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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 explain: 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 Organization 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 organization. 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 Benefitcosmetics.com website, featured ads on Banana Republic.com, as well as shopbop.com. 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 benefitcosmetics.com, 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.
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