Want to know how ColourPop became so successful? Read this.

I’ve always been fascinated with ColourPop’s skyrocket to success and the dizzying rate with which they launch their products. Since 2014, it’s been the brand on every beauty lover’s tongue, in their wishlists and in their hauls. You turn around and there’s five more major launches and collaborations from them, it’s crazy. To me it seemed like they exploded out of nowhere very quickly, am I right? They were considered very mysterious at the time since there was no official spokesperson for the brand and the founders remained very much in the background. But of course there’s always a story to tell.

Interestingly, I’ve barely tried any ColourPop products before. My mom bought me an old Kathleen Lights collaboration from a while back which consisted of four Super Shock Shadows, Blaze, Kathleenlights, Glow & Cornelius (some or all of these were discontinued I think). Otherwise I’ve never touched one product. This is what’s truly ironic about this scenario. The reason that ColourPop has been “unsuccessful” selling products to someone like me is exactly the same reason (or one of the key reasons) why the brand has been so wildly successful selling to millions of other consumers. Haven’t guessed yet? It’s a true e-commerce brand for the modern digital world. I still rarely buy makeup online that I’ve never used or at least sampled before. This probably makes me “old school” but I’m fine with that.

But despite my inexperience with their product line, as a former student of business I find ColourPop to be its own terrific case study, and I’ll explain to you why.

What does being an e-commerce beauty brand for the modern digital world have to do with being successful at selling and marketing to consumers? Well, everything actually. I wrote briefly about ColourPop’s backstory in my older post on indie beauty brands, but I’d like to go into more detail here. If you don’t know much or anything about the brand, you’ll find this interesting I’m sure. The founders are two siblings, John & Laura Nelson, who grew up in the beauty industry since their father bought Spatz Labs, a beauty supply/manufacturing company, in the late ‘80’s. They saw an opportunity a few years ago that was ripe for exploitation: the meeting point between the prevalence of social media & influencer marketing, and the expansion of consumer spending in the beauty industry. If they created a beauty brand that was entirely e-commerce (no dependency on brick-and-mortar retailers) and targeted beauty influencers who would market their products to millions of followers, well that could be pretty successful. And don’t forget they had experience, heritage and first-hand access to a cosmetics manufacturing company.

So the Nelsons founded Seed Beauty, a brand-incubation company that became the parent to ColourPop Cosmetics, the first official brand under its umbrella. (If you’re curious, a brand incubator nutures and helps grow smaller startups to become full-fledged brands.) From the very start, ColourPop had definite advantages with customers. Like a lot of other e-commerce brands, its digital-first, social media-driven strategy gave it broad & fast exposure to their customer base. Social media marketing has broken down a lot of barriers that used to exist between brands and consumers; they can interact in ways they never used to. This newfound closeness has fast become the modern way to grow community, make sales and boost success. Much like Glossier, ColourPop claims its products are not conceived of nor designed in board rooms, but through interactions with their customers. They’ve designed products specifically requested by influencers and customers.

The second key factor here is having the established infrastructure of Seed Beauty baked into the ColourPop model, which gives it unparalleled speed-to-market. Everything from product concepting, R&D, production, and marketing is housed under one roof in Oxnard, CA; no middleman manufacturer or packager is necessary. So basically, they can pump more launches out more quickly. That’s huge. It’s the concept of ‘fast fashion’ yet applied to beauty, as Laura Nelson has stated. Oh and if you didn’t realize, this makes all their products super affordable. Everyone who loves ColourPop loves how affordable they are without skimping on quality. Hopefully now you understand how they are able to do that.

In four years, ColourPop has gone from strength to strength with no signs of slowing down. A little-known company called Kylie Cosmetics became the second brand to come under Seed Beauty after ColourPop. I think we all know how successful they’ve turned out to be (hello Kylie Jenner Forbes cover). The Nelsons claim there are more brands that will be coming up through Seed Beauty soon, one of which just launched a few weeks ago. Fourth Ray Beauty is an affordable skincare line where almost all the products are under $15.00 from cleansing oils to tonics and serums. I’m definitely intrigued by this line.

What do you think about ColourPop’s rise to success? Are you a fan of the brand? I’d love to know!

xo, Erica

(Sources used here: Refinery29, Revelist, FastCompany, Northwest Business Review.)

