Caboodles taps girl power for global growth

It's often said that as a West Coast city, Vancouver's ties to the Pacific Rim rival its ties to the rest of Canada. Given this international mindset, Canada's West Coast capital is proving to be an ideal command post for marketing...

It’s often said that as a West Coast city, Vancouver’s ties to the Pacific Rim rival its ties to the rest of Canada. Given this international mindset, Canada’s West Coast capital is proving to be an ideal command post for marketing a new line of sassy teen cosmetics with global aspirations.

Launched regionally in 1999 with distribution in London Drugs and Shoppers Drug Mart, Caboodles Cosmetics of Vancouver (the Caboodles name is licensed from an Illinois-based company) now sells through almost 8,000 Wal-Mart and Target stores across North America. The next stop is fellow pacific rimmer Australia, but Caboodles won’t stop there. The company plans to expand to a total of 12 countries over the next year.

Thanks to a California-based teen panel and a marketing effort by Vancouver’s Palmer Jarvis DDB that leverages a real understanding of teen girl empowerment and individuality, last year’s sales topped $30 million, and Caboodles expects to easily reach its $50-million goal this year.

PJDDB first got involved via its Karacters Design Group when Gary Schofield, president of Caboodles Cosmetics, walked into the boardroom with a big idea about a new cosmetic line for teenage girls – and a small baggie of makeup.

Karacters built the brand identity from the ground up, creating not only the logo but also innovative product packaging and POP displays that got the attention of retailers and teenage consumers alike.

Maria Kennedy, president and creative director at Karacters, says Schofield’s dream was to create an upscale-looking, affordable new brand for teens. The result was packaging that combines brushed silver accents with clear plastic casings in shapes ranging from test tubes to UFOs.

‘When you pull it out of your purse, it looks like something a lot more expensive than what you’d buy from a mass merchant. It has a quality look about it, not something cheap and plastic,’ says Kennedy.

‘We have been working on new products for them and new ways to get into retailers. They started so small, they had to be really innovative with pre-packs. We also developed some proprietary things, one called Girly Bags, which are cosmetic sets you buy to create a look.’

Once Caboodles got a foothold in the market, it turned to the mass advertising side of PJDDB for help building brand awareness and breaking through the me-too clutter of cosmetics brands.

First the Caboodles team at PJDDB got to know the teenage market by reading about 20 magazines a month, while getting out to the streets and shopping malls to gather teen feedback. As well, a group of teenage girls in California high schools, the Caboodles teen panel, tests all the products and critiques all the advertising before it’s released.

Pat Guzzo, account director at PJDDB, says they decided to set Caboodles apart from the cosmetics clutter by avoiding the usual route of building a campaign around the latest pop star, movie personality or model.

‘While teenage girls care a lot about the way they look, they don’t like to be told or shown how they should look,’ says Guzzo. ‘Recognizing that is really important, especially with cosmetics, because cosmetics are all about giving teenage girls self-esteem and the power to feel good about themselves.

‘What we celebrate is that teenage girls have an attitude, a positive attitude that we call ‘girl power’ or ‘innocent empowerment’ – that it’s okay to be silly, have fun, be adventurous. That led us to our strategy, which is all about encouraging being adventurous, being an individual.’

Randy Stein, PJDDB creative director, says the advertising is focused on the 17-year-old mindset, an age when teenage girls are starting to expand their horizons and push the limits.

Unlike a lot of brands that try to be cutting edge, Stein says, Caboodles ads will amuse but not offend parents. They promote a sense of innocent fun and a little mischief while celebrating individualism.

Caboodles’ advertising is placed primarily in magazines with North American distribution, such as Teen and Seventeen. A cinema spot created to be used internationally also ran earlier this year in Australia.

The latest print campaign is the story of a girls’ night out told visually through a series of executions. The first ad shows a girl climbing out her bedroom window to meet her friends, leaving a dummy done up with Caboodles cosmetics in bed to fool her parents. One of the middle executions shows the girls in a limo at a fast food drive-through, but rather than taking the food, they’re pulling the boy serving them through the car window. The last ad shows the girl sleeping in class the next day after the big night out.

The cinema spot, called ‘Dump,’ is the only execution that actually shows a girl’s face. Here, the hero is driving along a beautiful desert road in a convertible with a great looking guy beside her. However, the boy is obviously a victim of self-love – an attitude the female driver doesn’t find attractive at all. She drives to the city dump, a car door opens and closes, and then she drives out alone – with a big smile on her face.

‘The cinema spot is a simple idea,’ says Stein, ‘about this girl taking charge and being individual – and you don’t need a boyfriend to define you.’

In hindsight, Guzzo says starting out small was probably the best thing for Caboodles, because it couldn’t afford to do the same kind of formal research that a large packaged goods company does.

‘The difference is being small, it doesn’t have a traditional packaged goods mentality and there aren’t formulas that dictate. Research that well-known established brands have going for them tends to be both a good and bad thing. Sometimes they dictate too much what the panels are asking for, which takes away from the creativity.’