The Startup
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The Startup

The launch that broke the internet. Why is no-one talking about it?

It’s a modern day rendition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

Hapless ‘poor’ Shane who never knew anything about business and got screwed over by everyone (despite having a reported net worth of millions) — meets Jeffree, with his BOSS leadership talents, buckets of industry experience, and the ability to make all your most outrageous, fantastical dreams come true — the Willy Wonka of the beauty world.


I have to admit, I’ve been riveted to the Shane Dawson x Jeffree Star docu-series on YouTube. As a Business Coach/Digital Marketing Strategist, and having worked in the Beauty Industry as a Business Manager in my corporate life (back in the days before I took a flamethrower to my work slacks and quit the commute), I’ve been literally obsessed with watching them execute this launch and I can’t believe no one else is talking about it from a marketing perspective.

These guys whipped their gargantuan, global army of frothing, die hard fans into a literal frenzy, and made millions and millions of dollars in one day, in the biggest retail launch to date. It’s genius marketing strategy— worth breaking down and analysing, to see what us regular business muggles can take from it. In a time where so many retail outlet s are struggling and even closing down, these guys made Morphe have their biggest day in retail — EVER! (according to the footage they show in the series).

So, as a business owner, what can we learn? Let’s have a look…

Build an audience of raving fans, no matter how small

You need an audience first. You can’t launch a thing to crickets, although people very often do.

Then they throw their hands in the air and say things like — “Ok, I made my thing, it’s sooo amazing… But no one’s buying it, WHY? Where are all the people?”

This is often followed by grasping at straws type of moves — such as posting questions in Facebook groups to people who know nothing about them, (you’ve seen these, “Does anyone know which influencer I could use to sell my new thing?”). And coming up with other random ideas they desperately try (and throw money they don’t have at), in the hopes that that’s the one thing that will unlock everything for them. Trust me, it’s never just one thing.

Hopefully, they eventually realise it’s not their fault that having business chops isn’t their zone of genius, recognise that they need an actual strategy and contact a savvy business strategist, like, gee I don’t know… oh me! Then we get to work doing the things that will actually result in their short and long term success.

SO my lovely business owner, the people have no idea you exist. How are they supposed to find you? They are most likely giving their attention to businesses that appear in front of their eyeballs where they’re already at — and who consistently give them helpful, relevant, valuable content, in a place they frequently hang out. Consistently.

So you need to start doing that, and the bad news? It takes time.

They’ve been audience-building for decades, since My Space days, and now Shane and Jeffree have almost 40 million YouTube subscribers between them (at the time of writing). They cleverly did recent colabs with drop-dead gorgeous heart-throbs the Dolan Twins who have about 10 million followers in the perfect demographic — but what if you don’t have celebrity status, or an audience of dedicated followers yet?

Welp, you have to go out yourself and find them. One by one. Start with simple and obvious things like meeting people in person, sharing with them what you do, giving them a business card or a cookie and inviting them to follow you from there. Identify a group, club, or society that shares an interest similar to what you do and you join it and be relentlessly generous and helpful until you get noticed.

Tim Ferris did this before anyone knew who he was and got his start this way. It might be that you reach out to people in the DMs one by one and grow your audience that way. Whichever platform or place you choose needs to be congruent with your intended audience. Where do your people hang out? Go find them where they’re at. Go talk to real people. Make friends. Keep doing that.

Who are your ideal clients and customers watching and following? Find out. And go to them — don’t wait for them to come to you.

The Good News? You don’t need 20 million fans to be successful — start with 10, Seth Godin style. Serve the living daylights out of them, delight them to within an inch of their lives, prove your value. Then and only then, build to 200, then grow to 2000, then 20,000. The bigger and more engaged the audience, the more leverage you have in giving others access to them, if that’s the way you want to go — more on that in a sec. If you’ve seen the series, of course Morphe agreed to having their meeting included in the docuseries — exposure to multiple millions of watchers? Yes please.

There are several approaches here though — do you really need a mass market? Or do you just need 1000 raving fans ?

For you, could it be that having 1000 delighted fans who are picking up everything you’re putting down, is way more valuable than 10,000 people who are only partially paying attention? Growth for growth’s sake and marketing en masse is kind of gross and so last decade. Focus on being customer-loving and you’ll be #winning in no time.

GENEROSITY + COLLABORATION + CREATIVITY = rocket fuel for your business

Ever heard a wannabe business owner say this? — “I have this amazing idea and I don’t know how to execute it but I don’t want to tell anyone yet, I want to do it myself. I don’t want anyone to poach my idea.”

My guess is, you probably have. There’s no shortage of genius ideas, what there is a shortage of is people brave enough to execute on them.

Did Shane see Jeffree and think “Oh I’ll do that too, I can figure it out, I want to keep it all for myself and I’m not giving him any of my ideas’. Nope.

Did Jeffree hide his secrets and say “No you can’t see inside, it’s mine all mine?” Nope.

They each led with generosity and genuine connection, knowing that the sum of the parts is waaay greater than the whole. They connected. It felt authentic. That’s a real relationship we just watched blossom into the makeup world bromance of the year. And that’s how it’s done. You have to come from good intent. Gary V knows it, it’s his new catchcry — kindness. Help without expectation of anything. (I’m never sure who he’s ‘winning’ against, exactly, but let’s play along for the kindness piece).

Radical Generosity is the rocket fuel of your business.


And collaboration, because relationships. Watching relationships happen is pretty much why we watch anything.

The unlikely pairing of unshaven, sweaty, self-depreciating Shane with iconic, unapologetic, self-made, ‘I’m-a-fucking-force-to-be-reckoned-with-watch-me-Bitch’ Jeffree was a thing of beauty and fans just couldn’t look away. We saw them help each other, hold each other, challenge each other, there was never a time they seemed to be pulling in opposite directions or trying to overshadow each other. It was the internet Bromance of 2019.

