By Zoe Bradbury
The time has passed where festivals only relate to music. Now, festivals can be held to celebrate almost anything: from wellness festivals in Costa Rica to mud festivals in Spain.
And now, festivals dedicated to beauty are becoming increasingly popular.
Beauty festivals are a clever form of experiential marketing. Brands present themselves to the public in fun, immersive and memorable ways. Consequentially, people are swept up in the excitement of what’s occurring, and more often than not, make purchases of the samples they receive.
But with some setting ticket prices into the hundreds of dollars, is it feasible to ask someone to pay such a price tag just to meet a beauty influencer?
We take a look at some of the most famous beauty festivals around the world, to see if the price tag truly is worth it.
Launched in 2011, Beautycon was one of the world’s first beauty festivals. What started out as a trade show for influencers, Youtubers and brands, quickly transformed into a celebration of the beauty industry.
Now, Beautycon holds annual events in Los Angeles, New York and London, where tickets nearly always sell out.
Last year, 23,300 beauty lovers attended the two-day LA festival, where the likes of Kim Kardashian, Drew Barrymore and Jessica Simpson, among others, all featured on the mainstage to speak of their respective brands.
More than 200 brands had booths where they displayed products, offered samples and provided customers with an experience, from games, photo opportunities or makeovers.
But these were not the desk-style booths one would see at a regular convention – The New York Times said that brands spent anywhere from $5000 to more than a million dollars on their fit outs.
From a Kylie Cosmetics’ booth in the style of a black painted food truck, to an actual car and photo booths at Urban Decay, to a swing and paper cherry tree at Aveda.
Revlon even had a tattoo booth to complement their introduction of 14 new shades of their Stay Matte Liquid Lip Colour.
Every experience and brand at Beautycon is an Instagram opportunity. Often, customers have to post their photo before receiving their free samples. It’s clever marketing, and something that beauty-goers don’t even blink a lash-covered eye to.
While the promise of free makeup and meeting celebrities can be enticing, reports have likened the BeautyCon to being “very-amusement park like, and not in a good way.”
With upwards of 10,000 people attending each day of the festival, lines to each makeup booth are long, often for over an hour. And with all the excitement, don’t expect fans to be quiet – brands usually run out of their free samples, so it’s first in best dressed.
While general admission tickets are relatively inexpensive ($40 USD for one day, $60 USD for two days) these tickets only provide access into the festival – meaning long lines and crowds.
If one wants to have early access to the event, skip the lines, meet influencers, and receive goodie bags (usually only with sample size products), the prices go up from $200 to $1000, to $2000.
While the cost can be a turnoff for many, what is alluring about BeautyCon, however, is the new wave of acceptance that is occurring in the beauty industry.
What once used to be a way of hiding one’s flaws, makeup has swiftly transcended into a means of self-expression and acceptance.
BeautyCon aims to reflect this, from Drag Queens mingling with mothers and teenagers, to gender-neutral bathrooms.
The staff’s uniforms even read on the back, “All glamazons, all natural beauties, all unicorns,” and “All races, all genders, all ages, all countries of origin, all sexual orientations, all religions.”
Sephora’s first foray into the world of beauty festivals occurred in 2018, as a celebration of the brand’s 20-year anniversary.
Titled “Sephoria”, the two-day event was housed in a three-story building, and more than 50 brands offered stalls, including Charlotte Tilbury, Tarte, Benefit, Huda Beauty and Urban Decay.
With many of the brand’s founders on hand, as well as guest appearances from the likes of Benefit spokesperson Chrissy Teigen and Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist Mario Dedivanoic, Sephora aimed to create an event that was focused on customer to brand interaction.
Housed in The Majestic Downtown, a massive 25,000-square foot event space in LA often used to shoot music videos, the festival was split over three levels.
Each level had a different theme; from a beauty masterclass level, to a makeover station, to games such as make-your-own eyeshadow palettes. A “foundation closet” had every foundation shade available at Sephora, with makeup artists on hand to find the perfect shade.
A “Nightclub” area on the basement level brought the festival feel. Drinks were served, beauty brands focused on “night-out” looks, and a DJ played club music.
With tickets capped at a total of 5000, and each day of the weekend only allowing in 1200 attendees, what resulted was a personal and intimate event, where customers could ask advice, get treatments and even create their own products. Unlike other beauty festivals, lines were under 20 minutes.
While the general admission tickets at $99 were more expensive than BeautyCon’s general admission, Sephoria’s inclusions did offer more bonuses for the relative cost.
Tickets (cost per session):
Bronze – $99
Silver: $249, including one skip-the-line pass
Gold: $449, including three skip-the-line passes, and goodie bag
Held in Sydney this year on the 17th-19th May, MECCALAND is self-described as an “immersive world where beauty comes to life in sensational ways.”
Now in its second year, and one of the only events of its kind in Australia, this festival is all about colour, lights and over-the-top displays.
Brands such as Urban Decay, Too Faced, MAC and NARS, among over 30 others, will have stalls offering samples, makeovers and full-sized products to purchase.
Meccaland guests for 2019 include Youtubers such as Sammy Robinson, Shani Grimmond and Bella Fiori, who take to the stage to discuss their beauty routines and their favourite products.
It’s not quite the same as other beauty festivals offering appearances by the likes of Kim Kardashian – Meccaland is highly centred around influencers. In saying that, it’s clear brands have still invested into the booths that market their products (just maybe not the millions of dollars seen at BeautyCon).
Again, it’s all in the hopes of reaching that coveted brand-to-customer interaction and the (free) social media marketing that results.
But last year, several products launched at MeccaLand that weren’t yet available on Australian shores, giving attendees an exclusive chance to purchase before anyone else.
Ticket prices start at $69 for general admission and go up to $150 for the “Pro Pass”. This gives people access to the Mecca “Superstar Lounge”, where influencers are on hand for meet and greets, an “intimate” one-hour masterclass from beauty gurus, and a gift bag with over $300 worth of product.
Beauty Festivals aren’t for the fainthearted. They include long days, usually with massive crowds and long lines, and often stock (that isn’t included in the ticket price) runs out.
For dedicated beauty fans, however, this can be a chance to learn something new from a masterclass, try out free samples from the brands they love, and practice self-expression in an environment that (should be) relatively judgement free.
It’ll just come at an expensive cost.
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