People 09 November 2017
Brands working with celebrities is nothing new. Brands using their platforms to tell a story has been done too. And while merging the two is just the natural progression—it's never been done quite the way that Elizabeth Arden and Reese Witherspoon are collaborating.
Tapped as the legendary beauty brand's “Storyteller-in-Chief," Reese isn't just sharing the inspirational story of Elizabeth Arden's impact to a new generation. She's also weaving it together with her own narrative and backstory.
Being that Elizabeth Arden is a brand that's over 100 years old and was likely loved and respected by your grandmother, this is new territory as they attempt to reach out to a younger yet equally empowered generation of women. Just like Elizabeth Arden never followed the rules, this campaign isn't being launched by checking off the boxes of what should be done or what's expected. Instead, ICED Media, the agency behind it all is breathing fresh life into the traditional marketing campaign.
Sitting down with ICED Media's president, Leslie Hall, we went deep into how this campaign was conceived and the new approach they're taking to truly stand out in the crowded market of inspiring and empowering women.
And, be sure to check out Reese's storyteller-in-chief here.
How did this idea to bring on a storyteller-in-chief originate?There was this tension that on the one hand, there were a lot of brands talking about powerful women. It was a little bit of a crowded conversation. On the other hand, here's Elizabeth Arden, a brand with one of the most palpable justifications to be part of that conversation but it just wasn't right. It was a delicate dance. How do you tell your story in a way that you know will resonate, especially at a time when it's needed, without feeling like you're a 'me, too?' And, when [ICED Media] first started on this journey with Elizabeth Arden, the thought of working with Reese didn't even exist. We had an opportunity to do it in a bit more of a quiet way.
Elizabeth Arden had previously brought celebrities into their brand narrative. How did that influence the path to creating the Storyteller-in-Chief role?
Thinking about the different women we used—like Chelsea Handler and Iris Apfel—they weren't A-list Hollywood Oscar winning celebrities on the red carpet every other week. But, they were women who were a bit provocative, and known for speaking their mind even when they didn't have an opinion that was popular.
They were women who weren't necessarily widely lauded by everyone. They weren't the easy choice. They weren't the safe choice, but they were women that really embodied that spirit of being champions of other women, carving their own path, and not doing the formulaic approach to fame and yet still became a household name. I think that allowed us to move forward in an authentic way that was true to the brand.
And then bringing in Reese, who IS a big, A-list, Oscar winning star—how did that come about?
I give the Elizabeth Arden brand and I give Reese and her team a lot of credit. It's rare that someone at her level of celebrity is willing to be positioned as multi-faceted, and willing to be more than just the face of a brand. And, is willing to even explore the parallels of themselves in context to an iconic business person, or an iconic entrepreneur—as opposed to just being recognized in one area for one craft for which their celebrity was built. When you look at a lot of brands that work with celebrities of a certain caliber, it often feels like the brand is making the celebrity more famous, or the brand is leveraging its advertising reach to put the celebrity on a pedestal. I think when you look at this content and you look at this campaign, it's Reese using her celebrity to tell Elizabeth Arden's story, and to make the legacy of this iconic entrepreneur known to a new generation of women. It's Reese giving a history lesson to a new generation. You don't see that a lot. It's one of the things that I'm most proud of, because it gives the brand an opportunity to reinforce not only what they stand for, but also reinforce the brand values that they were founded on. It's a happy coincidence that many of those brand values happen to be so timely in today's conversations, newsfeeds, and political climate.
What is the movement and subsequent conversation that you want this campaign to spark?
The movement is about inspiring a new generation of women. We're in a climate today where you see things like this manifesto from this person at Google where he talks about how biologically, women shouldn't be in leadership roles because biologically women aren't capable of being leaders and things of that nature. Our movement is about inspiring a new generation of women to have a more robust breadth of role models. Taking a woman like Elizabeth Arden, who at the turn of the century, not only created much of what the modern-day beauty industry is, but also marched with the Suffragettes and made lipstick colors that matched uniforms during World War II. It's the idea that a woman can be a role model in many different areas. She can be business-minded, but she can also align with causes that are important to her and make real change, and be a champion of other women.
