by Ula Blocksage, Photographer, Organic Skincare Formulator & Consultant
Working in the natural beauty industry is an exciting place to be… but there is much to be done if you want your indie skincare brand to sell in the extremely competitive market place that is the beauty industry. Today we are talking imagery, the importance of packaging, consistency, getting personal and finding your social allies. Get comfy and grab a cuppa… there is a lot of information here!
1. Found Imagery vs Unique Imagery
One of the most important pieces of advice I give entrepreneurs building a brand is, that you must fully understand your aesthetic inside out; the mood, the colours, the vibe, your ideal customer… you have got to be able to completely envisage all of it!
Many newbie beauty brands, when first starting out fill the pages of their website, their blog and social media platforms with stock, borrowed and or found imagery that they believe will be appealing to their clientele. And why not… it is cheaper, sometimes free and takes a lot less effort than investing time and money into creating unique imagery. If you decide to use stock images or other peoples photographs, then you must be intent that the images you are using, are bang-on in terms of mood and aesthetic. If they are, then brilliant! If they are not… I would simply advise… do not use them! It is YOUR brand that you are promoting and so your every move counts.
For example; Perhaps you have stumbled across a beautiful image of a woman relaxing in the bath, filled with bubbles and surrounded by candles. Firstly ask yourself if this image is personal enough? Is the mood completely coherent to that of your skincare brand? If you were to use this image, would it feel as though you were being consistent in the visual presentation of your brand? Or could you perhaps even recreate and capture something similar yourself that has a more personal touch? Maybe even featuring one of your own products in the photograph?
My advice is to create a mood board, so that every time you look at it, you know your aesthetic and how you want your brand to make people feel. Book mark images on Pinterest and Instagram that you love and that have the same vibe that you would like your brand to convey. Use these resources as sources of inspiration and come back to them each time you are looking to create new images for your brand.
For example I have a few Instagram accounts I personally follow for inspiration. Their content may not be exactly the aesthetic I am after, but the images they post keep me excited to create beautiful imagery.
For example I like checking in on the account @parisification for inspiration every so often.
I also always advise beauty brands to invest in good professional photography. A lot of indie beauty brands choose not to invest in this area, feeling as though it is too expensive. However, if you find a good photographer you can always negotiate terms. A photographer will more often than not, charge a higher price for a one-off job. If you plan on creating new and fresh images on a regular basis, you might be able to agree on a lower rate per collection of images. However, if you are adamant that you really can not afford this expense, then you might want to invest in a good camera, some editing software and be prepared to put on a photographers hat! 😉 An invaluable skill to master!
IMPORTANT TIP: Did you know that every photograph that exists has rights attached to it? With rights comes royalties and if you do not understand the rules and play by them, you could get seriously caught out and potentially end up spending more money on fixing copyright issues, than you would have spent on a photographer in the first place. Ask yourself before using an image that is not your own… Do I have permission to use this photo? Has the photographer who owns the copyright to this photograph agreed to let me use it? And for what usage and length of time? Have I credited the right people for that photograph? Was this photograph created for another brand or business and if so is there a trademark issue also attached to the image? Simply… make sure you do your research before posting images that belong to other people.
2. The Importance of Packaging
Packaging is just as important as what is inside the product itself. I am guessing that if you are a beauty brand entrepreneur reading this that perhaps you were drawn to natural skincare formulation because of your love for natural, pure and powerful ingredients. You may believe that the product and your chosen ingredients speak for themselves, but let me tell you, if the packaging is not equally as exciting as the product it houses, then your product may not sell as well as you’d hoped. On-brand packaging is key to a products success. This is indeed another area of your business that can not be neglected nor skimmed over.
For example, if your brand has a young target audience, perhaps made for beach babes, with squeaky clean skin and spending time in the sun. Ask yourself if the packaging of your product reflects this? Is your packaging, fun, youthful, light and bright?
Or perhaps your target audience is a busy, city-dwelling, business woman, wishing to find time to look after herself and to pamper her skin? You may want your packaging to convey luxury, relaxation and indulgence. Ask yourself what colours and what type of design would capture your target customers attention when shopping for her ideal skincare.
Buying natural is now fashionable and if you want something to be fashionable it has to look the part. It is now on-trend to go green, so your packaging needs to be on-trend too. People are actively choosing to live greener lifestyles and they want the natural products they are buying to reflect this. Saying that you are a natural skincare brand is not enough, the product packaging also needs to reflect this. At the end of the day, people are less likely to buy an ugly box… so make sure it looks the part, on-brand and on-trend!
IMPORTANT TIP: Ever heard of a shelfie? This is when someones bathroom cabinet, sink or vanity is specifically curated to look photogenic. Yes I am serious when I say people will buy your products based on how they are packaged and how they will look sitting on a shelf and so it is paramount that you get it right!
