Bare Escentuals: Designing Story in a Digital World - The Innovation Playbook

By Jennifer Aaker, Stephany Yong, Jessica Dodson
2016 | Case No. M350 | Length 8 pgs.

This 2016 case describes how Bare Escentuals used innovative product design and marketing to transform itself from a local San Francisco retailer into one of the leading cosmetic companies in the United States. In 1995, the company launched bareMinerals, a breakthrough mineral-based foundation that bridged the gap between skincare and makeup and aimed to replace competitors’ liquid foundation. In 1997 Bare Escentuals CEO Leslie Blodgett’s appeared on QVC to sell bareMinerals, and customers responded by buying the product in droves and flooding QVC forums to ask Blodgett questions and try to connect with her personally. Bare Escentuals went on to define its relationship with customers as a “girlfriend experience”– one built on empathy and grounded in bare Escentuals’ brand mission and philosophy, which included the principles of customer integrity, openness and trust.

In 2014, the company developed a new innovative product – a liquid foundation called bareSkin. However, as a long-time detractor of liquid foundation, the company had to develop a convincing 360 marketing and communications campaign to get customers to try bareSkin. Bare Escentuals invited members of its Friends and Benefits (FAB) program to lead community-oriented online discussions and help the company tell the bareSkin story to a broader audience through Bare Escentuals videos, creative banner ads and catchy email subject lines. Bare Escentuals also used Instagram and YouTube to research, track and connect to online influencers who already used Bare Escentuals products or who were liquid foundation users unsatisfied with competitors’ offerings. This digital campaign drove hundreds of thousands of visitors to, almost all of whom were new visitors to the site. 

Click to view Bare Escentuals: Designing Story in a Digital World - The Innovation Playbook case.

Learning Objective

The objective is for students to learn about creating innovative products by designing for empathy, defining and telling the story around those products and the overall brand, and taking the products to scale in a digital world.

This material is available for download at no charge. Download