How does Reese embody that?
She's someone who's known for bringing women's stories to the forefront. That's something that she's used her fame and celebrity in Hollywood to do. As a brand, we believe women's stories are really important. The first story we've partnered with Reese to tell is the story of Elizabeth Arden. As we do that, we'll look at some of the parallels between Reese's career and Elizabeth Arden's career. Then, we'll make sure that we're going to continue using this platform to bring more of these untold stories to the forefront ... and inspire women so that more stories can be told.
And, Reese is a champion of women. She's spoken out about pay equality in Hollywood. She's been very choosy with the causes that are important to her as well. I think it's not necessarily a movement that's about being prescriptive in terms of 'let's tell women here's our particular call to action, and here's what we want them to do.' I think it's more about 'here are women who are extraordinary, but often, those are not the stories being told. Those are not the stories that are being brought to the forefront in popular culture, film, advertising, and brand narratives.' We want to be a force for making those stories known. We want to bring those stories to the forefront. That's where really where storyteller-in-chief came in. It wasn't 'let's use Reese as an ambassador.' Let's not use her as just the face of the brand—but let's use her as the storyteller in chief.
How do you want the user to react? Are you looking for them to then tell you their stories?
I think we're very much in this era of a lot of marketers living in a 'check the box' campaign world. I think they feel that every campaign must have this 'here's how the user tells their story' component or 'here's how the user creates their own content.' It's really is about creating a movement where the visual cues that are created with the brand content are so subtly nuanced that over time, the consumer is trained to mirror that back to the brand. I think when you look at this our program, especially with Reese and with a storyteller-in-chief, this moment doesn't need to be a 'tell us your story right now.' That's not the point of this. Elizabeth Arden hasn't earned that yet. This is a brand, that when we started working with them, wasn't on the radar for this consumer at all; like not even Gen X. This is a brand that was largely speaking to a woman probably in her upper 40s or 50s.
So, is this a chance for Elizabeth Arden to reach that younger demo?
For the first time, Elizabeth Arden is starting to speak to a new generation of women. It's probably not realistic that those women will start telling their stories to Elizabeth Arden. I think when you look at the evolution of the brand, and you look at the full consumer journey, we're in what I'll call the awareness stage of that journey and that evolution. I think to jump from, 'Here's an opportunity for the brand to introduce Reese, educate women on the story of who this iconic entrepreneur was' and then immediately say, 'Now tell us your story,' is just not realistic and not consistent with what a brand should expect to get from a consumer. The point of the campaign at this moment is really to create this universe of the brand, let the consumer know what the brand stands for, and then over time, really let them in to understand; and then create a universe of content that the consumer can start to mirror back.
It's not to say that down the line, there wouldn't be more pronounced calls to action, but I'm very much a believer that a brand first needs to earn that from the consumer.
"There are no good men out there," yet another woman my age declared. At 50, I was freshly divorced after two decades of marriage and motherhood. My unhappy marriage had shattered my faith in men and romantic relationships. Based on my ex-husband's opinion of my sexual appeal, I was afraid my naked body would cause future lovers to run screaming from the room. Rather gleefully, I announced to my girlfriends that I was done with men, and sex, forever.
For the first year, I got tangled in my sheets alone every night, overjoyed to have the bed and my body to myself. I felt liberated by divorce—free to be me, skip showering, and make dinner for one. But it bothered me when women decried the scarcity of men, because I'd known so many good ones—college boyfriends, my brother, my best friend from business school, etc. The first of many naked truths gradually crept up on me: I was not going to find my juju again through self-help and yoga. The feminist in me didn't want to admit it, but going for too long without men was akin to starvation.
I didn't want another husband. But I needed men, a lot of them.