Joint ventures, partnerships, guest blogs — How might YOU collaborate in 2020?

Involve your audience in the process

When people have been part of the creation of a product or service naturally they’re invested before it’s even available for sale. They’re following your every move and riding the emotional roller coaster alongside you.

You may not want to go full YouTube channel with this in your own business and that’s totally understandable (although if you’re happy around cameras I strongly recommend it, and yes there’s a particular strategy to this that will enhance your chances of success, and yes it still takes time) but there are still other ways you can take this lesson and apply it in your own business.

Show people how your product is made. If you’re a service business, show how the service is delivered. Take a cleaning company for example — you can show video clips of someone welcoming the cleaner in to clean the house, some shots of the cleaning happening and then a happy client waving goodbye. Or, if the whole point is — we do this all like magic while you’re at work — then you can show the cleaner getting the key and entering, doing the work and then leaving, making sure to leave the premises secure again. This is addressing a key objection a client might have (but how will I know they take good care and lock up properly?).

Save people’s brain power for them. The point of this is to save the potential customer’s brain power by not leaving it to their own imagination. If you leave it to their imagination, you never know what goes through their mind — maybe they remember the time someone went through their underwear drawer and let the cat out by mistake causing stress and neighbourhood mayhem. By presenting them a carefully selected visual image you allow your audience to imagine the scenario how you want to portray it.

If you have a product based business then show your process of making, or show your pristine clean warehouse with happy staff, or your well-organised shelves, or show how much mess you make when you’re creating the items, show the transformation from raw materials to finished product. Let your audience name the next product. Ask them which versions they prefer. You get the point. Don’t do what so many people do and skulk around in your secret lab, inventing in isolation like a mad scientist, only to burst out with your invention, to find that no one wants it. Co-creation is key.

Don’t do what so many people do and skulk around in your secret lab, inventing in isolation like a mad scientist, only to burst out with your invention, to find that no one wants it.

Build, test, gather feedback from your superusers, iterate, re-build. Repeat.

Show behind the scenes

Giving the viewers the behind the scenes, documentary style content in the videos achieved exactly this feeling of co-creation for Shane and Jeffree.

Contrast this experience with the opposite approach… Imagine the audience seeing nothing from behind the scenes, they have had no input, you didn’t give them the time of day or stop to ask what they wanted or needed, didn’t check in to ask what their preferences are, didn’t respect their desires, even though you’re making a product or service to meet a need or solve a problem they have — and then being confronted with a finished product they know nothing about, how it was made, no idea about the love tears, sweat and energy you put into it etc and just seeing the final thing without all that context. They’re probably going to think, — “ok that’s cool and all, but why do I care?” And truly — why should they?

Be transparent, and front up when you need to

Show up when shit goes wrong. This builds trust. Put on your big girl or boy CEO pants and show up, make the call and give an update. Customer experience 101, if something has gone wrong tell the clients, don’t make up stories, don’t leave them hanging, wondering what’s going on, or thinking the worst and getting more and more angry as they get nothing but radio silence from your brand. You can’t run away and hide — come out and show that you have integrity and that you stand behind your team, that you have the situation managed. Give step by step progress reports — whether things are going great or badly.

Keeping your customers in the loop and updating them in real time builds trust.

Jeffree did an amazing job of this throughout the entire launch process, using Snapchat mostly, (because young audience) and Twitter. He met his audience where they hang out (see previous) — giving regular briefings multiple times daily and giving more updates as things transpired. The fact that he did this himself and didn’t just leave his customer service team to mop it all up on their own (which I’m sure they were also doing behind the scenes), is admirable, and very smart. He fronted up and showed his face daily, we saw that he was calm and in control, despite the chaos. He shared that they had everyone possible working on it and let everyone see and hear what they were doing to rectify what could have easily been a disastrous situation. A+ for damage control.

LET’S RECAP: Step one, grow your own audience first, then step 2, find someone with a similar sized following, collaborate, introduce your followers to them and vice versa. Step 3, who else has a similar audience? Then step 4, create a compelling story, something fresh and unexpected. People are sooo bored! Give them something exciting, be creative, tell a story, and bring them along for the ride. Bonus step — Where possible get your project annointed by the Dolans and success is pretty much yours for the taking, (although in this case it was already inevitable with or without them).

And that, my friends, is how you have an epic launch that breaks records and the internet.

Why is no-one talking about it? I guess not everyone is a habitual YouTube watcher like me — I don’t have a TV in the house by choice (mostly to annoy the kids), so I do watch more YouTube more than your average bear(over 30 year old bear). Then there’s the audience base of these guys — I’m guessing mostly young and female, so not many CEOs are following along because — generation? Therefore, maybe they don’t even know about Shane and Jeffree, (lots of people I speak to are like ‘Jeffree who’?). Or possibly they can’t relate to a couple of guys wearing makeup, or maybe they know but don’t care. I have no idea, all I know is that Shane and Jeffree got the recipe just right and ‘poor’ sidelined Shane finally got the golden ticket!


Watch the SDxJS series yourself — here

*** Share this content with gay abandon — your friends will thank you

Kate Wright from Intentio Business Design™ is on a mission to help 1000 women Quit the Commute™ and make the transition from employee to full time entrepreneur in 2020— will you be one of them?

Connect with me here, here and here.

On another note — for an intelligent and insightful piece about the cultural impact of YouTube see A. Kalid’s thought-provoking article — The Adverse Effects of Shane Dawson’s Popularity. Well worth a read.



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Kate Wright MBA

Kate Wright MBA

Biz Mentor - Sociologist - Bricoleur - Rebel - Questioner - ENFP