Tech Marketers See Opportunity in Fashion Startups

Emma Jacobs reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “Luckily for [Michael Malinsky, co-founder and chief executive of KF Beauty which owns the Wunderbrow product], the perfectly arched brow is a dream pursued by legions of others. Wunderbrow’s Instagram feed is a steady stream of so-called influencers, such as Amadea Dashurie who has 620,000 followers, and CC Clarke with 780,000. Then there are the YouTube stars like GlamLifeGuru, with 2.5m subscribers and Roxxsaurus, with 1.6m. They command the attention of the right demographic, influencing the buying decisions of Wunderbrow’s target audience: teenagers and impeccably made-up young women getting ready for a night out. Many demonstrate the art of the brow groom with enthusiasm, applying the Wunderbrow with a mascara wand.

Big eyebrows as big business is a relatively recent phenomenon, driven by social media. As befits such a market, perhaps,  Mr Malinsky, does not have a background in beauty or fashion but in internet marketing. Pull the curtain aside on this beauty start-up, and what you see is essentially a tech marketing business — albeit one that now sells its products at traditional retailers, such as Boots and CVS. Since 2015 the company has sold 2m brow enhancer kits — eight times more sales in 2016 than the year before. Last year, Mr Malinsky and his 10 employees moved from central London into the Shard skyscraper, just south of the River Thames. Today, there are 35 London employees. There is also a small team in Miami, Florida.”

The FT article explained that, “Charlotte Libby, global colour cosmetics and fragrance analyst at Mintel, the market research company, traces the turning point for brows to 2012. The market was partly fuelled by make-up experts on YouTube and Instagram, bringing professional beauty tips to a wide audience. But perhaps more important were the aesthetic demands of selfies. ‘When you view your face through a lens, then fuller brows frame it,’ she says. This is more than just another fashion trend. ‘It’s about defining a facial feature for Instagram.'”

Ms. Jacobs noted that, “Start-ups like Mr Malinsky’s jostle with large cosmetics companies, such as Estée Lauder and the LVMH-owned Benefit. Legions of high street brow bars offer treatments designed to wax, thread, colour and sculpt the furriest of features. Mr Malinsky is relaxed about the competition, insisting it helps to build the eyebrow category. ‘They’re creating a bigger pie for us to potentially have a bigger piece,’ he says.”

Yesterday’s article added that, “‘When done effectively [online marketing] can yield a very high margin, at very little upfront investment as you do not need to have inventory, support or any equipment,’ [Malinsky] says. ‘The downside is you are ultimately building someone else’s business.'”

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