Why there's Never Been a Better Time to Build a Premium Make-Up Brand


Premium make-up is buzzing and has been for the best part of the last decade. It’s therefore no surprise to see how many newcomers it has attracted, all eager to get a slice of this double-digit growth category.

Highly visual and visible, premium make-up punches well above its weight, especially in a digital world where anyone with a camera phone can make an impact.

For many women, premium make-up is a guilty pleasure -an affordable luxury that won’t break the bank. Compared to splashing out on a new fragrance, or investing in a new skincare regime, purchasing the occasional premium lipstick or mascara for £20 or less has become the norm for many women.

Launch activity has been key to the success of premium make-up, much of it aimed at the impulse purchaser. As a result, brands rely less on core products and shades to generate sales growth, but engage in frequent new product launches to capture consumers’ fleeting interest.

Forget twice-yearly seasonal shade statements. Fast beauty is what consumers are looking for and it doesn’t have to be cheap.

The Changing Customer Landscape: Millennials and GenZ

The past few years has seen an increasing focus on the needs of the millennial generation (women aged 18-35), but inevitably things are moving on.

With an eye on youth, Generation Z, aged 14-21, are now considered to be the real beauty influencers.These youngsters have grown up attached to their smartphones/iPads, they adore beauty and are addicted to YouTube make-up tutorials and sharing content with friends and followers.

There are plenty of new indie make-up brands that understand the needs of this emerging demographic. Many will be unknown to those who do not spend their time trawling and searching online for inspiration - such as Glossier, Winky Lux and 3INA. All have a striking and impactful digital presence - quite unlike what’s currently on the premium make-up market.

If premium make-up brands are to have a chance of appealing to millennials/Gen Z they will need to get sharp and be fully optimised for smartphone. Above all, they need to be visible everywhere, both on and offline.

Online Vs Offline: Can You have One without the Other?

A quick response to new trends favours smaller brands unencumbered by long lead times and big company bureaucracy.

Many don’t bother with retail, finding digital platforms more welcoming and suited to their needs.

For example, a listing on Cult Beauty can give equal billing to little known brands, such as Sara Hill and Stroke of Beauty, right next to hard hitters like Benefit and NYX.

Why Bother with Retail?

The answer is online distribution can never replace retail

For all the advantages of selling online, nothing beats going into a shop and experiencing the physical attributes of premium make-up.

Whether it’s assessing the quality of the product by trying it on one’s skin, asking for advice to get the right shade/texture/product, feeling the weight and quality of the packaging - consumer engagement is never greater than face-to-face.

In conversation with one of Australia’s leading lifestyle and business journalists, Elisabeth King, she pointed out that digital activities miss out on physical touch, a crucial element in converting consumers from ‘maybe’ to ‘must-have’.

Elisabeth told me: “I believe the physical touch does far more for customer engagement, and importantly, loyalty, than social media or an influencer post.

”Online and offline are not mutually exclusive, but should be integral to any premium beauty brand’s strategy.

Online may favour the small and fleet-of-foot, but the giants of premium make-up have upped their game, investing in product developments, digital and improving their communications platforms. What the majors may lack in speed, they more than make up for in clout with the retailers who are still the mainstay of their business.

Premium make-up is an extremely vibrant, exciting and enticing category. It’s attractive to new brands convinced they can be successful, make it big and maybe get bought out.

However, the past two decades has witnessed many examples of brands that have enjoyed a solid launch only to falter. Having built a groundswell of interest, they were unable to capitalise on their good start and move up to the next level.

Why is this and what should be their next move?

That’s a question we will be investigation and answering with the publication of our forthcoming Premium Market report: How to Make it Big in Make Up. Further details soon.

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Photo by Gustavo Spindula on Unsplash