How Much Does Instagram Influence the Look of New Beauty Launches?

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How Much Does Instagram Influence the Look of New Beauty Launches? featured image
Photo Credits: PearlWinchester/ Shutterstock | Image Used for Illustrative Purpose Only

When Kirk Elliott, cofounder and chief marketing officer at Colorado-based RDKL Skin Care, launched his line at the end of last year, he wasn’t necessarily looking to become an “Instagram-famous” beauty brand, but he did know it would be remiss not to take the social media juggernaut into account when it came to how his products were designed, packaged, messaged and marketed.

“Instagram has completely influenced our brand from the inception. We started with this saying and we will end with it: ‘We are a brand built for Instagram.’ We knew we didn’t want to pursue funneling our product through the traditional big box model, so our approach has always been direct-to-consumer. We wanted to have no middle men involved and e-commerce with marketing through Instagram was always the plan.” (While he won’t release exact numbers, he will say about 30 percent of all sales come from the app.)

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Elliott also anticipated that the majority of RDKL’s customers would be “Xennials, Millennials and Gen Z,” so making the product stand out in real life and on social media was important to him. “The trend out there [in beauty] is super simple black and white, but we wanted a bit of fun—hence, we think the splashes of color really make us stand out. If you have our products in your medicine cabinets or just on the counter in your bathroom, RDKL is easy to spot. That is definitely intentional.”

Image/RDKL Skin Care

To that end, one of the key monthly to-do items at RDKL is producing photo shoots to coincide with an Instagram posting schedule—one that blends color scheme, models and product images to align with holidays, special days and events. “Almost all our emphasis on photo shoots relates to our Instagram content,” Elliott says.

A Case Study: Using Instagram Before You Have Packaging
Brooklyn-based Palermo Body launched more than a decade ago, but founder Jessica Morelli also took special “social media measures” when it came to doing a rebrand three years back. The line revolves around natural, age-old rituals inspired by her grandmother (the business is named after the city she was born in), but Morelli said there’s no discounting the power of modern-day marketing.

“I created a personal Instagram account in 2011 and the first photo I posted was of a bar of soap I’d made. I later created a business account in 2013 when it became clear that Instagram was more than just a photo-editing app for your Facebook posts. In those early years, it was all about the filters and instantly sharing what you were doing in the moment. I noticed things changing in 2014 when people who were creating beautiful, cohesive content started to get thousands of followers,” she says.

In 2015, when Morelli began rebranding Palermo to how it looks today, Instagram was, as she describes, “a whole different ball game” and she knew that telling a story—one that revolved around her home base of Brooklyn—on the platform would help in the brand’s success.

“For months before I relaunched, I didn’t even have products to share since packaging was still in development, so I used the platform to engage the small following I’d built and to create new relationships with fellow entrepreneurs. This was incredibly helpful in getting traction in those early months after the launch and additionally, it felt as though I had this social support group who were excited to see me succeed. Our feed was more about a feel and the brand essence than it was about the products. I still work that into our feed even now because I think it’s so important that our community feels like we’re bringing them into our vision and thought process rather than just trying to ‘sell’ all the time.”

She may not be forcing the sell, but Morelli’s numbers don’t lie. Last year, the number of visitors to her site from Instagram made up 11.6 percent of total referrals and five percent of sales, a jump from the year before. One factor she points to as providing some help: Starting last November, the brand was able to take advantage of the swipe-up feature on Instagram as well as shoppable posts.

How Much Does Millennial Pink Propel a Brand?
One beauty brand that has seen phenomenal success when it comes to shopping, Instagram-style is Herbivore. The Seattle-based, nontoxic line run by husband-and-wife duo Alex Kummerow and Julia Willis credits some of their popularity to one seemingly tiny factor: the color scheme.

“We love pink! We like to think that we were using pink before it was cool. When we first started formulating, we were amazed at how you can get beautiful colored products from natural, effective ingredients. Pink and blue started dominating our line of products and ended up tying into our brand’s presence and aesthetic. Across our branding, focusing on clean lines, soft colors and taking more of a minimal approach really speaks to our concept of providing clean, natural beauty.”


Although the brand launched in 2011, the founders point to Herbivore’s clean, minimalist aesthetic as a core part of the ethos and why they were drawn to Instagram as a way to share images they felt were beautiful and spoke to the brand’s aesthetic.

“We didn’t anticipate to gain the following that we did at first, but quickly realized what a great tool it was for us to connect with our consumers. It was so exciting for us to see all the amazing photos that were being taken of our products, and regramming consumer generated content became a huge part of our approach with Instagram. Instagram also allowed us to respond to customer’s questions and private individual messages in a way that is more personal and intimate. We found that by doing these, we were able to create an even greater connection to our customers, and eventually formed our own Herbivore community. Now this community is a driving factor in our business and we continue to be so grateful for all of the appreciation for our brand that is shown via social media.”

Even today, after experiencing 300-percent growth year over year and boasting some serious shelf space in retailers like Sephora, Herbivore still points to Instagram as one of its strongest business tools—accounting for more than half of all marketing campaigns that drive traffic to the site—and the best way to connect to consumers.

“We make a large effort to find photos that we feel are not only beautiful to look at, but that convey a message or feeling that we feel rings true to our brand. Of course we also post photos of our products, especially for new launches or educational purposes, but we really try to utilize Instagram to keep the conversation going with our followers through imagery. We have a very small team who works together to make sure that our Instagram presence stays consistent and that our consumers are heard,” Kummerow says.

While it’s probably not a secret that Instagram is the key to Herbivore’s overall marketing strategy, the brand says it allows them to be exposed to a more targeted demographic and cultivate a mutual relationship with our potential customers and turn them into fans over time.

“Instagram is a way for us to create a community of Herbivore ambassadors rather than a way to just sell our products. We love to see how everyone integrates Herbivore into their lives!”

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