Brand Crush: Beauty Pie

Perhaps it's me paying penance for my SPF-shirking youth or the fact that my crows feet are coming in hot and no price seems too great to restore my formative glow, but I've become a card-carrying member of beauty addicts anonymous. 

Thankfully, Marcia Kilgore, founder of Bliss spas and the retro-kitsch Soap & Glory bath and beauty line, has come to my rescue. If not curing my "habit," she's making it considerably less expensive with her latest venture: Beauty Pie.

I've had my eye on this ambitious brand since it launched in late 2016. Borrowing from the best of the Everlane, Netflix, and Warby Parker business models, this direct-to-consumer beauty company is combining pricing transparency with a subscription model to change the game for beauty buyers in the UK and US, and soon other markets.

It works by offering high-end beauty products, developed at the leading labs and factories in the world, at cost to its members. So a lipstick that would normally retail for $25 is just $2.38 plus the price of a $10 membership.  Membership grants you access to up to $100 of regular retail priced merchandise each month, so four of those lipsticks for example.

Mission Statement

What I love about this brand is that they understand that if you're going to disrupt an industry, you've got to come out of the gate with a crystal clear message. Words that help consumers instantly get what you do. What do you think of these taglines and headers?

Beauty Pie Messaging

"Makeup Without The Markup"

"Like A Buyer's Club For Beauty Addicts"

"Like A Backstage Pass Into The World's Leading Cosmetics Labs"

"Luxury Lipstick For Less Than A Latte"


I think they've nailed their message and made a potentially confusing business model super relatable to their core audience.

To boot, they've used their copy to cleverly distinguish themselves from the beauty samples subscription box companies they could easily get confused for.  

A+ for positioning.

Do you need a clear message so others can finally get your break-through idea?

The Articulation Intensive might be for you. Let's chat through the details of my brand messaging engagement for business visionaries.   

Brand Crush: Everlane

Like millions of other people last Friday, I couldn't help but pop online to scope out the sales at a few of my favorite retailers. I've been a fan of Everlane for its blend of quality wardrobe basics and fair manufacturing practices for a while now, so I wasn't surprised by the awesome Black Friday campaign that they executed.

Read on for a brief rundown of what I think made this such brilliant brand marketing.


First things first, you'll notice, this was not a sale. Like last year, Everlane took the contrarian approach and made Black Friday a day about giving, not getting.

A few retailers made headlines this year for eschewing trading on Black Friday to take a stand against holiday consumerism. What I loved about Everlane's campaign is that it didn't preach to consumers or make them feel bad for embracing holiday shopping. Instead, it respected its customers with an initiative that was completely brand-aligned.


Everlane's anti-sale was the Black Friday Fund -- an initiative benefitting the workers at its t-shirt factory in the heart of L.A.


Everlane donated 35% of every Black Friday purchase to be able to offer on-site healthcare, free groceries, and English classes to its factory workers.


What I loved about the Black Friday Fund was that it reflected the needs and wishes of Everlane's craftspeople. No prescriptive solutions here. Just real things to make a difference in real people's lives.

To personalize the campaign further, Everlane featured a fun vignette spotlighting the quirks, likes, dislikes, and personalities of a few of their workers.


Pretty cool, huh?

So what made this campaign work? Here's my take...

Brand Crush:

3 Reasons I Think Everlane's Black Friday Campaign Was Brilliant

1. Reinforced brand positioning

You don't have to be on the Everlane site for long, before you figure out the brand stands for fair manufacturing and radical transparency.

The Black Friday Fund enhanced Everlane's positioning by reinforcing its reputation as an ethical manufacturer and caring employer. In an industry that has been scrutinized for its dicey record on employee health and opaque manufacturing practices, this is a very compelling proposition for socially conscious, millennial shoppers. Bonus: the campaign invited customers into the brand story by giving us an opportunity to use our purchasing power to do good too.

2. Differentiation

By forgoing a sale and doing the opposite of what its competitors did [Gap, Madewell, J. Crew, etc], Everlane powerfully differentiated itself not by its products, but by what it stands for.

Everlane can't be profitable and stay true to its values, whilst competing with the likes of Gap on price. Because of its transparent mark-ups, there just isn't a lot of margin for bargain bin sales.

Their advantage is ethos and value for money, and this is exactly how the Black Friday Fund differentiated Everlane. Instead of a sale, which shouts "our markups are so astronomical that we can afford to slash prices by 50%," the campaign's subliminal message was, "we treat our customers and employees fairly year-round."

The rewards of this approach are obvious: Everlane retained the integrity of its brand [ethical, attainable, premium] and competed on what it new it could win.

3. Execution

Everlane's Black Friday strategy culminated in really solid execution.

In keeping with the brand's aesthetic -- modern, minimalist, quality -- the Black Friday Fund story telling was straightforward, poignant, and transparent.

