Colour Me Clinique

If shades like Mauvelous, Mango Tango and Brick Red conjure up blissful childhood memories spent drawing or colouring, chances are you are going to love Clinique’s latest collaboration with Crayola. The two brands have joined forces on a limited edition collection of ten shades that reinterprets the beauty brand’s classic Chubby Sticks.

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The lip crayons can be purchased individually ($17) or in sets of either four ($25) or eight ($49.50). Crayola’s distinctive squiggled band adorns both the product and packaging, tailoring the brand’s visual signifiers to Clinique’s modern, pared down aesthetic.

Relaunched in 2010, Chubby Lip Crayons have usually been visualised alongside an assortment of pastel confections from jello cubes to macaroons. Within these contexts the tinted lipbalms appeared as delectable treats; as visual metaphors for products’ light texture and vibrant colours. The recent Crayola collaboration marks a shift from this messaging and frames Chubby Lip Crayons as tools for play and creative self-expression. Janet Pardo, Clinique’s senior vice president for product development, has made these concepts explicit in a press release, stating:

“The whole idea behind Chubby Sticks is about play; it’s about exploring options and possibilities and not being anchored to a mirror, a lipliner, or a makeup artist…It brings you back to a carefree time in life — when you didn’t have stress, because you were a child. You could create whatever you wanted, you had endless amounts of time, and you could just play.”

The saccharine associations of the product therefore remain, but are subtly shifted towards greater emotional engagement through the evocation of childhood as a simpler and more creative period. In line with these associations, the range’s UK launch at Selfridges conjured up sweetness and nostalgia-both as metaphor and as flavour. Attendees were teated to a recreation of a school tuck shop stocked with candy and edible recreations of the Crayola Chubby Lip Crayons. As a riff on the creative theme of colouring, guests also received personalised portraits by illustrator Niki Groom.


The collection’s taglines and social media copy also encourage audiences to associate the lip crayons with nostalgia and creativity. Phrases posted next to Instagram images such as “Color outside the lines” and “Come play with color” link childhood experimentation with self-expression. Bringing this concept to life in the real world, a colouring competition has been initiated in the UK that drives to Selfridges beauty counters where the range is exclusively stocked until the 3rd of February. (They will be available at Clinique counters too, later that month.)

As of yet, there seem to be no wider social media calls to action that align the lip crayons with makeup as art or colouring. One would think that the popularity of lip art on platforms like Instagram and Youtube would lend themselves to an activation of this kind-albeit adapted to Clinique’s more subdued beauty aesthetic. This wouldn’t be the first time that the brand invited consumers to treat their faces as a canvas. Last year, fans were encouraged to illustrate their features with whimsical motifs using the newly-launched Chubby in the Nude foundation stick and to share their creations via the hashtag #ChubbyDoodle. The campaign, which had limited responses, seems to have been partly inspired by the viral clown contouring trend, a beauty fad that reinterpreted contouring and colour correcting with designs reminiscent of childhood face painting.

On the subject of viral beauty trends, it is hard not to see the Clinique x Crayola collaboration as consumers’ wish come true. A quick search for Crayola makeup on Youtube will give you just over 48, 000 results that encompass videos with viewer figures in the millions, such as the Crayola makeup challenge and DIY hacks on turning your favourite crayons into beauty products. It is no surprise then, that so far the collaboration has received a warm welcome-both in the press on social media. The enthusiasm is especially palpable on Clinique’s US Instagram page where most pieces of content average between 5000-8000 likes and less than a 100 comments. Meanwhile, almost all posts about the collaboration have had upwards of 10 000 likes and 100 comments. But will this translate into sales? It is too soon to tell, but the social numbers and reviews are encouraging. Upcoming events like Valentine’s Day will provide further opportunities to boost sales through creative activations.

via the @Clinique Instagram feed

So what makes the range compelling? The Clinique x Crayola collaboration is another chapter in the company’s strategy of engaging with younger audiences without alienating its older demographic. As such, it touches on two key cultural attitudes that jog emotions and one’s sense of identity: seeing makeup as a conduit for self-expression and the increasing power of nostalgia.

For Gen Z audiences, beauty is a relative term with a political dimension that challenges conservative notions of gender, attractiveness, size, and even racial identity. Their open attitude tends to be linked to several factors, such as being the most ethnically diverse generation in US history. ”Beauty would be something that is impressive mixed with social norms and subjective taste. I try to push the idea of the norms inside my head since they tend to be a bit repressive,” says anti-model and photographer Arvida Byrström. Her Instagram bio is also telling: “maybe she’s born with it. maybe she’s watched lots of youtube tutorials.” Within this framework beauty is something to be experimented with and redefined, partly with the help of makeup. The mainstream viability of such attitudes has been demonstrated by the recent wave of male ambassadors appointed by global makeup brands such as Covergirl and Maybelline. Although Chubby Lip Crayons’ promotional visuals have not adopted an anti-norm beauty approach explicitly, phrases like “Color outside the box” tap into this sentiment.

While the power of make-up as self-expression can conjure up powerful emotions, so can nostalgia. As Heather Schwedel of Slate has pointed out regarding the Crayola collaboration,  “If the adult coloring craze of the past few years proved anything, it’s that adults enjoy products that take them back to childhood. It’s very kidult, the makeup equivalent of a twenty- or thirtysomething getting a Game Boy case for her iPhone.” A compilation of recent research on nostalgia has revealed that  the stimulation of fond childhood memories makes people more optimistic, less attached to money and even more prone to social interaction. Tapping into people’s blissful memories of drawing and colouring, the Chubby Crayola Lip Crayons serve as a bridge between Clinique and the consumer. Inspiring people to indulge in nostalgic sentiments encourages them to establish deeper bonds with the brand, especially if the product offering is matched with experiential activations. Depending on the success of the current limited edition range, then, it is possible other ‘members’ of the Clinique Chubby family will also get the Crayola treatment.


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