In buying Too Faced Cosmetics for $1.45 billion Monday — an amount called “whopping” in one story but perhaps less than what it’s worth in another — Estée Lauder is itself putting on a fresh face.
“‘Too Faced tends to target a demographic’ — the 18 to 34 crowd — ‘that Estée Lauder doesn’t necessarily have,’” Miro Copic, a branding expert and marketing lecturer at San Diego State tells the Los Angeles Times’ Shan Li.
“Its Web site, for example, is clearly geared for a younger audience — it touts the company’s cruelty-free stance with a cartoon bunny, advertises stickers created by an Instagram artist and sells eye shadow shades named Bunny Fu-Fu and Meow!,” Li writes.
“Those consumers are less susceptible to traditional advertising,” Copic points out. “They are not reading magazines. They are looking at social media, and that’s not where Estée Lauder is.”
Make that “where Estée Lauder has been.”
“We are delighted to be joining forces with The Estée Lauder Companies as we continue to drive Too Faced’s dynamic growth,” Too Faced co-founders Jeremy Johnson and Jerrod Blandino proclaim in the release announcing the acquisition. “We started our careers behind the counters of the Estée Lauder brand, so this is truly a ‘homecoming’ for us.”
“Pretty cool they started out at the beauty counter, right? Just goes to show you that pursuing your passion — even a tongue-in-cheek, sassy AF makeup line with products that are literally Better Than Sex — can really pay off. In other words: keep dreaming,” writes Rachel Jacoby Zolden for Allure, understandably referring to the purchase price as “whopping” in her lede.
“The two men, who are married to each other, decided to shake up the too-serious cosmetics industry by building a lighthearted and irreverent brand,” writes Chloe Sorvino for Forbes. “Last year, the cofounders sold a majority stake to private equity firm General Atlantic in a deal that reportedly valued the company at $500 million. Now just a year later, it seems General Atlantic has nearly tripled the value of the company. The deal is expected to close before the end of the year.
“But,” Sorvino asks, “did the entrepreneurial couple cash out too soon? The deal suggests the answer is yes.” She points out that Two Faced’s net sales should reach $270 million this year and its compounded annual gross over three years is about 60%, suggesting that it would have been wise for General Atlantic and the cofounders to open themselves up to other offers.
But the Irvine, Calif.-based Too Faced has not made its name by doing thing by the books or the book.
“Founded in 1998, Too Faced has taken a nontraditional approach to its business,” Ezequiel Minaya reports for the Wall Street Journal. “The company primarily sells its products at cosmetics retailers, such as Sephora and Ulta Beauty, which allow shoppers to serve themselves, rather than at department store makeup counters. Its cosmetics include items with quirky names, such as Better Than Sex mascara and Chocolate Bar eye shadow.”
Oh, yeah, besides that “it also doesn’t buy ads in magazines or broadcast media, and has grown with the help of social media, where it has a large following of loyal customers and beauty bloggers.”
PopSugar’s Terry Carter writes that Two Faced co-founder Blandino believes the Estée Lauder deal will allow it to spread its products across the globe while maintaining its core values.
“We are going to take a more global approach to the business going forward. When you look at what Estée Lauder has been able to do with MAC [Cosmetics] and Jo Malone and different brands that have their own retail outlets, it's just been phenomenal and we're really excited about that opportunity and the potential behind that,” he says.
Meanwhile, Lauder’s pursuit of younger consumers eschewing traditional retail and media does not end with Two Faced.
“Just as Lauder was disclosing the news on the Too Faced deal, it also closed on an earlier acquisition of Becca Cosmetics, for which Lauder paid more than $230 million, according to industry source estimates,” write Pete Born and Evan Clark for WWD. “The combination of the two deals should elevate Lauder’s profile in the Millennial-rich multi-unit specialty store and key digital channels.”
“#Own Your Pretty,” Too Faced tells us. The folks at Lauder are clearly following.
Correction: An earlier
version of this story incorrectly stated that Estée Lauder paid $1.45 million for Too Faced.