Pictures of the factory, employee stories, a breakdown of how the funds would be allocated, and a realtime fundraising graphic animated the simple, yet bold copywriting.

All the elements aligned to form a story that was poignant, humble, and cooly restrained.


What do you think about Everlane's Black Friday Fund campaign? What worked? What didn't? What brand are you crushing on these days?

Brand Crush: Draper James

A few weeks ago, I was delighted to learn about Reese Witherspoon's new southern lifestyle brand, Draper James, via PureWow. While my fashion preferences lean more towards modern silhouettes and bohemian touches, I was quite taken by the launch of this decidedly pretty and preppy brand. Reese and her team are doing a wonderful job of using brand language, savvy copywriting, and storytelling to carve out a solid positioning in the upscale women's sportswear category.

Draper James is a well-funded, celebrity-backed outfit, but that doesn't mean that you can't apply some of their swift branding moves to your own small business. To prove it, I've rounded-up four brand language ideas to inspire you straight from the Draper James playbook.

Brand Crush: Draper James

1. Get a clear brand essence.

Just a moment on the Draper James site is all it takes to capture what this brand is all about: a celebration of the South.

I consider a brand essence to be a punchy and powerful phrase that summarizes everything a brand stands in just a few words.

Draper James, the home of grace, charm, and monograms!


Homepage 2

"Celebrating the South" seems to wink at you from every corner of the Draper James homepage -- from the monogrammed logo, to the sky and navy blue brand colors, to the "Grace and Charm" tag line, to the sweet tea in Reese's hand. Emblems of the American South are everywhere.

As if that weren't enough, the brand essence is also beautifully summarized on the About Us page. Check out these last two paragraphs.

About Us

Pinpointing a brand essence is one of the fundamental things I do with clients in Stark & Splendor's Articulation Intensive. The purpose of this processes is to give their brand a "north star." All branding and content decisions flow from there. It is a critical step to developing a strong brand, and Draper James has clearly nailed it.

Do you feel like your brand has a north star or essence? If not, consider what two-or-three-word phrase you might use to describe everything your business stands for.

2. Share a personal narrative.

While skimming through the website, you get the sense that Draper James is more than just another celebrity fashion project. Instead, you feel like it emanates from an authentic love and respect for the people, places, and customs of the South. How did Reese and her team manage this?

I think it has a lot to do with storytelling.

Reese's personal narrative on the About Us page lets us in on the inspiration for the brand -- her grandparents.

Reese and her grandma, Dorthea, the Draper in Draper James.

Through old portraits, cute family anecdotes, and a heartfelt video, Reese does a great job of telling the story of her romance with the South.

Check out the video here:

Reese Video

How can you use storytelling to inject heart and authenticity into your brand? Start with the "About Page" but don't limit yourself to that space only!

3. Use clever colloquialisms.

Try reading the Draper James site copy aloud without inserting your own coquettish drawl.

Betcha you can't! 

That's because the brand's copywriters have done a wonderful job of using colloquial language to make us feel like we're a part of their big, happy Southern family.

Here's some examples of how Draper James has used informal language to infuse the brand with real grace and charm.

Love, Reese


Southern Sayings


Southern Social


Hush Y'all

Notice, that using slang and colloquialisms doesn't mean sloppy copywriting or writing exactly how you speak. Instead, this style of writing borrows key phrases and imagery from spoken language to add meaning and emotion to otherwise polished copy.

Would using regional slang, a relaxed tone, or informal language help you better connect with your audience?

4. Give your audience reasons to believe.

WWD reports that 40% of Draper James' line is manufactured in the South. The company partners with artists and makers in Charleston and Savannah, amongst other Southern cities, to produce items such as homeware, silver and stationary. By doing so, Draper James shows that it's not just appropriating Southern culture, but it actually celebrates the South by investing in the economic and artistic vibrancy of the region.

This is a prime example of how branding has more to do with what companies do, then what they say. Draper James gives consumers a solid reason to believe the brand essence.

Made in the South

What can your business do, operationally and concretely, to live the brand essence? How can you better share what you are already doing with your audiences?


Now I'd love to hear from you. What brands are you crushing on these days? Who's doing a great job of using language and copywriting to elevate their brand?

Draper James Graphic Pinterest

In this post, I mention Stark & Splendor's Articulation Intensive. It is a first stop for clients that are fuzzy about what their brand stands for or how to communicate that to the world.

Are you confident that your brand has a unique and compelling identity? Do you have trouble talking about your services or products because you don't know the best words to use to communicate your uniqueness? Perhaps you have a logo and visual branding, but you still feel that your online presence is all over the place and you need clarity and consistency in your comms.

The Articulation Intensive addresses these common issues and so much more. It is ideal for small businesses, creative entrepreneurs, and consultants preparing to grow. Email me at for more information.