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