The Christmas Story

Pearlfisher’s Sophie Maxwell says all brands have a story to tell—and they should make it meaningful and memorable for years to come.

By Sophie Maxwell, Pearlfisher

Christmas is about tradition. And we eagerly anticipate the traditional festive beauty feast delivered by brands like Philosophy. Year on year, they don’t disappoint. The 2012 holiday set is in the shape of a mailbox with a gorgeously retro and traditional snow scene housing three delicious winter skin essentials.

But the same old wall of stereotypical fragrance and make-up holiday gifting coffrets is one tradition I could do without - and many of us in this industry berate the unoriginality of the packaging offered on a yearly basis. Practical, yes, but with an ever discerning and creative consumer, isn’t it time we found new ways to attract existing and new audiences—and maybe create brand new packaging traditions?

Actually the beauty giants have given it a whirl with the beauty cracker making its debut full of handbag and holiday size samples. Cute, but many brands have all done the same thing – Kiehl’s, Liz Earle, Lancôme…

Contrast this to the Kevin Murphy hair care set- Angels Bearing Gifts of Hold. Still a coffret but the naming, structure and packaging design makes it aesthetically novel, cool and unique.

Each year, the holiday TV ads command our attention and media reports suggest that those with a story to tell are winning out. Storytelling has, of course, come to the forefront with the rise of the craft and artisan movement, and a focus on heritage and provenance - so why do we ignore it when it comes to the limited edition or seasonal communication, which is when we really need to get right?

And even one of the most traditional beauty brands of our times has looked to storytelling to give a unique take on Christmas this year.

The design of Crabtree & Evelyn’s Christmas Gift Collection offers a new and original take on its festive fragrance, such as Winter Garden, telling stories through illustration that bring each fragrance to life – “weaving around fresh balsams and rich persimmons, the arctic fox and nimble deer breathes life into sleeping citrus trees awakening a heady burst of sharp scent.”

This approach still captures the essence of the Crabtree brand but moves from the traditional and coded to a more contemporary, imaginative and inspirational expression of Christmas.

Similarly, Dior’s Christmas 2012 makeup collection reinterprets the story of Monsieur Dior and his fascination with transformation through the grand balls he attended from parties at his childhood home to the Parisian balls in the 20’s. His ball gowns have become every woman’s desire. Fleeting and flamboyant, the Grand Bal collection is intended to embrace the fantasy of Christmas.

A beautiful structural presentation but one that maybe really needs the back-story? However, no-one can take away the unique nature of the offer.

And any attempt to create a limited edition must have deep authenticity, true credibility, instinctive brand synergy and real emotion. In short, it is an intense experience where the very best of the brand is released, heightened and celebrated.

Which is why – advertising backlash aside - Llamsacqua is yet again superbly retelling its own tale based on freedom of expression by dreaming of ‘NOT a white Christmas’ with its limited edition Black Christmas set: containing nine Llamasqua best-sellers and everything needed to create the perfect smoky eye.

We all have a story to tell – make it meaningful and memorable for years to come.

About the author: Sophie Maxwell is Insight Director at Pearlfisher