Sophie Maxwell, Futures Director at Pearlfisher, investigates the role of the “limited edition” in today’s beauty industry.


Limited edition is a sure fire way to create hype, visibility and desire for brands. As two more stratospherically famous names – Victoria Beckham and Estée Lauder – collide in a perfect storm of product, pack and PR, we ask: what does limited edition really mean for brands, and what should define the decision making process in launching them?

Victoria Beckham launched her highly anticipated fourteen-piece, limited edition collection with Estée Lauder. Generating a steady stream of slick press featuring the collection itself and photos of VB looking well-monogrammed and wistful, the collection has made limited edition history before it’s even hit the shelves.


Instead of saying, “My choices are too expensive for you,” she’s saying, “I am just like you really””

Victoria Beckham’s heavily publicised rise to fame has seen her build her brand in the esoteric world of high fashion, strongly associating the Beckham name with a more premium positioning. It is sound bites like the above, however, that represent the clincher of celebrity endorsement success. By engaging an unexpectedly diverse audience – from trendy nans to Gen X mums to the millennials who insta-stalk her sons, in direct dialogue, she is extending the brand’s appeal to a very different and more global customer audience. Instead of saying, “My choices are too expensive for you,” she’s saying, “I am just like you really. We have just the same bronzing needs, this one is perfect, whether you live in LA or Newcastle”.

Our own experience helping beauty brands align more closely with their customers’ needs, confirms the wisdom behind this strategy. In research groups for a well-known cosmetics brand, we found that young women were less concerned with seeing a famous model front their favourite make-up brand and were more interested in knowing that she uses its products. They’re looking for a simple sign-off on products, a signature rather than a perfectly primed visage which highlights the importance of product design and branding when it comes to creating a successful limited edition.

The change has occurred for limited edition. It is a brand rather than a ‘designer’ collaboration

Back to the collaboration at hand and, more importantly, how limited edition and the nature of collaborations has changed. Victoria Beckham is an icon of popular culture and now widely respected in fashion; but in beauty she is a challenger and it is Estée Lauder that is the icon. In today’s fluid world of brand innovation, she is capitalising on the desirable edge of her public and professional personas to align with Estée Lauder’s iconic status and establish her name in this coveted space. Shrewd move on her part…as anyone with an interest knows, beauty, perfume and accessories are where the fashion world really makes its money.

That is what makes this collaboration particularly powerful and where the change has occurred for limited edition. It is a brand rather than a ‘designer’ collaboration; the equal meeting of talents, the convergence of differing but complementary strengths but the crucial preservation of individual logotypes. EL/VB and many successful collaborations before it, like Mac Cosmetics x H&M, or Veuve Cliquot – who actually didn’t need anyone else’s help to be brilliant – perfectly pinpoints the sweet spot for collaborations: it’s not about putting a bottle in a dress or hyping up a here-today-gone-tomorrow cause, it’s about taking what exists at the core of a brand and heightening it.


 A limited edition is there to drive desire and show a different side to the brand

Below are our quick fire rules for limited edition success in today’s market:

1. A limited edition is there to drive desire and show a different side to the brand. It is a brand’s moment to free itself from its everyday expression and connect with consumers in a new and exciting way.

2. A limited edition strategy must be driven by a big idea that is authentic to the brand’s core. It should create short term buzz, while building on the brand’s long-term desirability.

3. A successful brand collaboration must be based on a good fit and bring together the individual strengths of each party to offer a powerful new expression and experience for consumers.

4. Brands must create a connection for people by identifying a need, event or occasion. Done properly, it can allow a brand to be part of an exciting world with a genuine reason to be there.

5. Limited edition must inject creativity and fresh thinking – adding new energy and desirability through the interpretation of influencers who can help a brand create immediate excitement in the short term but, in the long term, build its future.

About the author

Sophie Maxwell

Insight Director , Pearlfisher

For the past twelve years, Sophie has been using her eye for detail to scrutinize the visual identities of multi-national companies in every category, from finance and telecoms to personal care, beverages and luxury brands.

Now, as Head of Creative Insight at Pearlfisher, she is present throughout the creative process, evaluating clientsʼ brands by identifying the value of their past and the opportunities of their future, helping us to rebuild them into stronger, more meaningful, future-proofed versions of themselves.