Banking on the Influencer Empire: Meet Morphe Cosmetics

If you’ve ever been on Instagram, then you already know that influencer marketing is everywhere. In a time where people are attached to their screens and companies have a less direct influence on the consumer, a new celebrity has emerged — the Instagram influencer. Morphe cosmetics is an example of a brand that launched itself through the influencer platform. Founded on the principle of “a beauty brand created for the creators”, Morphe has seen great success with its social media marketing with their key success being their audience engagement. Using hashtags like #MorpheBabe, influencers, who are also digital creators, are posting pictures of their looks using Morphe products, many hoping to get reposted by the brand and garner more followers from Morphe’s large fan base.

Influencer @johanfernandez using Morphe’s “James Charles” eyeshadow palette.

This interaction is beneficial to both the influencer and the brand. Influencers drive the brand’s conversation, spreading the word about Morphe’s product by posting their looks, reviews and more. A re-post from brands like Morphe can be very valuable to an influencer because it is a chance for potential followers to hear about them. It can also help in getting brands to pay attention to the influencer, leading anywhere from free makeup products to a collaboration on creating a makeup product with the brand.

“Morphe garnered the most social interactions (tags, comments and likes) overall, boasting over 1 billion.” — Jessica Schiffer, Digiday

Collaboration between brands and influencers have been massively successful, with much of Morphe’s major success coming from their collaborations with big names in the social media beauty community, like Jaclyn Hill, James Charles and Jeffree Star.

“And we’ve been very, very successful with this formula.” — Emine ErSelcuk, Vice President, Global Retail, Morphe

Beauty gurus are a big part of audience engagement, with many consumers reporting that they feel like beauty bloggers (gurus) understand them better than the brand. This trust was as high as 70% for YouTubers in 2016 according to Google. With Morphe infiltrating just about every trending YouTube beauty page’s videos and description boxes, it is no wonder that their influencer collaborations, such as Morphe’s James Charles Palette, can sell out internationally in ten minutes (and continue to sell out for its subsequent 4 restocks).

By collaborating, liking, commenting and reposting, Morphe is already actively engaging with their audience while other brands such as Covergirl are still trying to catch up. Many beauty brands have come to recognize that digital-based marketing is the key to reach the millennial generation. Covergirl has only recently re-launched itself, with a focus on digital-based marketing with an empowering and inclusive message. This is following industry leader L’Oreal’s shift of focus towards a digital audience. By monitoring trends and shifting their advertising appropriately, L’Oreal has been able to remain the top competitor 3 years running. Whether it be introducing Snapchat filters or learning to catch someone’s attention in 6 second YouTube ADs, L’Oreal is mastering the art of adapting to their audience. L’Oreal ADs are also focused on messages of empowerment realizing the shift in how consumers view makeup. Morphe similarly recognizes the shift in consumers view, noticing consumers see cosmetics as a form of art and expression as well as recognizing the power of making personal connections. Morphe advertises that they are a “ride-or-die fam” and a place where “a #MorpheBabe can let their passion and creativity for beauty fly high”.

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Influencers offer a unique experience to their audience by allowing them to get to know the influencer and interact with them just as if they were friends. The brands sponsoring these influencers are relying on the trust that these influencers build with their audience to sell their products. This approach is on par with brands such as Tarte and benefit who also aim to create personal connections, sponsoring luxury vacations for their influencers and getting them to post wearing their products, appearing like it is a ‘family’ trip for their creators. Even brands such as Fenty beauty aim to make personal connections with brand creator Rihanna posting tutorials to the brand’s YouTube channel every Tuesday. Morphe, however, does differ slightly from their competition simply from the vast amount they put into social media marketing and their influencers. Morphe relies heavily on their influencers and their bond with their audience to sell their products, as they have demonstrated recently by flying their influencers to grand openings of their store locations. This technique has most definitely worked out well for Morphe. I have witnessed the impact of influencer marketing myself, standing among 10,000 other fans (many of whom camped outside overnight) at a grand opening of a Morphe store, for a glimpse of their favourite YouTuber.

No brand is perfect though, with Morphe lacking severely in their customer service, having many fans complaining across their social platforms of poor quality products and undelivered packages. Many followers of Morphe’s influencers are feeling as if the brand is being “shoved down their throat” due to the overwhelming number of promotions by influencers. Additionally, many of these same influencers have struggled with their audience’s trust after several of them gave rave reviews to many sub-par Morphe products causing many to speculate that they were paid for a positive review. Morphe still needs to work on its transparency with sponsorships to build a more authentic connection with their audience, potentially allowing them to regain the trust of their lost followers.

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Despite their disappointments, Morphe remains an emerging beauty empire that is thriving in social spaces. Their brand has been able to expand to opening stores internationally in both Europe and North America. With a strong following and engagement with their audience, there is no doubt that talk of the brand will continue to spread. From a brother and sister operation in Los Angeles to one of the most talked about brands in the digital beauty space, Morphe cosmetics is a brand to keep your eye on.

Linda & Chris Tawil, Morphe co-founders.

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