Born rich

Bow down, newcomers. This iconic body moisturizer has been a cult favourite since the ‘70s – and it’s not going anywhere.

Step one to becoming an icon? Don’t be modest. Despite Keihl’s Crème de Corps’ unassuming packaging, its label lets you know that this is no ordinary body lotion. Promising “a skin texture heretofore unattainable” after 10 days if use. It touts itself as being of “superb quality” and full of “the finest ingredients”. Boastful? Sure, but it’s been the brand’s number-one-selling body product for decades, so it’s earned the right to act a tad grande dame-ish.

Description: Kiehl’s Crème de Corps ($24 for 125mL)

Kiehl’s Crème de Corps ($24 for 125mL)

“Crème de Corps was a phenomenon when it launched in the early 1970s”, says Cheryl Vitali, global vice-president for the New York-based apothecary brand. “It was unusual at the time because it was so extravagant and indulgent. People immediately fell in love with the texture”. Unscented and butter yellow in colour (thanks to the antioxidant beta carotene), it was and still is – a creamy, emollient lotion that delivers immediate, long-lasting hydration due to a high concentration of Squalene, Shea butter and cocoa butter. So, does high performance create iconic status?

Description: Kiehl's Creme de Corps Soy Milk & Honey Whipped Body Butter

Kiehl's Creme de Corps Soy Milk & Honey Whipped Body Butter

Not necessarily. In the notoriously fickle beauty business – where products come and go as quicly as starlets cycle through rehab – efficacy alone doesn’t guarantee enduring popularity; there’s an emotional factor at play. “Skin-care products touch people at a deeper level”, says Alan Middleton, professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “Trust is at the heart of all successful brands”. This trust might explain how Crème de Corps earned its cult status. In its 161 years in business, Kiehl’s has never done any advertising; instead, buzz grew via word-of-mouth and unpaid endorsements from beauty editors, models and celebrity fans (among them Kate Moss, Sarah Jessica Parker and Beyoncé). “There’s no question that when people see someone they admire using a product, they’ll run in to try it”, says Vitali. Of course, that’s not as easy as just popping into the drugstore, which leads to the last link in the “mystical status” chain. Sold at prestigious Kiehl’s boutiques, a handful of department stores and only recently online, the products have a limited availability that adds to their cachet. “When a product is hard to find, it builds an air of mystery”, says Middleton. “It makes customers feel like they know a secret that other people don’t”.

“When a product is hard to find, it builds an air of mystery”

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