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Revson, Charles

revlon models nail cosmetics

B. October 11, 1906

D. August 24, 1975

Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts

Charles Revson sold dresses and sales-motivation materials before founding Revlon. In 1932 he and his brother, Joseph, teamed up with nail-polish supplier Charles Lachman to distribute nail polish. By combining an “l” for Lachman into Revson, they created the name Revlon. The company marketed a unique nail polish which used pigments instead of dyes to produce a variety of opaque, vivid colors. Department and drugstores carried the product, and in 1933, the first full year of business, sales totaled more than $11,000. By the time Revson died in 1975, Revlon was a multimillion dollar company.

Revson introduced several marketing innovations to the cosmetics industry. During the 1950s he became one of the first cosmetics sponsors of the new medium, television. He paired matching lip and nail colors, and twice a year he launched nail polish and lipstick promotions that were coordinated with seasonal clothing fashions. His most influential marketing practice involved offering multiple brands, such as Natural Wonder and Ultima II, to cater to different market segments. Revlon’s innovations, which modernized the cosmetics industry from the 1930s through the 1970s, have become common practices in the industry today.

Revson’s approach toward models set a standard for the industry as well. European models were the most fashionable models of the 1960s, but Revson popularized the “American Look” by using U.S. models. Also, he used famous models, such as Lauren Hutton in 1973, to promote his products. Continuing the tradition, Revlon’s most recent advertisements feature such high-profile models as Halle Berry, Cindy Crawford, Melanie Griffith, and Salma Hayek.

Over the years, Revlon has introduced many new products including a full range of cosmetics, fragrances, hair products, and hair dye. One of its most popular products, Charlie, a bold modern fragrance, was introduced in the early 1970s. Its advertising campaign capitalized on the rise of the feminism movement and projected the image of a young, independent, confident working woman. The fragrance was immediately successful and became a top-selling fragrance. Currently, Revlon’s brands include Revlon, Age Defying, Almay, ColorStay, Flex, Streetwear, and Ultima II.

The company itself has experienced a number of changes over the years. In 1955 it offered its first public stock. Thirty years later the company was sold to a subsidiary of MacAndrews and Forbes Holdings. The company went public again in 1996, and its stock is exchanged on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol REV. In 1999 Revlon represented 25 percent of the U.S. drugstore cosmetics volume, and Almay accounted for another 8.7 percent.

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