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Smashbox, the makeup from Max Factor's great-grandsons, turns to VR to tell its story

Smashbox has created a 360-degree VR tour of its photo studios.

In 1935, cosmetics brand Max Factor launched Pan-Cake, the first commercially available foundation that was originally developed for Hollywood actresses appearing in Technicolor.

Sixty-ish years later, Dean and Davis Factor, the great-grandsons of Max Factor himself - who was the makeup artist behind the eponymous brand - launched a makeup brand of their own, Smashbox, to meet the demands presented by professional shoots at their photo studio, which also happens to be called Smashbox.

Now, Smashbox Cosmetics is teaming up with creative agency Omelet to give consumers, retail partners and influencers behind-the-scenes access to it all in a 360-degree virtual reality experience, including three photo shoots, which Omelet said reveals “what goes into creating a beauty brand that’s worthy of its namesake and showcases the cosmetic brand’s new and one-of-a-kind lighting technology” via 360-degree-enabled platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

And, according to Ricardo Diaz, executive digital director at Omelet, the real impetus is to tell Smashbox’s story.

“They have a photography studio and they’re making content and they have makeup to have the models use. Not many people know about that,” Diaz said.

Further, the VR tour is launching in conjunction with a new Smashbox Cosmetics website that Omelet said “invites fans to take a deep dive into the brand’s conception.”

In fact, per Diaz, Smashbox is “relaunching the brand online,” which will happen next week, although he did not have specifics about the new online presence other than noting that the VR experience will live there, too.

Diaz said VR helps invite consumers into the studio, which is a sacred space most won’t be able to visit in person. Case in point, per Smashbox's Instagram feed, recent Smashbox shoots include Hollywood hotshots like James Cordon for Rolling Stone, Allison Janney for New York Magazine and Kevin Hart for Entertainment Weekly.

But VR also helps educate consumers and retail partners about Smashbox products. As a means to that end, Diaz said they sent branded Google Cardboard VR viewers to partners at retailers like Sephora so salespeople can also experience the content, along with 400 influencers. A rep noted this is not a paid influencer campaign, but rather a surprise and delight effort for “fans that they think will appreciate it.”

The consumer target is teens and females in their early 20s and, Diaz said, VR helps cut through the noise these young women encounter every day.

“They are saturated with beautiful content and we want to stand out and have a new way to reach out,” Diaz said. “VR [and 360-degree video] is great example of marketing intersecting with technology…you feel like you are walking through the studio.”

In other words, the experience is less about selling products than generating awareness.

“They want to rebrand and they are kind of teaching the consumers out there what the brand is about with a three-minute video piece,” Diaz said. “They want to get the history story out in non-cheesy way. It’s more than makeup -- it’s a photography studio.”

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