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What’s Working: Madison Reed’s Unconventional Approach to Beauty

By True Ventures, April 17, 2018

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If there’s one thing Amy Errett is determined to do – and there are many – it’s change the definition of beauty. As the Founder and CEO of hair color company Madison Reed (and a member of the True team), Errett is both reimagining home hair color for the more than 95 million women in the U.S. who color their hair and redefining how beauty is portrayed by consumer brands.

In February, Madison Reed published a press release outlining the company’s pledge to use unaltered, raw photography in its advertising campaigns. Take one look at the brand’s “Confident Is the New Beautiful” campaign, and you’ll notice another industry anomaly — models of all ages, including women over the age of 50, who mirror the diversity of the real world.

“Long ago, I decided Madison Reed would never use seductive photography,” said Errett. “In fact, I named the company after my daughter to empower her to find her own path, with grace and without apology.”

In February 2017, a year before the company’s pledge, Madison Reed hired CMO Heidi Dorosin, formerly of The Clorox Company, to lead the burgeoning brand into a new era of beauty defined by reality rather than perfection.

Dorosin shared her take on the brand’s recent advertising campaign, which she, Errett and the whole Madison Reed team hope shatters the falsities of the beauty ads from the past.

True Ventures: Do you think more beauty brands will follow in the footsteps of Madison Reed and begin to use unaltered imagery?

Heidi Dorosin: I certainly hope so! There are many brands that are starting to join us, but for incumbents who have used highly altered imagery for many years, it is a scarier proposition for them to suddenly shift from the status quo to raw photography because they probably believe it will lead to a drop in sales.

For brands that do make the switch, I hope they do so honestly versus doing “some” alterations and then marketing those images as though they haven’t been retouched. Our advertising photography is completely raw. We don’t touch a thing.

True: The Madison Reed brand really is for women of all ages, whereas many beauty brands promote the idea that youth is beautiful. Aside from untouched photography, are there any other ways the company “speaks” to women of all ages?

HD: Our perspective on beauty (that beauty comes from confidence) permeates everything we do, from images, to content, to the way we express our content. When you honor women as we do, it means you must believe women deserve the best, and you need to walk the talk. So, we speak directly. We don’t waste her time. We give her the best customer service in the industry. If we mess up, we fix things. In our content, we celebrate women doing great things, not women looking a certain way.

Madison Reed Hair

True: What role do you believe beauty brands play in the lives of young women?

HD: I have two teenage daughters, so this question is near and dear to my heart. Beauty brands shape a young girl’s definition of beauty. It creates her “eyesight” on beauty. In my opinion, how beauty brands and the media depict women is the biggest factor shaping what a young girl perceives to be beautiful. As a mom, I try hard to counteract the forces in beauty that have so much influence on them.

True: How big is your creative team and what kinds of pivotal conversations occur at Madison Reed that help to define the brand?

HD: We have an in-house creative team, comprised of designers and writers, that has built the brand into what it is today, one image and word at a time. Whenever we look at visuals and messaging, we evaluate it based on whether or not it honors the inner confidence of a woman who knows who she is and lives unapologetically.

Madison Reed’s creative team: Kira Roher, Halee Hatlestad, Laura French, Susannah Murdock, Ginger Shiue and Sara Preston. 

True: What’s next for Madison Reed?

HD: More of the same honestly, which is to continue to disrupt the status quo in hair color by giving women salon-gorgeous results that save them time and money.

Madison Reed, which True Ventures initially funded in 2013, plans to open more than 20 of its Color Bars by the end of 2019.