Caviar, oops, Fish Egg Manicure, aka Bad PR 101: How NOT to Handle Bloggers

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Here is my Caviar, oops, I mean, Fish Egg Manicure! I'm sure by now, you would have heard of how Ciate stupidly unleashed a backlash against its own brand. Well, that's a large part of the reason why I'm writing today's post, too.

It all started so well. One of the more unique trends that was coming up this season for nails was Ciate's Caviar Manicure. This basically a nail surface that is polished, and then covered with beads. It lends a texture and look that resembles caviar, hence the name. (I guess maybe "bubble manicure" didn't sound as good.)

A lot of nail bloggers were inspired by the look, and began doing their own DIY versions. Most brands consider it a good thing, even if these bloggers aren't using their own products (Ciate's manicure sets aren't avaialble til June). The reason is simple - more publicity leads to increased sales, or at least, increased general brand awareness. This was a virtuous cycle - bloggers love a product, readers know about it, brand gets good publicity, and sales.


So far, so good. Then Ciate began sending Cease and Desist letters to bloggers (an example here), on the grounds that they are infringing on their intellectual property. Ciate claims that because they are in the process of trademarking the terms "caviar manicure" and "caviar nails", all nail bloggers using either terms are liable for IP infringement.

Of course, nail bloggers, being a tight-knit bunch, were unhappy. The outrage culminated in "Fish Egg Friday", where bloggers all did their own DIY caviar manicures (now re-named "Fish Egg manicures") to express solidarity and unhappiness with Ciate regarding the situation. (One of my favourite posts regarding the entire situation is here.)

As it turns out, Ciate didn't even invent the caviar manicure. It was first done by Dashing Diva more than a year before Ciate, for the Cushnie et Ochs show in 2011. And back then, it was called a caviar manicure too, not as a trademarked term, but more as a general description (like shatter polish doesn't specificaly refer to OPI's shatter range). And yet, if you read the Ciate website, it says, "The inspiration behind the Caviar Manicure™ came about when Charlotte, Ciaté’s Creative Director, was looking to create 3-dimensional nails for a front cover magazine shoot and wanted to develop something feminine, indulgent yet delicately extravagant."

ciate claims

(Screen-capped from Ciate website. Snarky text and red circle added by me.)

So in essence, Ciate is claiming that they invented the cavair manicure, which was invented over a year ago by someone else under the same (non-trademarked) name, and now they are going to trademark it so that noone else (including the original creator, Dashing Diva), can use the words "caviar manicure" or "caviar nails". That's just total and utter crap to me.

Ethical issues aside, this has to do with dealing with bloggers. If it was some skeevy Ebay seller selling fake Ciate beads, then by all means, excercise your IP and slap them with a C&D. But for bloggers, who are individuals acting in a non-commercial manner, and who could be your customers, this is overkill. Even if you have the legal right to do so, a savvy company would not use that as the first step. As I wrote in my previous post the last time something like this happened, it's not a good idea, and I quote:

"However, sending a lawyer's letter right off the bat is a very heavy-handed response given that they are just dealing with one individual, and is one that is too harsh, and bound to give the company a bad reputation. Instead, a much better thing to do would have been to get a PR person to send out a more friendly-sounding email clarifying the situation - that would have gotten the same effect, and have avoided the drama. Justified or not, this is still really bad publicity for [Ciate], which could have been avoided. A lawyer's letter should be the last line of resort, not the first thing you think of, especially when dealing with harmless individuals who are your customers!"

Ciate has since then softened its stance against bloggers, but it does seem like too little, too late.

Anyway, I'm sure you had enough of my ranting (well, what is my blog good for if not ranting I guess!). Let's move on to the actual good stuff - more photos of my very own Caviar Fish Egg Manicure! I'm too late to the party to add in my blog for the link list that's been going round since I was at work all week, so this is not for any type of publicity I could get from the outrage, but more to just express solidarity in my own way.

ciate caviar manicure inspired look 2

For this Caviar Fish Egg Manicure, I used OPI's Barefoot in Barcelona as the base. It's been sitting around in my untrieds for over a year, and I can't believe it took me all this time to use this baby. It's a gorgeous pinky-brown sandy neutral, and would look good on almost anyone, I think. Heck, I think this would even make a great lip colour too!

