continue

   5. Close

   6. Celebrity File

   7. Sample

   8. Appointment

When the procedure is applied to every customer, it is surely the „method to the madness‟

and referred to as a “proven selling method that will ensure success” directly from Jean

and Jane Ford, who are the studied propagandists. Allow me, the expert beauty artist, to


When a beauty artist “traffic stops” a client, it can be anyone. Let me clarify, not just

anyone, but everyone, as the company emphasizes in the Induction Training class. Each
beauty artist can traffic stop with three phrases: the company name “Benefit”, a product

itself, or a product “one liner” (and every product has its own one liner).

Examples include:

    “Have you had the Benefit experience?”

    “Wanna try to brow kit for perfect arches?” (Benefit Brow Zings Pack one liner)

    “Have you tried the best mascara in the world?” (As Benefit Badgal Lash

       mascara was voted number one in Elle Magazine for 2008).

This technique not only makes Benefit beauty artists (B.A.‟s) notably the hardest working

girls in cosmetics because they are working for their business through individual

promotion, it allows the brand to stand out. If you look around the cosmetics department

of a given department store, it is practically guaranteed that none of the already

“established” makeup lines have employees trying to „traffic stop‟ their potential

business, because the line is already established through reputation. The ideology behind

the Benefit Cosmetics line, however, is that every person is your commission walking

past the counter, which is why the Benefit Training team drills this concept into the

beauty artist‟s mind during the course of training, where the propaganda takes place.

       Once the customer sits, in true Benefit style, the BA has been instructed to “pat

the seat” (and around 2/10 people will actually sit.) Once again, let me interject and say

that this is the same material practiced at any given Benefit counter in the world,

institutionalized by the Benefit training team and from the minds of the company

owners…sound a little cultish yet? No? I‟ll continue… In a company wide sent e-mail

addressed to the Business Managers at every Benefit counter, the Training Team
Corporate Office noted how important it is to maintain “uniformity” so that clients will

have the same “experience globally at any given Benefit counter”.

       The second step is to “spritz” the customer with any of the line‟s five fragrances

so that the fragrance can mix with the client‟s body chemistry and hopefully be added to

the sale at the end of the formula. But let‟s not get ahead, after all, the Benefit motto is to

“show, not sell”.

       Next is the demonstration. The beauty artist must “show” four Fake-it products,

which is the actual cosmetic or makeup itself, which obviously provides instant

gratification to the customer, as the product masks imperfections on the client. Although

this sounds like the norm in any like sales job, there is more to it, more specifically, the

coveted Mirror Technique. Perhaps the most important part of the entire propaganda

campaign. This technique is considered the most important because it is where the

propaganda is now preceded to the customer. As quoted from the Benefit Beauty Artist

Training Manual, the BA must, “First demo on half of the face. On the second half of the

face, ask feedback questions. I.e. „Which ones made the biggest difference?‟ „Which ones

surprised you the most?‟” The reason this is key is because by asking open ended

questions, the customer has to answer that they liked something that did, in fact, make a

difference. By this statement coming out of the customer‟s mouth, the beauty artist only

led the question and simply received the response, so it seems as if the beauty artist is no

longer telling you why the product is good, because the customer just explained to the

beauty artist that they liked it, that the product had made a difference, why or how it

made a difference, or sometimes all three.
        Hook, line, and next… sinker as the saying holds true. The next step is to get the

commitment of purchase from the customer. In a training class, the beauty artists are

instructed to remind the customer by saying something like, “Since you told me that this

product felt so great on your skin, can I pull your favorite product for you?” The

customer is simply propagandized into thinking that because this statement came out of

their very own mouth, why wouldn‟t they want the product if they, themselves said

moments ago that the product felt great on their skin.

