Estée Lauder’s Elixir of Promise: A Lasting Brand Attachment

It started at my grandmother’s vanity. Throughout my childhood, Friday nights meant staying at her house. And each Friday, after my version of dinner and a show—Spaghetti-O’s and The Brady Bunch—I’d retire to gramma’s bedroom, where her vanity was littered with cosmetics.

I was riveted by the makeup. I’d spend hours trying the different shades, seeing what worked and what didn’t. This method informed the rest of my life, and how I saw myself. Even when I feel like I’m no great beauty, I still think that if I just do my makeup right, I can become one.

Makeup is my life, and this brand has been my life support

To this day, if I have spare time and spare cash, it goes to makeup. Hours can pass when I’m at the cosmetics counter. Makeup is my thing; my love of it is part of who I am.

So, do I have a cosmetics attachment? Yes. But what I didn’t know, until I read about it recently, is that I have a brand attachment to Estée Lauder products.

The most sophisticated girl in Saginaw, Michigan

Even though I was very young, I wanted to be urbane, sophisticated, sought after. Because I wasn’t a 9-year-old in a smiley face t-shirt, reading Cosmo in the basement. The real me was in a floor-length white gown, leaning on a mahogany desk in a mansion.

As soon as I’d saved up enough money from my stellar career as a babysitter—I took my hard-earned savings and bought myself Estée perfume. If I pass a bottle of it somewhere, it still smells like the me I wanted to be in 9thgrade. In reality, I was a 14-year-old girl with a double belt and bad hair. But underneath my Estée, I knew I was a misunderstood sophisticate. It was my idealized self-image, and Estée Lauder brought it to me.

Simple yet sophisticated

In high school, I started using Clinique. Their clean, simple message still struck me as the height of sophistication. At the Clinique counter, there was a diagnostic tool you could play with to determine your skin type. I took it approximately seven million times, and always the answer was the same. It seemed efficient. Dependable. And oh, so modern.

A more down-to-earth time. If smelling like white tea can be down to earth.

Things changed when I got to college. For some reason, nouveau hippie was where it was at. It was the late ’80s, yet we were all sporting flowing skirts and patchouli like it was 1969. That didn’t mean I didn’t adore cosmetics, still. But I wanted them to seem less…cosmetic.

Enter Prescriptives and Origins. They were natural, minimal and smelled great. I can still smell Origins white tea “treatment lotion” which made me feel like I was still a ’90s hippie. And Aveda, whose shampoos and gels seemed so earth-friendly yet sophisticated, which is how I would’ve described myself.

The brown-lipstick years

I’d graduated college and moved to Seattle. Grunge was in, but I couldn’t help but clomp my combat boots into high-end department stores. But how could I balance my need to seem tough and plaid-wearing with my love for cosmetic enhancement? MAC.

MAC Cosmetics had brown lipstick. Black eye pencils. Bold shadows. It was a way to seem almost goth, yet still look appropriate enough at my marketing job. Pretty soon, the only makeup counter I went to was MAC. Until I found Bobbi Brown.

It’s my prerogative

As I entered my 30s, I felt the need to look less brown-lipped and more…pretty. Also, I had a long commute and a demanding job. I needed to be polished in a hurry, and that’s just what Bobbi Brown provided. It matched my vision of myself as hurried-young-professional-who’s-incidentally-still-kinda-hot.

Back to glam

These days, I take my time doing my makeup. I combine most of the above cosmetics brands to make my own statement. I love Bobbi Brown eye makeup. I still swoon over MAC lipsticks, but my go-to lip colors are the sheer and easy Clinique Chubby Sticks.

I have two additions to my repertoire: Nothing but Smashbox primer will do under my makeup, and I love Jo Malone fragrances. Her Wood Sage and Sea Salt is exactly me: unexpected, fresh and, frankly, a little salty.

All those companies I loved? They were the same!

Why did I just tell you the history of my cosmetics purchases? Because I copy edited a white paper on brand attachment at work (I’m a senior copy editor at Pace in Greensboro, North Carolina) and realized I have brand attachment.

I knew my very favorite thing was cosmetics. But what I didn’t know is that every single cosmetic I have been loyal to in my lifetime is owned by Estée Lauder.

Estée Lauder is able to tap into how women are thinking at various times in our culture, finding the perfect product for each moment.

Likewise, it has become a part of who I am. At every walk of my life, this parent brand has formed a huge emotional connection with me. When I wanted to be the most glamorous 13-year-old in Michigan? Estée Lauder spoke to me. When I was a busy young professional and I wanted to be polished in a hurry? Bobbi Brown filled that need.

And like 50% of consumers, I didn’t even know the parent brand of the companies I was so attached to. But attached I was. It made me feel happy. It met my needs. It gave me a rush.

I don’t buy these products because I need them. I buy them because I need to feel the way they make me feel. The world can be falling down around me, but holding a small bag with a new MAC eye pencil in it gives me a glimmer of hope that better days are ahead.

So, yes. I have a meaningful attachment to Estée Lauder. And I probably always will.

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