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Why Hero Products Are Here to Stay for Top Beauty Brands

The past few months have been a turbulent time for beauty brands, to say the least. With physical retail stores closed and in-person events canceled in response to shelter-in-place orders, brands must rely entirely on digital channels to connect with fans, spread awareness, and drive sales. Additionally, economic uncertainty has forced many brands to rein in, or refocus, their marketing budgets. And with nowhere to go and few to impress—save family members and Zoom audiences—are people still getting glammed up? 

Here’s the good news: the answer is, yes. Just ask any of the panelists at Tribe Dynamics’ Earned Summit, our first-ever virtual digital marketing conference held last Wednesday. We learned a lot that day: According to executives at top beauty brands like Milk Makeup and Briogeo, consumers remain hungry for that perfect primer or science-backed skincare routine, if only for an extra boost of video-call confidence. But as wallets tighten, tried-and-trusted products will take priority. Here are just a few of the reasons why leading brands are hedging their bets on cult-favorite beauty products in order to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis ahead. 

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Beauty Consumers Still Crave Confidence 

The perfect shade of eyeshadow can go a long, long way. Whether you’re prepping for a Zoom presentation or date night at home, beauty routines can offer a much-needed self-esteem boost. That’s why Milk Makeup chairman Scott Sassa isn’t worried about beauty sales evaporating in the stay-at-home economy. “What we’re selling is confidence,” he said in our panel on compassionate leadership. “That’s not going away.” Even so, Sassa noted that the “relative value system” of beauty is evolving, as people eschew lavish nights out to hunker down at home, and spend more carefully on new products. While cosmetics products will remain popular, he anticipates that the average consumer may be less inclined to put on a full face of makeup on an everyday basis. Instead, they’ll stick to the basics they need to feel like the best version of themselves. 

For Milk Makeup, that appears to be the Hydro Grip Primer. The offering increased its EMV haul every month of 2020, pulling in $4.9M in Earned Media Value (EMV) in January, $5.6M EMV in February, and $6.1M EMV in March before jumping to $6.9M EMV in April. And product loyalty has paid off for the brand, which posted respective 11% and 10% month-over-month EMV growths in both March and April. 

A large and small bottle of Milk Makeup’s cult-favorite Hydro Grip Primer against a pale blue background.

Fewer SKUs Can Streamline Supply Chains

With many brands navigating disrupted supply chains, having just a few, trusted products can prove to be an advantage. Olaplex, for example, has remained largely unaffected by the logistical challenges facing some of its competitors: the haircare brand offers only seven products, all of which enjoy holy grail status among salonists and self-care enthusiasts alike. 

A lean and efficient supply chain means Olaplex can focus its efforts on reaching consumers, wherever they are. “Now is not the time to hibernate,” CEO JuE Wong said. Rather than scaling back sales efforts, the brand is opening new avenues for retail, including pharmacies in EMEA, in order to bring its offerings to a broader audience. And the hustle is working: Olaplex defended its No. 1 position among haircare brands with $24.4M EMV from January to April, buoyed by cult products like the No. 3 Hair Perfector: the home-friendly treatment powered $616.5k EMV in April, up from $306.9k EMV in March, $154.7k in February, and $140.6k EMV in January . 

A bottle of Olaplex’s No. 3 Hair Perfector displayed against a pink background.

Innovation in Beauty Sells Itself 

Curtailing your marketing budget? That’s less of an issue, if what you’re selling can generate enough buzz on its own. “Really good innovation, and having products that work, is marketing in itself,” said Briogeo founder and CEO Nancy Twine, in our panel on launching your own consumer brand. In Briogeo’s early days, Twine noted that funds were limited—in fact, she couldn’t pay influencers at all out of the gate. But her unprecedented vision: essentially, caring for hair in the same regimented way one does for skin, won over beauty gurus and consumers alike. The brand’s hero Don’t Despair, Repair! collection generated an impressive $1.1M EMV of Briogeo’s $6.6M EMV this year, boasting an impressive 301% month-over-month surge from March to April.

Products from Briogeo’s Don’t Despair, Repair! Collection displayed against a pale pink background.  

We may have bid a temporary goodbye to restaurants, movie theaters, and festivals—but the products we love aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and neither are the brands behind them. To read more about the up-and-coming brands and products winning cult followings in 2020, download our newly released Q1 Indie Debrief. 


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