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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Fenty made me do it: Inclusivity in the beauty world

By this point so much has been said and written about how Fenty Beauty changed the makeup game in 2017. And with good reason. The launch of their Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 40 shades is now widely considered a hallmark moment in beauty. It sent an unequivocal message to the larger community of brands, corporations, and advertisers that coverage products should be formulated, produced, and distributed equally for all skin tones. To highlight this point further, Fenty produced an equal 10 shades per skin tone category (light, medium, tan, deep) for the grand total of 40 shades. The bottom line: no one (or nearly no one) felt left behind this time.

While the concept of 40 foundation shades wasn’t invented by Rihanna or Fenty (heritage and pro brands like Estee Lauder and Make Up For Ever, respectively, have historically produced extensive foundation lines with upwards of 35 to 40 shades), they were the first to successfully market or call out said concept. The Pro Filt’r launch awakened and revived the dialogue between brands and frustrated consumers who felt systematically excluded from certain segments of the beauty industry.

It’s a conversation that’s now clearly here to stay.

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All shades in the Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Longwear Foundation range (Image source: allure.com)

The issue of companies not producing enough shades for either the very lightest skin tones, or in most cases the darkest skin tones, isn’t confined to just a few brands nor is it confined to just one segment of the makeup industry. Truthfully it’s been an issue across the board from luxury/high-end, to more middle-market brands, and in the drugstore. Drugstore brands have been particularly notorious for this in the past. Historically they’ve crammed most of their foundation & concealer shades into narrow buckets, and produced ranges of perhaps 10-15 shades that have left a lot of the makeup-wearing population out in the dark. (Off the top of my head Wet n’ Wild Photo Focus Concealer comes to mind. Really poor selection of shades.)

But the tide is certainly shifting since the Fenty launch. More consumers, more influencers, and more thought-leaders in the beauty community are speaking up and demanding more of companies and brands not only in regards to product ranges but also in regards to marketing imagery. They want to know that brands are formulating products not for just for those with light to medium skin tones. They want to see more people with medium to darker to deepest skin tones in beauty ads and campaigns. Quite simply, they want to be represented; they want to be included.

While 2018 started off on the wrong foot with the Tarte Shape Tape Foundation fiasco, I feel that this has been the year of inclusive foundation launches as both high-end and drugstore brands work to either mimic Fenty’s approach or best it. Below I’ve compiled just a few of the stand-out foundation launches that we’ve seen so far in 2018. These launches offer a broader range of shades that are more equally distributed from fair to deep skin tones.

Just a few things to note. Firstly, this is not an exhaustive list (plus the year isn’t over anyway). Secondly, this is not meant to be a traditional review of these foundations, especially since I’ve never tried any of them personally. This is just a commentary on how the heightened conversation around inclusivity in makeup has influenced recent product launches.

BEAUTY BAKERIE CAKE MIX DEMI-MATTE FOUNDATION – Shop here

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Image Source: Hiplatina.com
  • 30 shades total ranging from fair to deep

Like Fenty, Beauty Bakerie brought out an equal amount shades across skin tone categories for their widely celebrated Cake Mix Foundation launch back in April (their magic number is 5). While they launched a lesser amount of shades total than Fenty did, they spread their line across a slightly broader category range; meaning 5 fair, 5 light, 5 medium, 5 tan, 5 dark, and 5 deep shades. As a black-owned indie brand that’s gaining massive traction on social media, Beauty Bakerie took it one step further and reversed the standard convention of listing shades from lightest to darkest; their range is listed darkest to lightest. It’s subtle, but it’s brimming with meaning and significance at the same time.

NARS NATURAL RADIANT LONGWEAR FOUNDATION – Shop here

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Image Source: narscosmetics.com
  • 33 shades total ranging from fair to deep

While this launch from NARS may not have the most equal distribution across skin tones, it’s much more wide-ranging in comparison to some of their earlier launches like the Sheer Glow Foundation (20 shades) and the Luminous Weightless Foundation (also 20 shades), with more undertones represented as well.

DIOR BACKSTAGE FACE AND BODY FOUNDATIONShop here 

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Image Source: magi-mania.de
  • 40 shades total ranging from fair to deepest

This is Dior’s most recent foundation launch inspired by makeup artist secrets and backstage beauty, that includes what they call “16 intensities” and 6 undertones within a total of 40 shades (the magic number now). Looking at the visual above, it’s undoubtedly an impressive range. And if you take a quick peek at the other Dior complexion products currently on the market, the Backstage Face and Body is much more expansive in comparison. Diorskin Forever stands at 24 shades with significantly less variety in dark/deep skin tones.

COVER FX POWER PLAY FOUNDATION – Shop here

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Image Source: beautyalmanac.com
  • 40 shades total ranging from fair to deepest

Of all the visuals included in this post, this one holds the most weight to me. Look at that color range! Truly impressive. And Cover FX really wants you to know that too. If you scroll through their Instagram feed and take a look at the marketing on this product, the messaging is all to do with the vastness of the shade and undertone range (“ your perfect match awaits”) (“foundation for all”).

COVERGIRL TRUBLEND MATTE MADE FOUNDATION – Shop here

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Image Source: thebeautyinfluencers.com
  • 40 shades total ranging from porcelain to deep

CoverGirl made news this year with one of the largest drugstore foundation offerings after Maybelline’s expansion of the Fit Me range in 2017. The TruBlend Matte Made Foundation comes in at the magical 40 shade-number, making it broader than even L’Oreal’s True Match range. At less than $10 a bottle for both TruBlend and Fit Me, it’s reassuring to consumers of all skin tones that the more affordable brands are taking the issue of shade range seriously.

COLOURPOP NO FILTER NATURAL MATTE FOUNDATION – Shop here 

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Image Source: allure.com
  • 42 shades total ranging from fair to deep-dark

Finally, ColourPop. With the largest offering of this entire list, the new No Filter Natural Matte Foundation comes in at a bulky 42 shades which are distributed equally amongst 6 skin tone categories, ranging from fair to deep-dark. This is another visual that has both great aesthetic and emotional impact when you stop to think just how many options ColourPop is offering to its customers at an extremely affordable price ($12/bottle). If any brand could best Fenty’s range, it would be ColourPop; a brand that has immense community, marketing and financial power within the industry and an extremely quick turn-around to market.

What is your opinion on inclusiveness in beauty? Do you think it’s at a good place now or do we have some distance to go still? Would love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

xo, Erica