How do you launch a Beauty Brand? I asked 4 amazing women, who have a wealth of knowledge about the industry -, Linda Land of Muse Communications, Jacqui Ripley of Beauty Bulb, Wendy Slattery of Beauty Buddy and  Fay Speedie of Beauty Bulb to join me in Episode 94 of my podcast Start, Scale Succeed to share their top tips for launching a beauty brand in the UK. 

Launching A Beauty Brand: Creating The Brand

The beauty market is incredibly competitive, so your marketing, branding and brand identity is crucial. Branding is not just the product ad logo, it’s about shaping and leaving an impression on your consumer after purchase, and developing a cultural credibility.. You want them to feel something about your product. The killer of a brand is indifference. 

  • Build a sense of belonging, encourage people to come together over a pain point of your brand such as dermatitis or frizzy hair.
  • Consumers are more savvy, and value the rise of new, nimble and independent brands who are great at social listening. They like authentic content that is not seen as managed and controlled. 
  • Indie brands have lots of advantages  – in particular your founder, and the backstory of why the product was created. You are also able to react more quickly to your audience with social listening. 
  • Bigger brands have a fan base, whereas indie brands are much more about community, they tap into people’s needs and wants and it equates to brand intimacy. 

For example:

“I put a serum product on my social stories, and within an hour the brand had come back to me and said ‘Oh’ we’re so thrilled that we’re part of your skincare routine” with little cute emojis. That gave me an immediate connection with that brand, and I felt valued.”

What if you don’t want to show your face?

Essentially – get over yourself! As the founder ideally you are the front facing person and promoter of the brand. If you aren’t using a founder to promote the brand, it’s vital to focus on your USP, and to keep highlighting what sets your brand apart. 

Launching A Beauty Brand Consumers

How has the relationship between brands and consumers changed?

  • Consumers expect brands to be more accessible, they expect more from a brand than just to be advertised to. 
  • Consumers are much more educated on ingredients, they will do research and look at reviews. You need to have the testimonials, clinical trials and statistics that you can share straight off the bat.

How can a brand build a community?

Consumers are driven by information, education and emotion

  • Create content that is valuable, encourages connection, and is consistent. 
  • Be copy confident – a concise message that is inviting without being too clever, where people have to read it multiple times to get you messages.
  • Remember you are not always going to post product, product, product, include educational posts. 
  • Make sure you are ticking off your key messages in all the content you are creating

Launching a Beauty Brand: Pricing & Pitching To Retailers

How should you structure your pricing?

  • Margin will depend on the size of the retailer, you can expect from 40% at an independent retailer to 60% at a large retailer. 
  • Brick & mortar stores may request a staffing contribution which can be 1-5%
  • Consider incentivising sales targets, to a certain percentage if they hit X, and a different percentage if they hit Y.
  • Consider marketing rebates. This is a great way to boost your marketing if you don’t have much budget. 

For example:

“You offer a retailer 50%. They say let’s go for 55%, and you get certain things including in that such as digital assets, website banners, social marketing opportunities, in store events etc.”

  • Look at what your competitors are doing
  • If your product is premium, you have to be able to explain why, whether that’s the ingredients or the tech etc

Remember once you’ve set your RRP, it’s very hard to change it. If something changes in your supply chain after a few months, and your prices increase, you can’t ask the retailer to change it. So make sure you build this into your margin.

Look at what you are getting from a retailer before you agree to terms, it’s really exciting when a big retailer is interested, but do take time to review it, and get someone else to look over it with you. 

Launching A Beauty Brand Make UpGathering Consumer Feedback

Customer feedback can be amazing for a brand. You may have little brand awareness, but if you have reviews coming back saying things like ‘this product is unbelievable, I’ve tested it, I’ve repurchased it’ you can make real waves.

You can work with apps like Beauty Buddy to send out your products to your target market, and get invaluable feedback about who loves it, what age they are, what skin type etc. You can then share these reviews. Beauty Buddy can run product sampling for you, and create comprehensive reports with those percentages like 90% said their hands were smoother after using this product 5 times. 

Approaching Retailers & Your Pitch Deck

  • Be concise. 10-12 pages is plenty for an initial outreach. You can always go back with a more detailed product brochure later when you’ve got through the door. 
  • You have to stand out with your USP and your why
  • Why does that retailer need you on their platform or shelf?
  • What are you going to offer?
  • What space are you going to fill which is going to generate them additional revenue?
  • Include your future plans, your PR, events etc and your product development line.
  • The deck needs to look slick, make sure you have a designer look over it and ensure that it is immaculate.
  • If you are sending samples, make sure you send them when you say you will, not 4 weeks later. Make sure they are a well packaged representation of your brand. This will stay in people’s minds.
  • Testimonials and reviews from real people are key. 

Don’t forget that you will need to be patient. It’s very rare to send an email and get a response from a buyer within a week.

Be patient and continue to pitch. Don’t keep continuing to send the same email. Instead send 3-4 emails over 6 months that include news and updates, that show that you are growing, investing and pushing forward. Maybe you have new feedback, have worked with a focus group, keep your brand relevant to the current conversation. It can take months.  

For example:

Wild Source got stocked in Liberty, but it was after 15-20 emails. She kept emailing, checking in and giving updates on her brand, built the relationship with this persistence, and eventually got stocked in the Liberty Beauty Advent Calendar which was huge for her brand. 

