From the Bold to Boring: The MAC Cosmetics Fail

Mar 07, 2024

Social Media Marketing News

From the Bold to Boring: The MAC Cosmetics Fail

Back in 2017, you were hard pressed to find a beauty influencer who wasn’t obsessed with MAC Cosmetics.  Yet now, we are in the midst of a major MAC Cosmetics fail. 

Introduced to the beauty scene in 1984, MAC initially became known for its expansive, inclusive range. The brand made a name for itself by creating makeup anyone could use, not just the white models that other companies catered for. 

MAC was seen as a quality brand; its professional formulas and bold colours made the brand a favourite amongst not only professional makeup artists, but consumers in general. 

Nowadays, it seems MAC has fallen off the face of the earth. YouTubers who once would have laid down their lives for the brand, now are on TikTok showing off their Glossier brows and Milk primer. 

What caused the MAC Cosmetics fail? 

Read on to find out. 


Originally created for professionals with the purpose of withstanding the heat and glare from studio lights, MAC quickly became a household name. Estee Lauder Companies (ELC) purchased MAC in 1998, bringing even more worldwide popularity to the brand. 

Yet, what made MAC so popular? 

Ultimately, their attitude.

MAC’s motto is ‘All ages, All races. All sexes.’ This inclusivity and open mindedness was a rarity when MAC came onto the scene. Users were drawn to the brand’s desire to make products for all skin tones, and all consumers. 

On top of this, MAC has always been seen as an edgy yet playful brand. With its roots in professional makeup artistry, the brand has never shied away from bold colours, crazy seasonal releases and all round disruptive products. For many, MAC was not only the first time they saw make-up products that were made for them, but were also made to be bold and fun. 

This line of branding worked for MAC for decades. Right up until the mid 2010’s, MAC was the brand of choice for professional makeup artists and influencers alike. YouTubers were especially fond of the brand, with big names like James Charles, Lily Singh, and Patrick Starrr preaching their love for MAC constantly.

From the 1980’s to the late 2010’s, MAC was running the beauty game. So, what happened? What caused the MAC Cosmetics fail? 


It’s impossible for me to pass a @maccosmetics counter or gondola now and not feel a certain type of respect and nostalgia! It’s this gentle reminder of where it all began for me. This unrelenting passion I have for makeup. Two Canadian men named Frank from the fashion and beauty world made the coolest possible artistry brand in the 90s out of Canada, and IMO changed the lives of countless people, including myself! I used to work every week to buy eyeshadow and lipglass. It was so much bigger than buying them to use them. It was the overall experience of “going to the MAC counter” the feeling I would get. MAC made me feel like my very own makeup artist, because it was an artistry brand. It did something for my soul, all the colors and the MAC girls with their perfect makeup looks. What a vibe! I remember wanting to be able to do makeup like them, and being terrified to ask them a question at the same time. It was this awe inspired respect. Shoutout to the most nostalgic products of my youth. Studio fix powder, Ruby Woo retro matte lip, and a series of lip liners that made me who I was in the early 2000’s: plum, whirl, cork, spice! Leave a comment if you were ever a MAC girl or remember those OG OG Mac days! makeup beautytok maccosmetics beautyindustry thelipsticklesbians

♬ original sound – The Lipstick Lesbians


The MAC Cosmetics fail is by no means a new phenomenon. MAC has been experiencing a steady decline in sales for the last several years now. 

Its decline in popularity is particularly emphasised by ELC’s decline in profit. The company experienced a drop of 10% in skincare sales and 8% in makeup sales; spurred on significantly by MAC’s flailing relevance. 

On top of this, ELC’s gross profit went down 8% to 2.4 billion pounds, with its gross margin down to 73%. In an attempt to rescue its skinning ship, ELC began a major restructuring of its company. As of the 30th of June 2023, the company had reduced 3-5% of its positions. 

Evidently, the sun is setting on MAC’s reign. The MAC Cosmetics fail can largely be attributed to three major factors. 

The Skincare boom 

Skincare has become a major concern for consumers in recent years. Influencers such as Skincare by Hyram have spurred on an obsession in consumers with not only taking care of their skin, but understanding the science behind it. 

Armed with this new found knowledge on ingredients, costs, and the beauty industry as a whole, consumers are now drawn to simple products. Companies that are open about their ingredients and present them as backed by science are now far more popular than the aesthetically pleasing brands of years past; the Mario Badescu facial mist has all but dropped off the face of the earth. 

