Instagram as a Launch Vehicle

We look at four up-and-coming brands that successfully leveraged Instagram to make their makeup debut.

Melt Cosmetics supports its community by reposting brand-aligned user-generated content. Snmakeupartist’s original Instagram received 684 likes, while the reposted image garnered 13.1K likes.

Instagram is no longer just a daily marketing tool for today’s generation of beauty companies; it’s become the primary platform for digitally savvy innovators to launch their brands.

Melt Cosmetics
Founded by two celebrity makeup artists, Lora Arellano and Dana Bomar, Melt Cosmetics made its debut in Spring 2013 with ultra-matte lipsticks in unapologetic, offbeat colors. Since its launch, the brand has quickly drawn a cult-like following that has catapulted the brand to a whopping 1.9M followers on Instagram.

The original Instagram promoting the Melt Cosmetics Launch Party in Los Angeles.

Leveraging the perceived exclusivity of its celebrity connections, Melt was first discovered through the social hype that its founders ignited for an official launch party in Los Angeles. Both founders, who are influencers in their own right, published content on Instagram and Facebook that showcased the unique shades and captured the brand’s cheeky attitude, relying on their social presences to spark interest in the new company.

With the success of industry publication Into The Gloss under her belt, Emily Weiss founded the self-proclaimed “not-so-basic skincare” brand, Glossier, in 2015. Embracing her digital prowess and industry connections, the beauty maven rapidly built a substantial following on Instagram, crafting a brand based on listening to online feedback from beauty enthusiasts about their skincare habits and where the current market failed to meet their needs. By engaging users who were already active online, Weiss was able to parcel out prevalent millennial interests and concerns and build a brand that promised targeted solutions. Today, Glossier boasts a community of over 150K followers on Instagram, all loyal advocates.

Glossier’s “cool girl factor” drives interest in the brand online and self-identification with the brand’s personality. This post generated $24.4K EMV.*

There’s no doubt that the Los Angeles-based indie brand’s proven social track record makes it the poster child of influencer marketing. From its inception, authenticity and transparency have been brand goals for the two-year-old ColourPop. Founders Laura and John Nelson market ColourPop through social media exclusively, arming the brand with a natural, undeniable connection to millennial consumers. Among the brand’s loyal advocates are influencers KathleenLights, itsmyrayeraye, and CoffeeBreakwithDani, whose support for the brand has been instrumental in its accelerated growth. ColourPop’s reciprocated investment in these bloggers has led to their own social ascension: the brand helped KathleenLights celebrate reaching 1 million YouTube subscribers in its first year.

KathleenLights’ organic content creation has been an invaluable driver of awareness for ColourPop among the beauty influencer community online. The post above garnered an impressive $110.3K EMV.*

Today, ColourPop’s non-traditional marketing strategy hasn’t been diluted by increased brand awareness, thanks to its continued investment in bloggers through interweaving their individual stories into its own brand narrative. With 1.9M Instagram followers and growing, the brand was recognized for its innovative marketing plan and named “Launch of the Year” by WWD in December 2015.

ColourPop joins the ranks of leading brands as a favorite among top influencers like grav3yardgirl, who generated $116.8K EMV* with this post.

Milk Makeup
Before it launched in February of 2016, newcomer Milk Makeup had already made significant strides among millennial communities online pre-release. The brand’s 90’s, counterculture “It Girl” persona renders the brand appealing and relevant from a thematic perspective, while its Instagram debut leveraged the notion of desired exclusivity.

Milk Makeup positions itself as a front-runner in unconventional beauty trends with owned Instagram content.

Well before it was officially launched and available at Sephora stores, Milk began posting wildly colorful images to its Instagram profile. These simple posts of artsy geometric designs gradually evolved to revealing hints of a makeup theme and the inception of something exciting. Although much less direct than Melt Cosmetics’ single Instagram announcement of a launch party, Milk’s collection of teasing posts stirred similar feelings of anticipation. By the time the brand’s products became shoppable, in-touch beauty enthusiasts were largely aware of the launch and well-versed in Milk’s defining brand elements.

Each of the above images represents multiple Instagrams from Milk Makeup’s owned feed, published in the weeks leading up to the brand’s launch in February 2016.

*Earned Media Value (EMV) is Tribe Dynamics’ prescribed metric that quantifies the estimated value of publicity gained through digital earned media and its respective engagement levels. Our holistic approach assigns a specific dollar value to each piece of content, based on the publishing channel’s perceived value of digital word-of-mouth to brands within the industry. EMV serves as a tool for benchmarking across marketing activities and across brands.

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