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.
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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.
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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.”