Researching this blog post before dawn on December 12, I thought maybe my morning cup of high-test coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. Why? Because the home page of kyliecosmetics.com looked exactly like the beigey-nude, tone-on-tone core imaging on kkwbeauty.com.
Were my sleepy eyes playing tricks on me? Could baby sis Kylie Jenner, whose two-year-old beauty brand is projected to be on track for $1 billion in sales by 2022, be copycatting Kim Kardashian West?
I thought Kylie was all about her millennial-centric drippy-lips logo and palettes of Kyshadow in Naughty and Nice. Now she wants to go the sorta kinda classy route, à la big sis Kim?
Nah, probably not. In preparation for the unveiling of her line of Skin Concealers on December 13, Jenner had opted for a photo that conveyed the concept of skin-matching. For her initial foray into complexion products (one can only assume that Kylie Cosmetics foundation and tinted moisturizer are waiting in the wings), Jenner is launching a whopping 30 shades of concealer, a major bid for inclusivity that should serve her rabid global fan base extremely well.
(As a basis of comparison, even MAC, another makeup brand beloved by millennials, only offers 20 shades of concealer.)
Still, that nude-background imagery on kyliecosmetics.com….it’s so…Kim.
Kim Gets Kracking
While Kardashian West, 37, is getting into beauty roughly two years after 20-year-old Jenner, it’s hardly a game of catch up. Like Jenner, she’s had similarly staggering sales right out of the gate. Within three hours of lifting the curtain on her KKW Contour & Highlight Kits in June 2017, for example, all 300,000 had been snapped-up, to the tune of $14-plus million.
Since then, she’s kept the interest high, and the SKU count low, by adding just a handful of products. This includes an Ultralight Beams Duo, $32, featuring a shimmering loose powder and a matching high-shine gloss. Tellingly, a $160 Collection of all five Ultralight Beams Duos shades is already sold out.
With makeup under her belt (or “waist trainer,” the corset-like weight-loss contraptions she used to hawk on Instagram), Kardashian West has turned her attention to scent. Her latest offering – a limited-edition trio of fragrances inspired by, of all things, the armed jewel heist she endured in Paris in 2016 – hit the market last month.
Fashioned after healing crystals and housed in frosted bottles akin to a hunk of quartz, the scents all nod to her favorite flower, gardenia, and are meant to evoke a Zen-like state far removed from, say, armed jewel heists in Paris.
Why Go the Retail Route?
As with all other Jenner/Kardashian beauty merch, the new gardenia-laced fragrances are sold online, direct to the consumer. The sole brick-and-mortar exception was a fast two-week run at the Violet Grey store in L.A., which makes sense given Kardashian West’s relationship with the cult-fave e-commerce site.
In 2015, she portrayed Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in a truly stunning pictorial for the Violet Files, the site’s splashy digital magazine. And for the fragrance launch, she chatted with the Violet Files again, mostly about fond memories she has of her father, the late Robert Kardashian, gifting her with coveted perfumes after business trips. It’s a pretty charming interview, sprinkled with Kardashian West’s tales of being so cash-strapped as a youngster that she had to scrimp and save for a bottle of J’Adore.
Clearly, Kardashian West’s broke and busted days are behind her; in a recent Money magazine analysis of the entire Jenner/Kardashian clan’s individual net worth, Kardashian West topped the list at $175 million. Her sibling Kylie, barely out of her teens, has amassed a fortune of $50 million.
Only time will tell whether Kardashian West’s beauty line will outpace Jenner’s. Both women are break-the-Internet gorgeous, so there’s certainly an aspirational aspect to their success in beauty, particularly makeup. (Rarely, if ever, are they caught in public without buckets of artfully applied face paint.) And God knows they have reach. We’re talking 100 million Instagram followers apiece for each.
Though their positioning is different – Kylie Cosmetics is fresh and frisky, while KKW Beauty is edgy and minimal, and more than a little informed by Kanye West’s ‘90s-leaning fashion aesthetic – the end goal for both is the same: to rewrite the script in beauty marketing.
So what are these two basically brand new beauty lines doing differently to ensure they scale dramatically faster than the rest of the industry?
Let’s take a look at the top five…
Ways They’re Crushing It
- They’re starting out famous, with psychotically huge social media followings. Most legacy beauty brands are still scrambling to build their numbers on Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
- They’re cutting out the middleman and selling directly to the consumer. Who needs Bloomingdale’s and Barneys when they can get the word out to hundreds of millions of likely purchasers with the click of an iPhone camera?
- They’re keeping demand high by doling out new products slowly and carefully, often in limited editions. This keeps their loyal customers constantly on edge, in a good way.
- They’re big on kits and collections. Such is the lure of the Jenner/Kardashian gestalt that fans want to snatch up Every. Single. Shade.
- They know makeup and they love it with every fiber of their being. You know how you get the sense that lots of celebs will just slap their name on a product without any real connection to it? (Or at least they used to, before the celebrity beauty world crashed and burned…) That isn’t the case with Kylie and Kim. These women know their way around an eyeshadow palette. They are authentic, unabashed beauty lovers and that sells, sells, sells.
Yes, it’s a Jenner/Kardashian world and we’re just living in it at their pleasure. A billion dollars in five years? It’s taken marquée-name beauty players multiple decades to reach that benchmark.
Still, there are a few smart tweaks and pivots to be gleaned from the way Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty do business. One is to bolster exclusivity by possibly trimming the number of retail partners and creating plenty of digital-only product propositions. In other words, merch that’s available on your own site and nowhere else. Another is to launch fewer SKUs – a big shift for “hamster wheel” brands that are addicted to newness. Okay, so maybe those are massive changes rather than tweaks and pivots. But if they work, aren’t they worth it?