Top Tip: Follow buyers on Linked In – this will help you get an understanding of what they are interested in, be it sustainability, etc. There might be a little breadcrumb that you can use to make your email more interesting and target what they are interested in. 

Retailers & exclusivity deals

  • This can be a really good way to launch and target an audience that fits your demographic, particularly if you have no marketing budget.
  • Be mindful of the length of time of the deal, these can range from 6 weeks to 18 months. Consider the impact of this – what is their sales forecast, is marketing including? 
  • Is there anything you will lose by doing this, for instance have you got another couple of retailer conversations bubbling away. By taking an exclusive deal are you losing exposure and revenue from other avenues?
  • Take time to consider it. 
  • You may well be able to have 2 different types of exclusivity periods, one with bricks and mortar stores, and one with an online retailer. Do try to get them running alongside at the same time. 

What about working with distributors?

  • Distributors are looking to make their margin, so some will work at 25-30%, others will be working at 40-50%.
  • Distributors can be a brilliant option, as they can take your brand and accelerate it, not just with retailers but also with marketing channels.
  • A distributor can handle things like registrations and language barriers for you.
  • Look for a distributor with a complementary portfolio, who is well connected in the market.
  • Clear communication, and the right person to liaise with is key. Make sure that the message of the brand doesn’t get lost. 

Launching a Beauty Brand: PR

What do you need to be PR ready?

  • Your product needs to be market ready and the packaging finalised.
  • You need to be very clear about what makes your brand stand out, and why it is different to what else is available in the market.
  • You need beautiful imagery, both packed shots and lifestyle inmates that can be used to illustrate the brand story.
  • The product needs to be easily accessible to consumers, whether that is online or in a store, ideally a combination of both.
  • Be as generous with the product as you can be when sending out samples to press influencers and key opinion leaders.
  • Have someone on you team who can facilitate the relationship with your PR, because it is time consuming.

Launching A Beauty Brand PR Success

What makes an excellent piece of coverage?

A positive brand review shows the product or service at its most authentic self, so that the readership, your target consumer, has a sense of what it’s like to use the product, the feel, the smell etc. Ideally the editorial will incorporate some of the brand’s key messages such as organic to clinicals to back up skin care claims.

Remember to manage expectations. Many brands think that when you have a piece or editorial it is immediately going to generate sales. This is not always the case, sales generation is a bonus of coverage. It’s awareness first, and it can take a consumer 3-4 mentions in the media before they click through to a website.

What should you look for in a PR agency?

    • Test the chemistry between you, because it’s not always going to resonate, and you will be closely involved.
    • You want them to represent your brand the best possible way, so they are articulate and strategic in telling our brand story and differentiating your product.
    • Find out how they measure success.
    • Do you homework speak to industry representatives, the press and older clients.
    • Look at what other brands are in their portfolio because there can be a halo effect.
    • Be clear about the scope of work that you want to achieve.
  • Be prepared to have uncomfortable conversations about the budget, and be realistic about the size of the agency you engage. If you are a tiny indie brand, a massive PR firm’s fee structure is going to be inaccessible.
  • Find out how your account will be staffed or managed. Often for the initial meeting you will meet the MD or senior members of the team, then once you are onboard with the client, you don’t see them again. 

How do you find the best influencers for your brand?

It will always come back to how big is your budget? It’s very rare to find an influencer working for free, even the nano ones, so under 5000 followers are likely to charge. 

You can use platforms like Vamp, where you can put in a minimum budget, and get some suggested influencers. That can be good for startups.

Remember the largest influencers aren’t necessarily going to provide the cut through that you need. The fact that the majority of their content is ad driven can be a consumer turn off.  It can be really beneficial to work with smaller influencers who have a super engaged community. 

Is contributing to beauty boxes a good idea for exposure?

  • For a lot of smaller brands, the quantities that these boxes require is prohibitive.
  • There can also be big fees attached to using their marking assets. 
  • Make sure you read the small print.
  • It is often better to to do sampling instead, because as well as being cost effective, you get genuine and authentic reviews from people who have used the product.

Launching A Beauty Brand: In Conclusion

It is going to take time, and attention to set up a beauty brand. You will need experts, support and to invest. Things to budget for include:

  • Websites £3000 (average)
  • Branding £2000 plus
  • Sampling £500-£1000
  • Plus product development, packaging etc.

However with creativity there are always options for instance you can launch with just one hero product rather than a full suite of products. For instance Marissa Carter stated Cocoa Brown with just one product. A well thought through brand, and persistence when approaching retailers and press will pay off. 

Thank you so much to Linda, Jacqui, Wendy and Faye for all their advice. You can listen to the full podcast here.

I hope that this post helps you to continue on your journey to success and if you need any extra support then check out my free resources on my website, follow me on Instagram, subscribe to my monthly newsletter or get in touch at Book a free discovery call to see how we can work together and how I can help you with your business or idea Book a power hour with and get the clarity of what your next steps need to be and your questions answered.

The Buyer and Retail Coach is a global retail expert with over 18 years experience working in the industry as a buyer and head of buying for companies such as Primark, M&S, and George at Asda, developing and sourcing a broad range of products from Lingerie to Health & Beauty and driving strategies and innovation. 

Having worked for the big blue chips, Nicole Higgins now brings that expertise and experience to entrepreneurs and SME’s to help you make your product ideas a reality, scale your business, and increase your bottom line and profits.