        The rest is pretty much irrelevant once the sale has been committed to. The beauty

artist keeps the customer on file if they decide to purchase a product which makes the

customer exclusive to the Benefit counter, then gives the customer a sample of skin care

to try out at home, and books an appointment in two weeks to ensure that the customer

remains loyal to the line. This is another reason why each beauty artist is only instructed

to show four fake it products at a time, so as to keep the customer returning to try more

products. And in order to verbally lead the customer into the appointment, the beauty

artist is instructed to say, “So, Sally, since we had such a great time today, as part of our

service to you, I‟m going to book you an appointment two weeks from today, same time,

same day, to try out any look you want or focus on any beauty needs.” This time, instead

of leading the question, the beauty artist does not ask at all, they tell the client they are

booking the appointment, planting in the customer‟s head that they are now exclusive

customers and are assumed to be so. That is the “8 Step Magic Formula” as broken down

by a beauty artist who has been through four training classes and put these “magical”

steps to use thirty eight hours a week.
       To further delve into the wording of the “8 Step Magic Formula”, I also wanted to

define the word “magic” considering it is in the title of the propagandized selling

technique: “„Magic‟ 3(noun) - the art of producing allusions by sleight of hand.” (3).

Hm… No kidding.

Identification of the Propagandist and the Structure of the Propaganda


       The propagandist(s) are ultimately the co creators: Jean and Jane Ford, who have

utilized the “trickle down effect” approach to their training team who travel to different

stores within five US regions and coach each selling team. In this case the propagandist

becomes the trainer, wherein the salesperson on the selling team gains knowledge from

the trainer to be utilized during sales with the general public, making the

salesperson/make up artist the most important propagandist in the trickle down effect, as

they are the ones who carry out the sales technique to the general public.

       The structure of the propaganda organization is centered on “The 8 Step Magic

Formula”. (See attached copy). In reference to the structure of the selling formula,

“Structure also includes the articulation of specific goals and the means by which to

achieve them” (1, pg. 273). The structure generally originates from a “strong, centralized,

decision-making authority…the leader will have a certain style that enables her or him to

attract, maintain, and mold the members into organizational units. The leadership style

may include the mythic elements of ideology, a charismatic personality, and/or

identification with the audience” (1, pg 273). Since Jean and Jane Ford were the Calgon

fragrances spokeswomen/commercial models and were already established in the

cosmetics and fragrance industry, this aided their identification with the beauty industry.
In fact, their leadership style includes charismatic personalities; they‟re twins that grew

up in San Francisco, and who have both lived the glamorous life during their Calgon

modeling campaign. However, they also bring a “down to earth” vibe by demonstrating

an inherent lack of stiff like professionalism by cursing like sailors during training

classes, which I have had the pleasure to first hand experience. Their identification with

the audience is that that they are regular women who want to still remain fun (like the

packaging) and still be beautiful (like the products assist other women who use their

product to look and feel).

   A. The make up (no pun intended) of the membership of the propaganda


   1. Entry into membership is gained by being hired by Benefit Cosmetics, or for the

       public, entry is gained by being “traffic stopped” and seated by an employee of

       Benefit Cosmetics. (See attached “Beauty Artist Induction Checklist”).

       “The structure of propaganda organizations also varies according to whether the

       communication is within the organization or directed to the public. The analyst

       may discern two different and separate structures-one for the hierarchy and

       membership and one for the audience and potential members.” (1, 275).

   2. Evidence of conversion occurs by using the makeup line itself which is presented

       in the welcome kit to each new employee, or for the public, switching over from

       another cosmetics line to Benefit Cosmetics.

   3. Benefit supplies each beauty artist with two standard Benefit shirts to be worn at

       the counter everyday, event shirts for every new launch of products, Benefit
       necklaces, Benefit aprons, etc. all of which are the same world wide and can be

       easily recognized by the general public if they are familiar with the line.

Below: Benefit corporately promoted event for the launch of “Thrrrob” facial blusher in

2007. Notice the event T-shirts that promote the idea of belonging to an organization.

   4. In group references include all the “one-liners” for product knowledge that are

       standard knowledge for every beauty artist at any given counter in the world.

