Skip to content
Test your brand's health


Why Indie Brands Need to Grow Up

I was recently a guest on Kelly Kovack’s Beauty Matter along with Millie Kendall MBE. We had been asked to deliberate on the state of the UK Beauty Market and our opinions were sought on what will change in the relationships between consumers and brands, what action legacy brands were taking and of course the emergence of indie brands. I commented that the pandemic provided the opportunity for indie brands to “grow up”. We received many emails about what to “grow up” meant and so I thought it appropriate to explain my comments. Here’s thoughts on how brands should grow up if they want to survive and prosper post pandemic:



Indie brands in the main start from a strong sense of ideology. For example, the desire to formulate using only natural and vegan ingredients, to be fully sustainable and to be philanthropic in the brands activities. The creative force behind that thinking is to do what’s right in an ideological sense. Up to a point that works brilliantly. But sooner or later a healthy dose of pragmatism needs to be injected into the business.

Pragmatism is about dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than ideological considerations. It doesn’t mean that a brand throws away its reason for being, but it does mean that if your cost of goods are ridiculously high you start to seek ways of lowering them. It means that as well as building the brands awareness and its equity you also need to start looking at how you can drive volume. If you choose to operate only within the parameters of its ethos and ideology your brand is never going to grow up.


Financial realities

At some point in your brand’s development you will need to dig deep into the financial dynamics of your business. This is never easy because inevitably in the first 2 years your financial resources will be stretched. It’s at this point that you can’t shy away from what the numbers are saying. You may need to seek investment earlier than planned or curtail activities that on analysis have a poor return on investment. You may need to stop NPD and focus on your existing product offer. The choices you face won’t be easy but to ignore what the numbers are saying will not allow your brand to grow up. When faced with a financial reality that needs to change grown up brands assess, adapt and act.


Wake up and smell the coffee

We have over many years seen brands that have achieved such low sales volumes that you have no choice but to question why they are still around. It really is difficult to tell a brand owner to stop their business. They will have sunk time, effort and money into creating a brand that disappointingly, no matter what they do, needs to stop. That’s an awful option but far better to stop then waste more time and money in something that is not going to work. Waking up and smelling the coffee is pragmatic, carrying on is wishful thinking at its worst.


Wishful thinking

Grown up brands don’t do wishful thinking – they have a vision in place, a strategy to deliver that vision, and an action and implementation plan to make things happen.



A key strength in running a business or brand is the ability to recognize and put in place priorities. Often these priorities clash. If you are forever struck in a no-compromise view point that only allows your original thinking to take precedence, then your brand cannot grow up. Compromising your ideals is painful and to help you there should be lines in the sand beyond which you will not go. But there are few no-compromise brands around and those that make it live in rarified environments that are accessible to very few. Growing up is about learning when to compromise and when to hold your ground. It’s the willingness to do this that makes a brand grow up.



We have all seen how the pandemic has accelerated the demise of traditional retailers. Those brands that some time ago started to recognize the importance of their own e-commerce platform as a way of building volume are way ahead of the game. We often see brands that have little or no volume from their web sites. This make no sense. As a rule of thumb for every product you sell from your website you will need to sell 3 in retail to generate the same margin as that single product. Its not easy to drive traffic to your website and then convert that traffic to purchase but not to try is a lack of responsibility. Growing up is about taking responsibility and putting in place every action possible to build your business.

Growing up as a person is a rite of passage. It really isn’t that different for a brand. It’s an acceptance that time is passing and what mattered at the beginning still matters but other things need to be included in your thinking. Compromise, financial awareness, embracing change and the willingness to accept responsibility. Sounds familiar? Of course it does. We’ve all been through it.

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.

Our Series

Read More