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Imitation or rip off? The case of Revolution Beauty

If you’re a makeup lover, you live for a great dupe. (If you’re a makeup newbie, ‘dupe’ is short for duplicate. When you apply that to makeup you’re talking about products that are either very similar or near identical both in color and texture.) It’s very challenging these days to have a truly original idea in makeup whether it comes to unique packaging, formulas, or color schemes. In a sense, we’ve seen a variation of everything before. And the drugstore has historically been a goldmine for dupes to many high-demand and expensive products. Take for example, the similarities between the Cover FX Custom Cover Drops and NYX’s Total Control Drop Foundation; both boast the ability to customize your foundation coverage with a thin, watery formula that’s delivered through a glass stopper. So if you had the option to buy a similar foundation for $14 (NYX) or $44 (Cover FX), chances are you’d go with the lower-priced item.

Many in the beauty community make the case that the drugstore or other lower-cost retailers help democratize the experience that higher-end makeup products provide. If you love the color and ornate packaging of a Tom Ford lipstick but don’t have the budget to buy one, L’Oreal or Maybelline can provide you with a similar experience if you buy one of their lipsticks. I personally see nothing wrong with this way of thinking, nor do I see a problem with L’Oreal or Maybelline creating more affordable lipsticks that may by happenstance be similar to higher-end ones. But things get a little more contentious when you study what UK drugstore brand Revolution Beauty (formerly known as Makeup Revolution) has done throughout its past.

As someone who lives in the U.S., Revolution seemed to come bounding onto the beauty scene very suddenly a few years back. At first they occupied a small end-cap in Ulta, and now they take up nearly half an aisle; their popularity has exploded. They are generally well-received by social media influencers and consumers who praise their low price points and gobble up their seemingly endless makeup releases.  So where is the problem exactly? If you peruse Revolution’s site, amongst their vast offerings you’ll find several products that go well beyond the imitation or ‘duplication’ of well-known higher-priced items; these products could easily be considered rip off’s of said higher-priced items.

In 2017, Twitter shouted Revolution out for copying the iconic rose-gold, fluted packaging associated with the Charlotte Tilbury brand for their Renaissance Lipsticks Luxe launch. Quite famously in the same year, Kat Von D tried publicly shaming them via Instagram for blatantly copying her best-selling Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette. While the packaging on the Revolution Ultra Eye Contour Light and Shade is different and much cheaper than the Shade & Light, everything else from the color selection to the sequencing of colors are nearly identical between the palettes (I’m sure the formula isn’t identical though). Revolution’s response was matter-of-fact and unapologetic: they are in the business of making dupes so that makeup can be accessible to all.

It doesn’t stop there. Revolution has essentially copied other popular products from Too Faced, Ben Nye, Kylie Cosmetics & KKW Beauty as well.  Here are just a few visuals for comparison.

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Original Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette – $49.00 (Source: Ulta)
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Revolution version: I Heart Revolution I ❤️ Chocolate Palette – $15.00 (Source: makeupmusthaves.nl)
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Original Too Faced Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette – $49.00 (Source: Mecca AUS)
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Revolution version: I Heart Revolution I ❤️ Chocolate Salted Caramel Palette – $15.00 (Source: makeupmusthaves.nl)
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Original Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette from Kat Von D Beauty – $48.00 (Source: Pop Sugar AU)
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Revolution version: Ultra Eye Contour Light & Shade – $15.00 (Source: Pop Sugar AU)
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Original KKW Beauty Creme Contour & Highlight Set (with brush) – $48.00 (Source: Pinterest)
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Revolution version: Creme Contour & Highlight Set (with brush) – $20.00 (Source: Revolution Beauty)

 

From comparing the packaging and the overall execution of the Revolution products in all the cases above, you can see that they’re similar enough to be identified as a lower-priced ‘dupe’ for those very popular higher-priced makeup items, but also different enough not to put themselves under the threat of copyright infringement. Revolution has figured out a way to successfully skirt this fine line so they can quickly capture the popularity of other makeup brands. Customers don’t have to wait for makeup artists or social media influencers to tell them that these Revolution products are ‘dupes’ for luxury items; they can make that association much quicker for themselves if the packaging and layout look similar enough or nearly identical.

I haven’t tried any of the Revolution products pictured above. I know most people talk about their great quality, but I would rather put my money towards other drugstore items or even other Revolution items that didn’t so blatantly appropriate others’ successes. I don’t hate Revolution Beauty. I happily use their Conceal and Define Concealer regularly, which everyone says is a dupe for Shape Tape but I don’t personally agree on that. I just find some of their business practices troublesome.

I do think makeup should be accessible to all incomes. I do think drugstore brands should be able to recreate luxurious experiences at more affordable costs. But that doesn’t mean drugstore brands can’t be innovative, and it doesn’t mean drugstore brands should take what Too Faced, Kat Von D, or KKW Beauty is producing, change the packaging ever so slightly, and call it their own.

I really would love to hear your opinion on Revolution Beauty. Do you think what they do is wrong in these instances, or just another example of lower-cost duplication?

Xo, Erica