As such, brands like MAC, that do not lean into this ingredient first, science based, simple packaging and clean branding, are failing to find their footing with this new consumer base.

On top of this, consumers are now far more interested in simple, fresh makeup looks; not the layer heavy, over the top style that MAC is known for. Brands such as Glossier have overtaken the market, with users loving their simple products and skin first approach. 

Adapting to this new desire in consumers has been incredibly difficult for MAC, who are heavily associated with the complicated makeup looks of the 2010’s.  Thus, the skincare boom greatly contributed to the MAC Cosmetics fail. 


BYOMA Review In 60 Seconds ⏰ PRODUCTS IN BIO #byoma #review #skincare


No longer a rarity in the market 

As previously mentioned, MAC was a major market disruptor when it initially was introduced to society in 1984. 

Its wide range of colours, not only in its skin based products such as foundations, but also in its eyeshadows and more, made it a stand out brand. Users felt that MAC was worth its price point, as it was backed by professional makeup artists, and catered to real people; not just the models on screen. 

Yet, since then, many other brands have followed suit. Companies such as Rare Beauty and Fenty Beauty now offer even wider ranges of colours and products than MAC, and have become known as the most inclusive brands on the market. 

MAC, in contrast, has struggled to keep up. The brand’s inability to regularly innovate has greatly assisted in the MAC Cosmetics fail. 


On Fridays we wear WE’RE EVEN??????????​ Our NEW We’re Even #FentyConcealer just dropped TUH-DAY, so y’all know we had to show out with the full range of 5️⃣0️⃣ medium coverage shades (swatched on a #ProFiltrFoundation shade ‘260’)! Get into our skincare-fueled super concealer for the ultimate makeup meets skincare life hack ?​ Add your shade to cart at the #fentybeauty site, @sephora, @sephoracanada, #SephoraxKohls at @Kohl’s, @Ulta Beauty and globally ?

♬ original sound – Fenty Beauty

 The TikTok effect 

The TikTok effect is, arguably, the driving force behind the MAC Cosmetics fail

For younger consumers in the Gen Z and Gen Alpha demographic, the driving force behind their makeup decisions is TikTok. These younger consumers want to be on trend, and thus select their new makeup products based on what is popular on TikTok. 

Moreover, younger consumers seek products at a lower price point. They desire makeup that is affordable and dupes of other, more pricey products. 

As such, brands that are able ‘go viral’ are the ones that are most popular with these consumers, and more broadly, overall. Brands like E.L.F have nailed TikTok marketing, creating products that are cheap, able to be bought easily online, and consistently go viral. 

MAC, in contrast, does not have this TikTok quality. Its products are set at a higher price point, and its marketing does not have that Gen Zalpha quality that would allow it to trend on TikTok. In spite of this, MAC continues to try to market to younger consumers on TikTok. 

MAC is insistent on trying to persuade younger consumers to buy their products. Yet, these consumers do not want what MAC has to offer; they seek cheap, viral products. MAC simply cannot offer these things to consumers, unless the company decides to completely revamp its brand.


That’s the Tube Girl Effect ? @Sabrina Bahsoon #MACStudioRadiance #SerumPowered #MACBackstage #LondonFashionWeek #tubegirl #MACgirl #tubegirleffect

♬ original sound – maccosmetics


Ultimately, the MAC Cosmetics fail is primarily due to its highly ineffective marketing. 

They have attempted to target the new generation, by switching up their marketing and trying to rebrand their image. This, as it often does, has failed to do anything for MAC’s popularity. 

Instead of attempting to write itself into the new generation, MAC should instead be championing its heritage and honouring the older consumers who made it so popular in the first place. 

Gen X and above are a worthwhile market to target. Brands often forget that these older consumers are ready and willing to purchase; if your brand does not suit the TikTok life, then don’t force it. Instead, market to an audience that has the financial stability to purchase and appreciate your products. 

To move beyond the MAC Cosmetics fail, the brand would be wise to dedicate their attention to uplifting its history, perhaps with throw-back marketing similar to their campaigns of the 80’s and 90’s. Older consumers are already aware of how much they love MAC, they just need to be reminded that it is still a viable option. 

MAC should show these consumers that it intends to age with them, by catering to their needs; not those of the Gen Zalpha’s on TikTok who simply want a cheap product hyped up by an influencer and slapped with a ‘trending’ label.

Our influencer marketing agency and social agency are located worldwide, with our agency network based in the USA, UK, UAE and China.

If you want to find industry insights, visit our influencer marketing and social media blogs.

@ Socially Powerful


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Ella Proctor

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