Today, more than ever, we see a breakdown of the traditional model of how a brand can build a following and achieve success. No longer do the old rules apply, where a product needs to secure distribution and a prime position in-store to have at least a chance of success.
Nowadays, brands can gain a following, a passionate audience, and drive demand without ever thinking of a distribution model and, sometimes, without an actual finished product ready to hit the shelves.
Take, for example, the meteoric rise and fandom surrounding the bargain-priced line of cosmetics ColourPop. Launched just three years ago with a limited lineup of mainly lipsticks it dubbed Lippie Stix, it has attracted a cult following on Instagram and YouTube, and expanded its makeup offering to include some of the best-rated highlighters, eye shadows, and even concealers.
Through its use of influencers — more strategically, its partnerships and exclusives with handpicked influencers — the budget brand has catapulted into being a must-have for every makeup-loving human between the ages of 18 and 24. One of the first influencers they partnered with (and still collaborate with) is Kathleen Lights, a beauty vlogger sharing her beauty know-how with ~3.5 million subscribers on her YouTube channel and 2 million followers on Instagram.
The creators behind ColourPop — siblings John and Laura Nelson — are famously reclusive, and the brand itself, contrary to what most brands nowadays deem important and necessary, does not have an elaborate or inspirational origin story. It does, however, stick to a social-first strategy and all that comes with it, including direct contact and creative ideation with its consumer base.
ColourPop prides itself on taking feedback and immediately reformulating a product or launching a new one accordingly. And because it makes its own products, it can go from concept to market in days, reacting to makeup trends faster than any other brand. This approach has made ColourPop the darling not only of young cash-strapped makeup lovers, but also of the diehard big spenders who see the quality and responsiveness of the brand as a reason to love it.
The care and attention ColourPop gives to its customers has paid off, so much so that it was the number one requested brand at Sephora (another brand with a cult following), and as of Oct. 31, 2017, it has finally become part of the Sephora family nationwide.
With its inclusion in Sephora, ColourPop enters the realm of “traditional” distribution for its category, but the journey there was unlike that of any other budget makeup brand in history. Its determination to do right by its fans and its intent to create products for mobile-first and social-first consumers have defined the path it follows in its continued growth.
Even though its goal at launch was not to reach brick-and-mortar retail distribution, that natural progression led ColourPop there. What a brand stands for and uses as its true north, its purpose in the world, should be clearly defined and followed, and that should guide the steps it takes to reach success. This should be the guiding principle for any brand planning a launch or refresh, now that the rules of traditional marketing no longer apply or, more aptly, no longer guarantee success.
And the journey to that success may not look like the path taken by any other brand. For ColourPop that meant staying true to and evolving with its customer base, remaining connected with how its customers use social and how they prefer to engage with and shop for their makeup. This spelled success for ColourPop, and it can for the brands marketing experts represent day in and out.