The universe signaled its approval by sending Mr. Blue Eyes to me at an airport. He was 29 and perhaps the sexiest man I'd ever kissed. Being with him convinced me, pretty decisively, that men were going to heal me, even though men had destroyed me many times before. I became the female incarnation of a divorced, clichéd older man: I bought a sports car, revamped my wardrobe, and took younger lovers. "I want five boyfriends," I told my best friend KC after that first tryst ended. "Sweet, cute, smart, nice. Enough that I won't get too attached to one." My message from the frontlines of divorce at 50 is that to restore your confidence as a woman, especially in the wake of a crushing breakup, try dating outside your comfort zone, expanding your dating pool to include partners you might never have considered before. It may not be the recipe for a lasting union, but in terms of rebuilding your self-esteem, it can work wonders.
The first thing I noticed—and liked—about dating younger men is that they didn't want to marry me or make babies with me. And I didn't want that either. Frankly, I didn't even want them to spend the night. Since I'd been 11, I'd been taught to seek out and value men who wanted commitment. To my surprise, I found it refreshing, even more authentic, to be valued not for my potential as a mate, but instead for my body, intelligence, life-experience and sexuality.
And the sex! I quickly realized that—warning, blanket stereotype coming—men under 40 are more straightforward and adventurous than older men, maybe since they were raised with the Internet. You hear so often about the scourge of crude, sexist online pornography; and I agree that the depersonalization of women as sexual playthings is deeply destructive to all genders. However, from sexting to foreplay, I found younger men uniquely enthusiastic about getting naked and enjoying sex. Every younger man found my most erotic zones faster than any man my age ever had, with a lack of hesitation men over 50 seemed unable to fathom.
Also, about my big fear of getting naked in front of a younger man? Completely unfounded. I started to shake when Airport Boy took off my sundress in our hotel room. Had he ever seen a woman my age nude? How could I stand to be skin-to-skin with a body far more perfect than mine? I had given birth to eight-pound, full-fucking-term babies. I'd nursed them, too, and at times by breasts looked (from my view at least) like wet paper towels. "You have a spectacular body," he told me instead, running his hand over the cellulite on my stomach that I despised. That night I learned that younger men who seek older women accept our physical flaws—they don't expect perfection in someone 20 years their senior. These men taught me to see my body through a positive, decidedly male lens, to focus on the pretty parts (and we all have them) rather than the flaws that we all have too, whether you're 19, 29 or 59.
I even found the pillow talk lighter, easier and more intellectually stimulating, because a younger man's world view differs so vastly from the pressures of my 20-something kids, annual colonoscopies, 401K balance and mortgage payments. They have simple financial problems, like "Can I borrow a few quarters for the parking meter outside?" or "Do you have any advice on consolidating my student loans?"
Everything feels simpler with younger men. Men under 40 seem less threatened by assertive women; they grew up with them. They like cheap beer instead of expensive wine. They don't snore (as much). Leftovers a 55-year-old would scoff at look good to them. Their erections NEVER last more than four hours. Their hard-ons end the old-fashioned way and 45 minutes later they are ready for more.
But what I enjoy most about younger men is not the sex, or the cliché that they make me feel young again—because they don't. Younger men make me feel old, and to my delight, I like that. I feel valuable around younger men, precisely because I am wiser and more experienced in life, love and between the sheets.
I know I'll never end up with one for good. The naked truth is we don't have enough in common to last. One recently put it exactly right when he told me, "I love this, but there's always gonna be a glass ceiling between us." That lack of permanence, the improbability of commitment and "forever," doesn't mean I can't pick up a tip or two about self-esteem, and enjoy the magic of human connection with younger men. And vice versa. The experience can enrich us both, making us better partners for people our own ages down the road.
*My viewpoint is from the perspective of a heterosexual woman, because I am one. But change the gender identification and/or sexual orientation to whatever works for you and let me know if the same advice holds true. Thank you.