Meet the new class of beauty influencers

Alongside actors, pop stars and influencers, beauty brands are enlisting professionals from everything from mountaineering to culinary art for their latest campaigns.

Over the past month, several beauty brands have launched campaigns with public figures outside the realm of beauty. On March 21, Smashbox Cosmetics announced an art residency program sponsoring three visual artists. On the same day, Clinique announced her “Face of Adventure” campaign featuring five adventurers including mountaineers who broke the barriers. And on March 15, nail polish brand Orly unveiled a collaboration with “Top Chef” contestant and James Beard winner Kwame Onwuachi. As brands work to convey authenticity in a market saturated with influencers, a growing number of beauty labels are trying to stand out and reach a wider audience with a new kind of public persona.

“Collaborating with influencers outside the beauty space is an effective way for brands to expand reach and tap into new communities,” said Clare Hennigan, senior beauty analyst at Mintel. According to data from the Mintel survey, 40% of beauty influencer followers express an interest in seeing more beauty brands partner with influencers in other industries.

For Smashbox’s new Smashbox Open Studios artist residency program, the brand is sponsoring three emerging artists in a four-week incubation program that culminates in a group show of their work on March 31 at Smashbox’s Lightbox studio in Los Angeles. The artists selected were walk-in installation artist Uzumaki Cepeda, photographer Randijah Simmons and Gabriela Ruiz, who creates sculpture, video, painting and design.

Uzumaki Cepeda with installation. (Courtesy photo)

It’s the latest beauty brand to incorporate artists into a campaign, along the lines of The pasturewho often collaborates with artists at Art Basel events.

“This is a different kind of campaign for us,” said Heather Duchowny, executive director of global marketing at Smashbox. The brand has collaborated with artists in the past on product collaborations and the goal of this campaign is “to create a cultural and artistic meeting place where creatives can meet”.

Brands are looking for new campaign stars who make conceptual sense. Orly, for example, teamed up with Onwuachi for a set of three colors of nail polish after the star chef became famous for his love of nail polish.

Kwame Onwuachi wears her new nail polish collaboration with Orly. (Roberto Smith)

“I’m always looking for ways to express myself – my roots, my thoughts, my creativity – be it through food, clothes, design,” said Onwuachi. “The collaboration with Orly is just a creative endeavor outside of the kitchen you will see for me. My fans aren’t just aspiring chefs, they come from all walks of life. “

These non-traditional collaborations can help brands expand their reach beyond the typical beauty enthusiast.

“In today’s market, there is an over-saturation of partnerships and beauty lines with celebrities because it’s a business model that has worked,” said Tal Pink, vice president of business development at Orly. “Orly has always had an eye for asymmetrical partnerships that propel the industry forward, rather than simply recreating what we see on the market today.”

The brand wants to work with figures “who deserve greater recognition for their achievements in their field,” said Pink. Previously, she teamed up with Jennifer Welter, the NFL’s first female coach in 2019.

As with typical beauty or celebrity influencers, a devoted social following can mean sales success. Thanks to the enthusiasm of Onwuachi’s fan base of 175,000 followers on Instagram, sales of the Kwame X Orly collaboration exceeded the brand’s expectations, Pink said. More than half of its inventory was sold within the first two weeks of launch. The brand is doing an “urgent replenishment” in addition to working with Onwuachi on three other shades.

“Beauty brands are interested in this type of crossover because it allows them to reach other types of customers. Influencers and beauty experts, such as dermatologists, tap into a niche already looking for these types of products, “said Alessandro Bogliari, co-founder and CEO of the influencer marketing agency The Influencer Marketing Factory.

At a time when the concept of authenticity is central to brand marketing, brands are quick to point out that these campaigns aren’t just about reaching large numbers of followers. While Smashbox features its artists on social media and has them make TikTok acquisitions, Duchowny noted that two of them don’t even have a TikTok account.

“We weren’t choosing these people because they have an immense following on one specific platform or another,” he said.

Meanwhile, for a campaign promoting her Moisture Surge moisturizer, Clinique has chosen to work with adventurers, given their exposure to extremely harsh weather conditions on the world’s highest peaks.

Adventurers include Zambian-born Saray Khumalo, the first black woman from Africa to climb Everest; Marcela Maranon, the first disabled Latin woman to climb Kilimanjaro; and Emma Svensson, the first to lead an all-female team to climb every 4,000 meters of the European Alps. There is also Elise Wortley, founder of the “Woman with Altitude” project in which she recreates the historic journeys of women without modern mountain equipment; and Mireya Mayor, an Emmy-nominated primatologist and the first Latin national correspondent for National Geographic.

“We usually work with the best beauty influencers,” but “this is the broadest, in terms of the influencers we’re using that are outside the beauty category,” said Roxanne Iyer, vice president of global consumer engagement at Clinique.

Since the term “influencer” has been linked directly to the idea of ​​paid content, brands are looking for more authentic ways to reach audiences through new types of influencers. The same influencers have moved towards the term “Creator”To highlight their work rather than follower counts and branded offers.

“Consumers are wary of sponsored content. Highly engaged beauty consumers are savvy and understand when they are “sold to” versus [given] a real product recommendation, “he said Hennigan.

The top athletes are too increasingly present in beauty advertisements. Luxury beauty brands have lined up with sportswear labels to secure Olympic sponsorship deals. SK-II enlisted Simone Biles and other summer Olympians for a 2020 campaign, while Estée Lauder worked with the gold medal in skiing Eileen Gu in China. Star MMA fighter Zhang Weili was also in a Estee Lauder countryside. And Glossier became the first beauty brand to sponsor the WNBA in 2020, launch a campaign with female basketball stars. In addition to physical sports, prominent esports players and stars they also got beauty endorsement deals.

As brands look beyond the world of beauty for public figures with a corporate social responsibility goal, they are also creating new titles in addition to “brand ambassadors” and collaboration partners. The graduate poet Amanda Gorman, for example, is the first “Creator of global changesWhich means he works with the brand on both campaigns and CSR initiatives.

Meena Harris has also emerged as a company focused on CSR “reluctant influencer”In beauty, working with companies including the hair care brand Monday, the makeup brand Live colorful and the Naturopathic skin care brand.

Expert approvals can also help brands credibility on sustainability claims. When luxury skin care brand Emma Lewisham announced in September 2021 that it had become the first carbon-positive beauty brand, she got the endorsement of environmentalist Jane Goodall.

However, the influx of new brand representatives doesn’t mean brands are ditching beauty influencers. According to Mintel, 73% of adults who follow beauty influencers have purchased products they recommend.

In the future, brands are planning to continue working with traditional beauty influencers and celebrities, while also continuing to expand to new types of professionals.

“Sure, we play in a beauty influencer space, but it’s not the only place we like to play,” said Duchowny. “We are open and we tend to look outside the traditional when it comes to campaigns.” Smashbox is keeping “an open mind” in terms of who works and is considering future artists’ initiatives, he said.

“In addition to the personal satisfaction of being able to put the spotlight on good causes and stories, the business case for these kinds of partnerships is pretty clear,” Pink said. “When no one else is doing something, it’s a great time to start doing it.”

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