As we wrote about previously, I attended the CND brand summit this past November in New York. I was asked to join a gathering of nail industry influencers and well-known artists to come together and learn about the brand, brainstorm how to continue elevating our industry in the eyes of the rest of the beauty world, and support each other in that process. I was not paid to be there, however my travel and accommodations were provided. I will also be appearing at ABS Chicago in March at a few CND classes. I want to be VERY clear about the nature of my relationship with CND, and how that relationship does not affect my views. I would and do feel the same way whether the brand being discussed is CND or any other pro brand.
I am an independent nail pro, with my primary source of income coming from session work. I am not an educator for a brand, and I am not paid to endorse anything. When I’m not on set, I spend 10-12 hours a day on this blog and its moving parts behind the scenes. This year I’ll be adding in-person education and online classes to that list, but under my own brand. My decision to remain as independent as I can is very important to me, and important to what The Nailscape stands for. My opinion is not for sale, and never will be. CND VINYLUX GOES RETAIL
Now that that is out in the open, let’s address the issue at hand. Across social media platforms this week, I watched as nail technicians learned the news that select shades of CND Vinylux are now available in Walgreens stores. The comments ranged from disappointment to outrage, which is nothing new. When I first saw Vinylux available in Ulta stores, my initial reaction was “that’s odd.” I may have even commented to that effect on Facebook, but when I took a moment to think about it, it made sense to me. CND VINYLUX GOES RETAIL
Let’s back up for a moment and examine this situation in detail. I want to make sure that we all take a short break from riling each other up in the Facebook groups to really think about what this means for us as nail professionals, our clients, and retail customers. CND VINYLUX GOES RETAIL
A year ago, when the preen.me confusion was happening, two groups formed. Those who expressed outrage and took to comments sections to cluck their tongues and shake their heads at how insulted they were. And then, there were those who said, “how does this affect me? Why do I care? My clients come to me for more than whatever brand I use.” The outraged decided to rally around a hashtag and a short memory, deriding CND for breaking its promise to nail techs by sending unlicensed bloggers pro product.
Without dissecting every aspect of that situation, the outcome was that Jan Arnold herself issued an apology to nail techs and reaffirmed CND’s commitment to the pro. The error that was made and the responsibility for it was accepted by preen.me. Whether that is what happened behind the scenes or not, is not for me to speculate. The situation seemed resolved, until Vinylux started appearing in some retail locations, and techs took to social media once again to voice their displeasure.
Why did CND/Revlon Professional make this decision? Here’s what I know: CND sent out a survey to consumers about brand recognition, among other things. The results were shocking; 90% of those surveyed had never heard of CND or recognized that it was a nail brand. If it were me, and 90% of my target audience didn’t know about my brand, I’d do something about it. CND decided to move forward with a test placement of select Vinylux SKUs in retail locations.
The point here, that many techs are missing, is that if no one knows what CND is, it doesn’t help salons who stock CND product. It isn’t seen as a point of differentiation to carry one of the higher-end pro brands if the name means little to nothing to salon clients.
How can this name recognition problem be realistically fixed? Well, CND/Revlon could do what other beauty brands do; spend millions of dollars on ads and commercials, and hope they carve a dent in their name recognition issue. But this is prohibitively expensive, and would likely mean less product runs, or hitting pause on new product development in order to divert funds to a marketing budget. So alternately, they could try what many brands are doing now, which is leveraging bloggers and influencers to create buzz about a brand amongst their social followings. But, CND can’t do that, since bloggers and influencers who speak to the consumer market are, you guessed it, consumers themselves. The saying goes once bitten, twice shy, so why would CND risk additional pro outrage and another incendiary hashtag? They wouldn’t. CND VINYLUX GOES RETAIL
What is the most cost-effective way to reach a consumer market without dropping millions on ads? Make a fraction of the line available to consumers to drive brand recognition and, by extension, clients into salons. As more and more consumers come to know what we, as techs, know about the quality and the exclusivity of the brand, they’ll seek out salons who carry it. Begin by selling a product that is designed for retail anyway, and direct consumers to salons for more service options.
