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Five Marketing And Public Relations Strategies Boosting Beauty Brand Awareness Now

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The pandemic has dramatically shifted the marketing and public relations landscape. Confronting the shifting landscape, indie beauty brands have had to find new ways to boost awareness. Exactly how are they doing that? According to brand founders and public relations professionals, they’re tapping into affiliate marketing, testing SMS and connecting in person, among other strategies. Here are insights from them on the strategies that have been working and what they’re experimenting with as they head into 2022.


Consider affiliate marketing as “This is the new way of PR”

Per market research firm Statista, global advertising revenue for print magazines is expected to decrease about 2% to $15.76 billion this year from a year ago. The 2021 estimate is nearly 30% lower the revenue the magazine industry pulled in for print advertising in 2017. And print magazine advertising isn’t due for a rebound. Statista projects it will continue to decline worldwide to $12.46 billion by 2025. As media companies seek sources of revenue beyond traditional ads, affiliate marketing has become a critical money maker.

Affiliate marketing enables digital publishers to earn commissions on the online sales of products mentioned in articles. It’s practically de rigueur for a brand to include its merchant ID code with affiliate marketing platforms such as ShareASale and Skimlinks on correspondence with press.

“This is the new way of PR,” asserts Robin Tolkan-Doyle, founder and owner of Charmed PR as well as the proprietor of fair trade e-tailer Beautyologie. Commission rates vary, but Tolkan-Doyle says a minimum offer of 15% is worthwhile for a publication. However, she cautions, “It doesn’t guarantee [brands will] get a lot of attention.” Nonetheless, she says, “You got to figure out what’s going to get your clients press now.”


Highlight press mentions without infringing on trademarks

A brand can’t be blamed for wanting to brag to the world about a press placement. The problem is that publishing companies can demand a fee from brands for the use of their media logos on brands’ digital platforms. Beauty executives report they’ve received letters requesting licensing fees ranging from $2,600 to $6,300 for the right to display media property logos on their websites.

The phrase “as seen in” can be useful to specify the relationship between a brand and a publisher. In a blog post for boutique public relations and digital marketing agency B, small business attorney Elizabeth Potts Weinstein recommends formatting media logos to appear smaller than a brand’s logos and graphics. Media logos can also serve as links to press pages highlighting news about brands.

While logos are protected by copyright law, Potts Weinstein says, “If you are using a small version of the logo, are only using it for the purpose of reporting where you have been featured, and you link back to their site/article, then your use is probably fair use.”

Tolkan-Doyle advises brands to convert press mentions into social media assets they can promote to attract consumers. “When people see, oh, you were featured in ‘Allure’ or ‘Good Morning America,’ you’re going after more people that would potentially be interested in going on your site and purchase more products,” she says.


Combine content with commerce

“There is so much content now,” says Sara Dudley, CEO of The Sunscreen Company. Even during what’s considered the off-season for sales of sun protection, she got a boost for the company’s Ava Isa line by signing on as the exclusive sunscreen sponsor at a poolside event in September for Kourtney Kardashian’s content and commerce site Poosh. Ava Isa’s $45 Sun-è-Serum Drops SPF 35 was included in gift bags given to celebrity attendees the likes of Miranda Kerr and Kim Kardashian West. The sunscreen was also integrated as the last step in what Kourtney Kardashian had conjured up as a luxurious European spa, where a butler walked each white robed-guest through different stations.

Poosh posted an article and photos of the event on its site, and it allowed Dudley to publish materials from the event on The Sunscreen Company’s social media. The lead banner photo on the brand’s site declares the drops are “Poosh approved.”

In the first week of selling Sun-è-Serum Drops along with the $19 Sun Lip Sun Whip lip balm in the U.S., Poosh managed to sell four times the amount of what an established e-commerce retail partner for The Sunscreen Company was able to do at the same time. Of the content related to Poosh, Dudley says, “The tie-in to e-commerce is right there.”

The winning combo of content plus commerce appeals to other retailers, too. For instance, Dudley says The Detox Market wants to work together with brands to create content for their social media, a webinar, a virtual event or an in-store event. “I certainly want to keep working with the retail partners,” says Dudley. “We have to support them and their sales.”


Use digital media tools to build a community

Niambi Cacchioli, the founder and CEO of melanin skincare line Pholk Beauty, holds a distinctive and pragmatic view of the beauty business. “For me, business is about building relationships,” she says. Perhaps nothing is more useful than social media to build relationships, at least virtually.

In March 2020, Cacchioli began having chats on Instagram Live with experts in psychology, astrology, farming and other fields. The IG Live sessions have replaced in-person events. Her team emailed customers about upcoming IG Live conversations and posted them online so that people could schedule them in their calendars. Pholk will edit the IG Live talks into short segments to share on its site, and the brand communicates with customers via DMs, emails, a chat box on its site and its Facebook account.

“We use our social media as a way to have a real conversation,” says Cacchioli. “We got rid of an aspirational look in our social media. We welcome dark spots, in-grown hair, nonbinary [people]—come as you are.”

Pholk’s tactics have been effective. From March 2020 to the end of last year, Pholk’s revenues multiplied 20 times from the previous year, says Cacchioli. Its Instagram followers have increased from around 3,000 in March 2020 to over 15,000 now. It launched at Credo and Goop earlier this year, and is a part of e-commerce site Thirteen Lune’s curation sold at J.C. Penney.

A 2022 goal for Pholk is SMS marketing. She’ll need to invest between $800 and $1,000 for setting up the SMS and email campaigns, but she’s confident that Pholk can double or triple its revenue within two months. “We’re right now collecting the questions that keep coming up in our chats and DMs. That will help us create really specific SMS campaigns. We’re not just sending out promotions and 20%-off [coupons] and CyberMondays [deals],” says Cacchioli.

As a mother of two, she understands how busy people can be. “We want to make sure, when we get onto people’s phones, we have data-driven, customer-driven information,” says Cacchioli. “SMS is especially compelling because—if done well—it feels like your skincare auntie is popping in to give you a quick tip or checking in. I think it’s a great way to deepen the sense that our customers are really part of our community.”


In-person events are still important

Raise your hand if you’re tired of Zoom. Wldkat founder and CEO Amy Zunzunegui’s hand is up high. That’s why Wldkat hosted an in-person dinner outdoors at urban farming site Little City Farm in Los Angeles last month. With cocktails, a buffet and a DJ, the event heralded the brand’s relaunch as a CBD-free line. It was a transcontinental sequel of sorts to a farm-to-table dinner Wldkat had hosted a couple of weeks earlier in Brooklyn. “To me, nothing replaces talking in person,” says Zunzunegui. She adds, “When consumers saw the event and all of that [on social media], it reignites the interest and engagement in the brand.”

Unlike pre-pandemic parties, Wldkat had to pin down a venue that could host guests outside to enable attendees to be comfortable. Attendees were required to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test. Wldkat had masks and hand sanitizer on hand, too.

Zunzunegui says Wldkat’s next event might feature a cocktail hour with as many as 15 people or a breakfast with magazine editors. “The challenge for small brands and brands like ours is the speed of change,” she says. “It’s pretty tough to keep up with the shift and who’s sensitive to what sort of thing. Always out of the gate, [we’re] asking the question, ‘Is this OK?’”

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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