ciate caviar manicure inspired look 4

For the beads, I used some random beads I got from Born Pretty Store. Mine were only one colour, but you can get a few colours and mix them together, if you're more artsy than me. In order to get the beads onto the nails, I painted two coats of Barefoot in Barcelona, then basically poured beads over my nail while it was still wet. Some areas are harder to reach than others, so if you want you can dip your nails too. Once I was satisfied with how the beads looked, I added some topcoat to seal everything.

ciate caviar manicure inspired look 3

All in all, this was a really easy manicure to do. I mean, pouring stuff over your nail - doesn't get much simpler than that! The downside though, is that some of the the beads came loose, and I felt like my manicure was going to drop off eventually, bead by bead. I suppose it's great for a night out, but I don't expect these to last more than a couple of days. Besides, I also have this really horrible habit of picking at my nails, and a rough and bumpy texture like that of the Caviar Fish Eggs manicure would really tempt me to pick at them soo much.

ciate caviar manicure inspired look 5

The bottom line? I'd probably wear this for a glamorous night out, but not for everyday. And although it's easy to do, you'd have to be quite patient to work with tiny little beads that may be prone to spilling and rolling all over the floor. But otherwise, I think it doesn't look that bad - it's really a hate or love kinda thing, but I am actually starting to get to like it. I just don't think I'll be getting Ciate's version of the beads.


  1. I love this post, your take on the 'Fish eggs manicure' is awesome, it looks gorgeous.

  2. Perfect example of a brand getting PR wrong, wrong, wrong. They've turned me right off! (but your fish egg mani looks fab btw) x

  3. LOL. Find out where they are applying for the trademark, and notify the relevant trademark office of Dashing Diva's "prior art" (in patent terms, a prior article that invalidates a patent claim). Depending upon the laws where the trademark is being applied for, this may make it impossible for anybody to ever trademark the term "caviar manicure" in that jurisdiction or country. :)

    1. Sorry, just interjecting to clarify that patents are an entirely separate area of IP law with its own set of doctrine. Prior art is indeed applicable in patent law, but not in trademark--you actually obtain trademark rights by either being the first to use the mark in commerce, or the first to file the mark with the USPTO. See

  4. holy snap! that looks interesting. i dig the other colors better though :]

  5. Very nice, it takes a lot of effort but the results are worth it. How long do you think it will last?

    1. @Jacqueline: I'm guessing probably a few days max, the beads can fall off. Usually th ones at the sides go first, but the ones in the middle are ok.

  6. Brilliant post, very interesting.
    p.s. love your fish egg manicure! :-)

  7. =w= I hate it when companies do this kind of thing. Solidarity! Right on!

  8. Please don't stop calling it a "caviar manicure." If you call it a "fish egg" manicure or something else, that will HELP their trademark claim. I know it sounds weird, but it's true. - Anon Laywer

  9. Do not mess with nail blotters. I like it. I might try it with bling beads. I like shiny stuff

  10. this looks brilliant! i might try it one day for a special event.

  11. I am so going to try this! Thanks for sharing ^^

  12. Loving the beads. Ciate really made a bad move, also a shame that they lied about inventing it. Horrible!

  13. Definitely learnt from your post. Looks like a little bit of glue might "fasten" the beads and ensure that they last a little longer. Gonna try out this "fish egg manicure"!

    Thanks for sharing!

  14. Super late to the party here but I'm officially sick of everyone jumping on Ciate for the wrong reasons.

    Legally, if you have a trademark you are required to protect that trademark in order to keep the rights to it. They are required to send out the C&D letters or enter into a licensing contract with anyone who uses the term... once they own the trademark.

    The reasons you should be jumping on Ciate are 1) for sending out C&D letters before they had actually trademarked the term and 2) for trademarking a term that is already in common use. It's like if someone trademarked the term "water marbling"--trying to keep that trademark would be near-impossible.

    My best guess is that they came up with this really cool idea and didn't realize it was already a thing until they started with the trademarking. Then they saw all these people using the term and had an "Oh sh!t!" moment. So instead of dropping the trademark idea altogether, they went in the most wrong direction possible PR-wise. Unfortunate.

    Also a shame that they're not selling a better way to adhere/seal the beads to the nail other than "Just pour them over our nail polish and let dry, then don't use your hands for anything--don't even look at them the beads will fall off!" At least some decent nail glue or a top coat that doesn't strip the finish from the beads...

    Yours turned out really good though and I'm curious how long it lasted, if you remember?


Thank you for commenting! I read each and every single comment! If you ask a question in your comment, please check back to this post, as I will reply in a comment to this post as well :) Please note that comments with soliciting links to shops or websites will be removed. Thanks!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...