While there may be some idealism at work in that plan, it’s a strong, cost effective option. Vinylux is a product that is more suited to the home user, since with lightning fast drying time comes some thickening issues. In the salon environment, opening the bottles several times a day can prematurely age the product inside, and cause some of the performance issues I’ve seen mentioned in complaints on social media. I’ve seen many techs state unequivocally that they won’t be purchasing Vinylux anymore, which leads me to my next point. CND VINYLUX GOES RETAIL
The word “loyalty” keeps popping up. Loyalty to the pro, loyalty to the industry, loyalty to the nail techs who bought into systems, education, and the pro-only brand promise. I don’t want to discount those pros’ feelings, but at the same time, how can we expect absolute devotion from a business when more times than not, we can’t even be bothered to use the proper lamp to cure its products? How many times an hour does someone post in a pro nail group on Facebook about mixing systems and brands? How many pro techs have bought diverted Shellac product off of eBay or Amazon to save $3?
There is also a difference between devotion and patronage. If I expected CND, or any pro brand, to ensure that none of its products were ever available to a consumer, and devote time and manpower to shutting down every diverter on the internet, then I would have to support that effort financially, and support it in a BIG way. In order to be considered a devoted CND tech, I would have to purchase every product it makes, every color of every quarterly collection (whether it was right for my clientele or not,) and only get my education classes from CND. I wouldn’t be able to purchase art paints, glitter, chrome, or any of the other products that CND doesn’t offer because that would be disloyal. CND VINYLUX GOES RETAIL
Patronage is what the majority of our industry uses. We purchase certain items and systems from certain brands that work for our clientele, our speciality, location, skill level, interests, etc. It is when patronage becomes predatory that there is a problem; a problem that needs to be addressed in our industry immediately. Predatory patronage occurs when techs buy imitation product, diverted product, or unauthorized product, in order to save a few dollars. It goes a step further when techs stop buying from a brand all together, but still reap the rewards of the brand association. For example, how many people spent $25 one time to become a Shellac Certified Pro, were listed in a free salon locator, and then received the quarterly shipments of marketing material, free product, and branded merchandise? How many techs received the windfall of free additives and other products a couple of years ago worth several hundred dollars, but stopped purchasing seasonal collections?
Loyalty is a two-way street. If we want to measure a brand by its “loyalty,” we had better be ready to be measured by the same stick, and held to the same standard.
Let’s all be honest with ourselves for a moment. How much polish, let alone Vinylux, do you successfully sell in your salon? I know when I retailed polish in my salon studio, I would sell one or two of the popular colors from each seasonal collection, and then backstock the rest. It didn’t make financial sense to focus on traditional polish, when my clients were coming to me primarily for gel polish services with nail art. I sold more cuticle oil and lotion than I ever thought I would, so I moved forward with stocking those items, and eliminated color offerings. Now, your salon could be well ahead of the curve and be very successful at retailing, and if you are, I tip my cap. I do, however, highly doubt that you’ll lose those all of those client sales just because the local pharmacy has a few colors. CND VINYLUX GOES RETAIL
For those who think that being associated as a “drugstore” polish will lessen the status of CND as a brand, I ask you to consider the following: Many designers have more accessible brand extensions in order to meet the mass market, without damaging the caché of their flagship labels. See by Chloé, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Michael Michael Kors, the list goes on. How many high fashion designers have done a collaboration with Target or another “lesser” department store brand and created a new, rabid fan base that wouldn’t have been able to afford the real thing in the first place?
If Vinylux at Walgreens is the entry level, then a Shellac manicure at a CND salon is the coveted “designer” equivalent, without the hefty price tag.
On the other side of the coin, I do think this entire test could have been handled a bit more proactively. In a perfect world, I would have liked to see an emailed letter from Jan or other CND leadership, explaining the reasons behind the decision to move forward with this retail test. It could include the direction for the brand in the future, including whether we, as techs, could expect any more items to move to retail, along with a reaffirmation of the brand’s commitment to pros. I think if techs had been prepared for the announcement, and had some time to consider the whole situation, before seeing the posts on Facebook or the product in stores, there may have been a different reaction.
You are absolutely allowed to disagree with me and disregard my arguments above as rubbish. I don’t mind, it’s just my opinion. I know I’m not going to change everyone’s mind about this topic – my aim is only to start a conversation.
I’d love to hear what you think in the comments about our industry’s expectation of brand loyalty and how you differentiate yourself beyond the brands that you carry. CND VINYLUX GOES RETAIL
I promise to get back to our more light-hearted content soon. I’ll be at New York fashion week starting on February 9th, so you can look for us on our Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook page for real time backstage updates and artist interviews, along with recaps and recreations of our favorite runway trends. Follow along with us as we run around backstage with your favorite brands. CND VINYLUX GOES RETAIL
As always, thanks for reading,
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