       (Please refer to the Beauty Artist Training Manual provided for examples). All

       product one liners give a sense of recognition to the client. For example, if a client

       picked up a “California Kissin” lip-gloss at any given Benefit counter and

       inquired as to what exactly the product was, each beauty artist would be able to

       recite, “California Kissin is a smile brightening lip-gloss that‟s more fun than a

       trip to the dentist!”

   5. Benefit Cosmetics is also the only cosmetics line to have a “reward program” for

       its employees. The much sought after reward program in the cosmetics industry is
called Benefit‟s “Pot O‟ Gold” (See attachment), and the program is most sought

after because it‟s the only one of its kind in the high end cosmetics industry. Each

counter has different goals based on: the amount of traffic in the store, and the

overall LY (last year‟s) sales at the counter. For example, at the Houston Galleria,

each beauty artist must sell an average of $40 per hour to qualify for the weekly

reward program. By offering this “incentive” to the employee, the employee may

readily assumes that this money is a given token of appreciation and out of the

sheer generosity of Benefit Cosmetics corporate offices, however, by being

exposed to the idea of propaganda, I have discovered this also greatly benefits the

company. Each BA strives to sell more to receive more of a pay out for

commission, but this ultimately helps the BA to utilize the “8 step Magic

Formula” which only in turn ensures the company will make more money. This

keeps the BA on top of their game, giving incentive to traffic stop customers

while also making the company more money. Let‟s face it, being lethargic and

only helping customers when they‟re in need of assistance is much easier than

constantly putting oneself out of a usual comfort zone by attempting to make

hesitant customers sit in the “hot seat” and try new products. I also took it upon

myself to investigate Benefit‟s Pot O‟ Gold Program, and the information I found

only reassured that the purpose of the program was to offer the minimum

incentive to the BA in order to entice the employee put the “8 Step Magic

Formula” to use. For example, in spring of 2007 at the Galleria location in

Houston, the POG commission rate went up 1% every 5 dollars sold, starting at

40 dollars an hour in sales for the week. Now however, the current rate at the
       Galleria goes up at only .5% every week, which doesn‟t seem like a big

       difference, but this small .5% reduction saves the company that much more

       money on commission pay outs. For example, if a BA averaged at $85/hour

       working 35 hours in a week in spring 2007, the BA would receive $414.40 extra

       in commission on his or her paycheck for one week. However because a new,

       stronger team of beauty artists in terms of selling statistics came into the Houston

       Galleria store, the company lowered the POG percentage rate. So, if a BA does

       the exact same amount of work as a BA in spring 2007 did, (averaging $85/hour

       working 35 hours a week) the BA would only make $287.00 in commission. That

       sounds like a difference of $127.40 of peculiarity to me. Could the ever popular

       POG program have been revised to “benefit” Benefit?

The Target Audience

       The target audience in terms of integration propaganda, which “attempts to

maintain the positions and interests represented by officials who sponsor and sanction

propaganda messages”, are the training team who the founders of Benefit Cosmetics push

the “8 step Magic Formula” to educate on. The target audience in reference to “agitation

propaganda” or that which attempts to arouse people to participate or support a cause

would be the sales associates or beauty artists that sell the actual cosmetic line to the

population. The Benefit training team attempts to arouse the selling team from

indifference by giving them feasible actions to carry out, which is henceforth broken

down into the eight step selling formula.
Media Utilization Techniques

Media utilization techniques include advertisements in magazines, sales floor displays of

products which have won beauty recognition in mass distributed magazines including

(but not limited to): Elle, Allure, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Internet advertisements

include the website, featured ads on Banana, as well

as You can now also “add” Benefit Cosmetics as a “friend” on the website

friend forums Myspace and Facebook. “Often, where propaganda is distributed, the

organization owns and controls its own media” (1, pg 274). This proves true in the

company owned, where the website offers exclusive on-line free

gifts with purchase to promote ordering from the website. The company also has an on-

line information page which features where Benefit counters and boutiques are located to

allow finding a store to go in and try the products more convenient, and of course, to

utilize the selling technique that is so important in the company‟s propaganda campaign.

