Birchbox’s own beauty line will fly because it gets digital (and that’s everything)
By Sara McCorquodale

The brand’s makeup line launches in a saturated, highly competitive market – but its marketing strategy is so clever it can’t fail. WGSN Senior Editor Sara McCorquodale reports

Oct 15, 2015
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And so, Birchbox is set to crack the mould of its own core raison d’etre – letting consumers try incredible, well-known beauty products – by creating its own range.

It’s a risk albeit not a huge surprise, given the brand opened its first actual store in New York earlier this year and has a rather impressive $71.9million venture capital funding behind it. Widening its offering has clearly been Birchbox’s MO this year and it intends to launch a second product line in 2016.

But let’s focus on the first drop – a makeup range LOC (an acronym standing for Love of Color) with a price point of $22 to $49 which will reflect seasonal trends. So far, so good. The question is, do Birchbox subscribers want Birchbox product or do they just want a steady stream of travel-sized luxury?

birchbox Love of Colour

The truth is, creating a successful new beauty line is tough. The market is saturated and the majority of consumers have a daily regimen that’s set in stone: a three or four-step cleansing routine followed by make-up they know and trust.

As a former beauty journalist, I spent much of my early to mid-twenties at product launches. There, you would meet brilliant, creative people who had done their research and often had a strong USP. Sometimes their products even did what they claimed to. And yet, 12 months later they would be gone – just another start-up that couldn’t persuade consumers to ditch their L’Oreal or Estee Lauder-owned favourite for something new.

But Birchbox is different. Not just because its got a one million+ subscriber-base to sell to. Not just because its products are colour-driven and popping vibrant brights are so now (not to mention so next season).

No – Birchbox’s product line will succeed because it gets social media to the extent that being a subscriber and a follower feels like being part of a really cool girl gang. It’s smart, it’s approachable, it’s #squadgoals meets product. You understand Birchbox, because the brand – via social – portrays itself as a slightly wiser version of its consumers.

If you need proof of how powerful this concept is at generating profit, check out Glossier – the beauty range launched by ex-Vogue style assistant and Into The Gloss founder Emily Weiss. Eschewing traditional formats of new product marketing (launch first, social second), Weiss got her 100K+ Instagram followers excited by – and invested in – her line by posting pictures of the products before they were anywhere near retail.

glossier

In fact, I’d be surprised if Weiss didn’t create her highly shareable range (pale pink and retro – sort of the product version of Cher in Mermaids) with how they’d look on the social platform in mind.

Like Birchbox, Glossier followers are almost part of a movement – coined by Weiss as “more skin, less makeup” – they’re not just buying product, they’re investing in a smart, cool lifestyle that’s just so very current.

And now? Glossier is stronger than ever – retailing in the U.S. with plans to sell further afield and backed by sturdy investment totaling at $10.4m.

This enlightened approach to beauty marketing is the polar opposite of the celebrity-driven campaigns because it puts consumers at the centre making them part of something progressive, rather than ask them to aspire to a rather impossible aesthetic ideal.

So yeah – launching a new beauty range and making it stick is hard. But if any brand can do it, it’s Birchbox.

BE FIRST WITH BEAUTY: From backstage buzz during fashion weeks, to emerging street style trends, our beauty editors are constantly publishing ahead-of-the-curve trend reports to keep our subscribers informed. Find out more here.

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