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Is urban decay a high end brand?

Urban Decay has become one of the most popular and recognized makeup brands on the market today. Known for their edgy product names and eccentric packaging, Urban Decay has cultivated a reputation as a higher-end makeup line. But does their pricing and marketing truly push them into the luxury beauty sphere? Let’s take a closer look at the origins, products, and perceptions around Urban Decay to determine if it can be considered a high-end brand.

The Origins of Urban Decay

Urban Decay was founded in 1996 by Sandy Lerner, a co-founder of Cisco Systems, along with two other partners. Based in Newport Beach, California, the company wanted to create makeup products inspired by the gritty, urban street style that was popular at the time. Their first product releases included nail polishes and lipsticks in unconventional shades like metallic blue and dark purple. This stood out from more natural-toned products offered by other prestige brands at the time.

The unique and provocative names that Urban Decay gave its products, like “Roach,” “Smog,” and “Asphyxia,” helped establish their edgy and rebellious brand image. Their early advertising also leaned into alternative lifestyles, featuring models with nose and eyebrow piercings and purple hair. Although sold at department stores, Urban Decay positioned itself as a makeup line for hip outsiders rather than the wealthy and glamorous. Their products offered access to punk rock and grunge makeup aesthetics to a wider consumer market.

Product Types and Pricing

Today, Urban Decay offers a full range of makeup products across color cosmetics, complexion, skincare, and fragrances. Their product lineup includes:

  • Eyeshadow palettes
  • Eyeliners
  • Mascaras
  • Eyebrow products
  • Lipsticks
  • Lip glosses
  • Lip liners
  • Primers
  • Foundations
  • Concealers
  • Bronzers
  • Blushes
  • Highlighters
  • Makeup setting sprays
  • Makeup brushes
  • Perfumes

Their eye makeup, lip products, and Naked series palettes remain their most popular sellers. Urban Decay’s products retail at mid-range to high-end price points. For example:

  • Eyeshadow palettes range from $30-$65
  • Foundation prices range from $39-$42
  • Lipstick prices range from $19-$22
  • Eyeliners cost $22-$25
  • Mascara prices range from $26-$30

Although accessible to a wider audience, Urban Decay’s pricing sits on the higher end of what you can find at drugstores or big box retailers. The following table shows price comparisons to other popular makeup brands:

Brand Eye Palette Price Foundation Price Lipstick Price
Maybelline $9.99-$14.99 $5.99-$14.99 $5.99-$9.99
L’Oreal $14.99-$19.99 $12.99-$19.99 $8.99-$12.99
Urban Decay $30.00-$65.00 $39.00-$42.00 $19.00-$22.00
Dior $62.00-$89.00 $52.00-$82.00 $38.00-$42.00

Based on these price points, Urban Decay sits below true luxury or couture brands but above mass market drugstore lines. Their prices are on par with what consumers expect from a mid-to-high end makeup brand sold at department stores and specialty beauty retailers.

Brand Perception and Marketing

Unlike couture fashion houses like Chanel and Dior that represent opulence and glamor, Urban Decay still maintains some of that original edgy, punk rock vibe from its founding in the 1990s. Their makeup is perceived as higher quality and more aspirational than drugstore varieties, but not as unattainable as ultra luxurious brands.

Urban Decay relies heavily on influencer marketing and collaborations to maintain brand hype. Partnering with celebrities like Gwen Stefani and Ruby Rose, along with influencers with millions of Instagram followers, helps Urban Decay feel trendy and relevant. Their in-store experiences and events also aim to be cooler and more engaging than a typical department store counter. However, it’s a mistake to equate Urban Decay’s popularity with true luxury status.

Although their advertising tends to feature models rather than celebrities, Urban Decay positions itself as makeup for everyday people. Their messaging speaks to empowerment, self-expression, and embracing your individuality versus elitism and perfection. Collaborations with mass market retailers like H&M also expand their accessibility to consumers compared to the most upscale brands.

Urban Decay’s Parent Company

In 2012, luxury powerhouse L’Oreal purchased Urban Decay for a reported $350 million. This provided Urban Decay with greater resources and distribution. However, L’Oreal also owns mass market drugstore brands like L’Oreal Paris, Garnier, and Maybelline. Luxury conglomerates typically don’t mix couture and mass brands under the same parent company.

The acquisition enabled Urban Decay to scale up while still retaining its unique brand DNA. But having ownership ties to mainstream product lines prevents Urban Decay from being considered a true luxury player. Instead, the brand straddles a fine line between prestige and mass market.

The Verdict: Not High End but Still Aspirational

Based on its pricing, marketing, and ownership, Urban Decay sits in the upper middle tier of makeup brands – above drugstores but below couture. Consumers may perceive it as higher end compared to Maybelline and other mass brands. But Urban Decay’s origins, branding, and distribution keep it firmly planted as an affordable, yet aspirational makeup line when compared against the most exclusive luxury players.

Urban Decay allows consumers to access makeup looks inspired by edgy fashion trends and the avant-garde. But the brand intentionally maintains a connection with suburban malls, younger demographics, and mass retailers. This bifurcated approach has fueled incredible success for Urban Decay, even if it can’t claim true high-end status.

So while Urban Decay might not sit beside Chanel and Tom Ford at the highest levels of luxury, it remains an influential brand in the modern makeup industry. Their products let anyone add a touch of punk rebellion or grunge edge to their beauty routine at an accessible price point – and that user base remains central to their brand identity.