Lipstick [a definition, according to me, prior to the rise of a global pandemic and my discovering of ‘the lipstick effect’]: A coloured cosmetic product containing pigments, oils and waxes that’s applied to the lips via a small, compact stick. It has this magical ability to complete a ‘going out’ getup, yet, to me, is nothing but a cosmetic inconvenience.


Personally? I don’t wear lipstick. Never have [except for my ballet concerts back when I was merely 8] and probably never will. To me? Lipstick is a cosmetic I frequently forget exists, until I notice it smeared onto the rim of a friend’s wine glass or have to awkwardly inform them that their ‘Nude’ lipstick is actually quite obviously all over their front teeth. Charming.


To me, amidst a global pandemic? When millions are losing jobs and houses and are struggling to afford the necessities? Frivolous lipsticks and beauty products seemed like the first products consumers would stop purchasing.


Why would anyone prioritise buying a product that does… what exactly, colours our lips? When we’re all staying indoors and letting our hair slowly but surely grow inevitably long and grey? When we genuinely have *nowhere* to go and *no one* to see?


I know it’s human nature to want to make ourselves look and feel good, even if we aren’t leaving our homes. But when it comes to something like lipstick, I felt as though it could’ve been safe to assume that consumers would, quite simply, throw the product to the back of their makeup draw and forget it even exists.


Turns out? I was wrong. And according to Leonard Lauder [an heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics brand], I was very very wrong. #awkward


You see, in the wake of September 11, 2001, the New York terrorist attacks completely punctured both the American and global economy — unsurprisingly so. Yet, during that time of immense financial hardship and economic crisis, Leonard Lauder publicly announced that the Estée Lauder brand was selling more lipstick than usual. Weird, right?


His theory stated that consumers will continue to vigorously buy luxury products, even amidst a crisis. Sure, we all spend less when there’s less money floating into our bank accounts — purchasing new homes and cars is probably not everyone’s top priority during a global pandemic — but we [as consumers] choose to put those few dollars into treating ourselves to less expensive luxury items. For example, instead of purchasing an expensive winter coat, we tend to gift ourselves a $30 lipstick or opulent perfume. Or, we’ll buy ourselves some decadent couch cushions instead of the brand new couch we were eyeing. Buying pretty cushions or [slightly more expensive than necessary] lipsticks makes us feel as though we’re ticking our ‘treat yo’self’ box … without the hefty price tag.


And, what’s more, we’ve noticed this so-called ‘lipstick effect’ in action amongst some of our clients and their successes during COVID. Here’s what we’ve noticed:


  • Consumers are willing to spend on gift boxes and hampers for their nearest and dearest. We’re seeing these types of businesses really thrive in our current economic state — many people are sending self-love packs and flower arrangements to the people they love.
  • We’re noticing that many are taking this time to spruce up their homes with small luxury items such as couch and bed throws, sheets and cushions — probably because these items are, yes, a luxury, but they’re also the perfect way to redesign a room without purchasing big ticket items.
  • Fashion eCommerce is also continuing to perform [after a quick plummet in March]. Seems like we’re all choosing to wear clothes that make us feel good [and are also comfy] whilst being locked up in our homes and chained to our couches. Go figure.


So, all-in-all, we here at TDP are definitely seeing the ‘lipstick effect’ in action [and as a result, I will now never underestimate its economic power].


We’d love to know some of the ‘lipstick effect’ examples you’ve noticed during CV-19 — whether they’ve been results from your business or your own personal consumption behaviour. So let us know in the comments below [and while you do that, I’m just going to go and order myself some more face masks and luxe hair products because, why not?!]