Small Business Products Get 'Sex and the City' Close-Up
The "Sex and the City" TV series made household names of brands like Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo – now a handful of small companies are hoping the film has a similar effect on their products.
Vintage apron company Jessie Steele had a big score: Its Audrey cupcake apron not only appeared in the film, it appeared in the trailer. Charlotte York (the brunette) wears the $32.95 full-length pinafore.
"Sales on that item have been huge since the release of the trailer," spokesman Tim Bayliss tells Inc.com. "We've gotten inquiries into the apron nationally and globally." The Berkeley, California-based company – started in 2002 by a collector of vintage aprons and her fashion-savvy daughter – says it had no idea the item would appear in the film until they saw the trailer. (The minute they did, though, they ramped up production. "We knew it would be huge," Bayliss said. The item currently is on backorder on their website.)
Colombian-born, Miami-based designer Adriana Castro also had a big score: Two handbags in the trailer alone, and five in the film. One bag, a $1,160 python clutch, racked up five minutes in screen time – no mean feat in a film where the characters changed clothes even in the desert. (See the bags Carrie Bradshaw & Co. carried.)
How did her luxe handbags land onscreen? "It was a surprise," Castro, who launched her collection in 2007, tells Inc.com. "They don't confirm product placement." Castro's exotic skin bags already have a celebrity following, which Castro says is thanks in part to her friend Loren Ridinger, senior vice president of internet retailing giant marketamerica.com. (Ridinger told her pal Eva Longoria about the bags, and the "Desperate Housewives" actress then toted the $1,145 lizard Annie clutch, a classic envelope bag. Other celebrities have since followed.)
Both Jessie Steele and Castro say bloggers have been key to spreading the word about their products' Hollywood turn.
"It's impressive how fast word of mouth works," says Castro. "Most of the people read about it in blogs. Bloggers have been very supportive."
Jessie Steele's Bayliss said the company itself only did minor promotions (for example, they offered a special "Sex and the City" discount of 10 percent off a purchase of $50) – the Internet did the rest.
"People are much savvier these days utilizing online content to figure out what is in movies and TV shows," he said. "Consumers are willing to do a bit of research to get what they saw on TV." (For help getting your product on TV, click here.)
In the case of Lifeway Foods, eagle-eyed customers began calling and e-mailing the company the day the film opened. They'd spotted Lifeway Kefir – an Eastern European milk-based, cultured drink that's been promoted as a health food – in Miranda Hobbes' kitchen.
Lifeway CEO Julie Smolyansky says someone in the studio requested the product – first produced in the U.S. by her father, a Russian immigrant, in 1986 – but she didn't think it necessarily would appear onscreen.
"We often get requests from movie and television studios for kefir," says Smolyansky, who sends over a few cases. "Most recently someone from 'The Office' wanted it on set."
Does the "Sex and the City" effect transcend fashion (and Cosmpolitans)? "It certainly has helped with branding," says Smolyansky, who notes than 10 years ago kefir was a niche product. "It is clear Lifeway Kefir is a mainstream healthy snack that the most famous girls from New York now enjoy."
Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.