The Hook

Lorde & MAC: What Makes the Perfect Partnership Between Brand & Musician?

Lorde, Mac
Dimitrios Kambouris/MAC Cosmetics/Getty Images

When celebrities wax poetic about their first beauty obsessions, long-discontinued products from brands like Wet n Wild and Bonne Bell get mentions. For Ella Yelich-O'Connor, aka Lorde, the special product she saved up to buy growing up in New Zealand was MAC lipstick in Snob. Her affinity toward the brand continued when the now-17-year-old began working with fellow New Zealander Amber Dreadon, a MAC senior makeup artist, for her live performances and music videos. That's when neutral light pink Snob ceded the spotlight to rich purple shades Cyber and Heroine. Soon the media was calling to find out what lipstick Dreadon was using on her increasingly popular client. It was only a matter of time before musician-loving MAC came a-knockin', beauty contract in hand.

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In March, Lorde announced the MAC x Lorde collaboration to her 1.7 million Twitter followers, who can get their hands on the products beginning June 5. Predictably, the two-piece collection features a deep plum lipstick that shares the same name as her top-­selling album, "Pure Heroine." The second item is a pen-style liner, Penultimate Eye Liner in Rapidblack.

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MAC creative director James Gager says Lorde fits perfectly with the 30-year-old brand, which originally was geared toward makeup artists (MAC is an acronym for "Makeup Artist Cosmetics"): "Ella isn't afraid to show her unique sense of style both in her appearance and her performance. We truly admire anyone who is not afraid to be who they are." It also helped that she already was a fan of the product; consumers want believability when a celebrity endorses a brand. "Smart brands look for a well-rounded person with amazing talent, credibility and an emotional bond with their fan base," says Jarrod Moses, CEO of United Entertainment Group, an entertainment marketing agency that did Queen Latifah's deal for the Queen Collection with CoverGirl.

As they did with Lorde, Gager and team look for spokespeople "with a unique edge," he says, who are gaining momentum in their careers. Before they hit the mainstream, Iggy Azalea and Icona Pop performed at MAC store openings. Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga were tapped as brand faces early in their careers. And Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto did a candy-themed full makeup collection while still relatively obscure.

But MAC - which now is owned by Estee Lauder and valued at $1.3 billion, according to Brandirectory - also seeks established hitmakers to front campaigns, most notably the Viva Glam lip products, sales of which are entirely earmarked to fund HIV/AIDS awareness (raising more than $250 million since 1994). The most recent collaboration with Rihanna, who has more than 130 million social media followers, yielded the RiRi Woo lipstick, which sold out in just three hours.

It's not just the company's bottom line that benefits from collaborations. A deal also helps build an artist's bankroll and image. Moses says an emerging artist's beauty contract can range from $250,000 to $750,000 per year, and an established artist -"who sell out dates in arenas and have top three songs on radio and iTunes, the Beyoncés of the world" - command $2 million to $10 million per year for a beauty contract. "A beauty contract puts you into pop culture as a multi-hyphenate - musician-slash-beauty icon," says Moses. "That's important, especially for musicians who are only in the marketplace if their music is in the marketplace; a contract can enhance the overall career."