Benefit Cosmetics is also the only cosmetics line in department stores to offer free

catalogues that feature all updated products. The company launches the catalogues every

season to be distributed as a service to the client, but also to be utilized in the “Traffic

Stopping” of clients by the beauty artists.

Special Techniques to Maximize Effects

Special techniques to maximize effects include the coveted “mirror” technique. This is

where the customer is shown the products on only one side of the face, and asked if they

see the difference. Then, on the second half of the face, the beauty artist is to ask the

customer open ended feedback questions in order to maximize the selling effect or idea
that it is the customer who is recognizing the difference in appearance when the cosmetic

is applied.

Audience Reaction to Various Techniques

        When the audience is the client being propagandized by the beauty artist, the

audience reaction to various techniques exploited in the “8 Step Magic Formula” includes

many “oohs” and “ahhs”. This may sounds silly, but this is the desired reaction from the

audience or client in the seat. The audience also answers the open ended question that the

beauty artist asks them in order to “magically” lure themselves into the sale, and thus, the

ultimate audience reaction is making the purchase when not expecting to do so before

being traffic stopped. Overtime, the propaganda purpose becomes realized and part of the

social scene through word of mouth. Many women gossip to their friends about this great

new product they discovered, and then bring more women back for the “Benefit

experience” which equates to the magic formula selling technique being repeated more

frequently. “The most important thing to look for is the behavior of the target audience.

This can be from…purchasing the propagandist‟s merchandise, or acting in crowds.”(1,

pg. 285).

        However, when the audience is the BA in the training class being propagandized

by the training team, the audience reaction is that the BA takes notes and participates in

role playing games in order to ensure the learning process of the “8 Step Magic Formula”

campaign. Then the pre planned reaction is to of course then utilize the trained technique

learned in class at the counter the generate sales for the company and to use this formula

in order to then, in turn, spread the propaganda to unsuspecting clients. “The analyst also
looks for the audience‟s adoption of the propagandist‟s language, slogans, and attire” (1,

pg. 285) which is precisely how the information is contracted back from the classroom to

the sales floor.

Effects and Evaluation

The effect of Benefit Cosmetic‟s propaganda campaign is simply the sale of highly priced

cosmetics. To push another point, similar products with no active ingredients are sold in

low budget consumer supermarkets and shops for a fraction of the price. However, an

important distinction is that Benefit Cosmetics is a company that spends money on

employees employed to demonstrate the products so that the customer can investigate the

products through demonstration by the beauty artist prior to purchasing. The employees

of Benefit Cosmetics are also trained to promote the product line in a uniform, efficient

manner and through the consistent selling tactic standardized in the “8 Step Magic

Formula” exclusive to Benefit Cosmetics. If this tactic were to perhaps be applied to

various other retail products accordingly, I believe the company sales would increase

because it is a “proven selling method that will ensure…success” as quoted from the

introduction of the Beauty Artist Training Manual. The overall object of the coveted

selling formula leads to product sales and booked appointments to ensure loyalty to the

brand and of course, future sales (considering the customer has money and time…often

times if the customer does not have either, they still “bite” the bait! This is how the

propagandist knows whether he/she has succeeded in selling, er, propagandizing).

Considering the fast paced growth of Benefit Cosmetics since the company has put the “8

Step Magic Formula” to use through the Benefit Cosmetics Training Staff, the company
continues to wield its considerable propaganda power to promote it‟s quirky 1950‟s

themed packaged products to contribute positively to one‟s self image.
Below: Image of the Benefit counter in Macys Galleria Houston.

Below: Image of Benefit Houston Galleria‟s Brow Bar, one of two locations in Texas.

Note the Benefit work shirt the employee is wearing in the picture to portray

organizational affiliation.