3. Be Social and Consistent
It is hard to be everywhere especially when you are a one women/man show! Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat all take time and so I always advise picking two social media platforms and completely nailing them!!! One day when your company has a bigger budget you might decide to dominate them all by hiring a social media manager to run them for you… updating all platforms and statuses simultaneously, whilst keeping your image on point. But until then… I advise doing two of them really well instead of all of them half heartedly!
Social media is an amazing opportunity and should be utilized to its full potential… it is essentially free advertising. No more do you need to have large marketing budgets to hire advertising companies to promote your brand to the masses, you can now build your own social presence online, free of charge, ready to be seen by thousands of potential customers.
The key is to be consistent. Know when your audience are present on social media and post when they are most active. For example, on Instagram, on the ‘Insights’ page there is a section called followers. This will give you not only the age range of your audience and top locations, it also tells you when your followers are most active and therefore when is best to post your content. You may have been posting once a day at 11am, but the majority of your followers are most present on Instagram at 6pm at night. If this is the case, you may wish to consider changing the time you post on Instagram. Nevertheless, it is important to keep up the momentum, be present and be consistent.
HELPFUL TIP: I personally like to use an Instagram Planning and Scheduling App to help me visualize and plan out my Instagram posts. The one I use is called UNUM, but there are plenty of others that exist for both Apple and Android. Applications like these are usually free and will help you a lot in keeping your businesses Instagram account looking consistently beautiful.
@NAMARISKIN is a great example of a beauty brand who knows their aesthetic inside-out and I would imagine more likely than not that Namariskin uses an instagram post planning tool to create their beautiful Instagram feed!
4. Get Personal
Personalize your customers experience when they shop and engage with you. Too often brands think that once the businesses website is up and running and when the social media is beautifully curated and rolling out nicely, that they can simply sit back and watch the sales roll in. I am sorry to say that it is never going to be that simple. Forecast trends tell us that things are changing and change indeed is always a good thing. People are now looking for a more personal touch when it comes to shopping for beauty products. People want to see the face behind the brand and who is making the products. They want behind the scenes footage of what is happening next. They want to feel involved, get to know the makers and perhaps even feel as though they have been especially invited into your little formulating world.
Ask yourself how you could actively engage more frequently with your customers? You may decide to ask your Twitter followers what type of products they want to see next? Engage with your customers responses, by liking them and retweeting your favorites, therefore actively engaging with them one on one, placing value on their thoughts and opinions. You may even decide to film your next formulation day, so your customers can see how you make your ‘Fabulous Foaming Bath Bombs’! Highlighting the process and discuss the benefits of the ingredients. Getting personal does not have to mean filming an Instagram Live, whilst in the bath and showing your customers how great your ‘Fabulous Foaming Bath Bombs’ really are! But hey, this could be exactly on-brand for your target audience… And in which case, go for it!! The important thing here is to know your brand and to know yourself. Get personal but do not overstep your personal boundaries.
Last month I visited ‘In Cosmetics’ in Amsterdam and attended a talk on ‘European Beauty Trends’ presented by Vivienne Rudd and Andrew McDougall. They highlighted a handful of trends that are becoming more and more prevalent in the EU, one of which being the drive towards brands using a more human-like personality to engage with their customers. People want to be treated like a person, not an order number. They want to be able to approach and talk to their favorite brands as though they were a friend, to ask questions and get advice. This is a powerful opportunity for brands to harness. In dedicating time to being more approachable and personable, you may influence your customers product purchasing experience and frequency, more than you know.
REMEMBER: Set your personal boundaries and have fun with becoming more present online.
May Lindstrom herself is the voice behind @MayLindstromSkin on Instagram. What you see and read is of May’s own action. She is honest and relatable, often recounting personal stories. May and her team are also very responsive to emails and Instagram enquiries and the proof is in the pudding so to speak. Her brand in the green beauty industry, is one of notoriety and sells extremely well.
5. Find Your Social Allies
Influencers influence… that is what they do! They have a huge effect over how people on social media choose to spend their time and what they spend their money on. Having started in the natural beauty industry as a niche, micro-influencer myself, I am often contacted by brands for collaborations either on my blog, YouTube Channel or Instagram. It is great as it allows me to discover new brands and try new products that I may not have found otherwise and then introduce them to my viewers if I personally enjoy them as a product. I am however, contacted regularly by beauty brands who use synthetic and sometimes toxic chemicals, are not at all sustainable, test on animals and package their products in non-recyclable plastic… basically, products I would never ever think to buy! My point here is know your influencer. If you understand them they they will most likely understand you. If you are a brand that prides itself on being green, then look for influencers that use green products. Perhaps being sustainable and ethical is ingrained in your brand and therefore plays a huge part in your marketing strategy. It would only make sense that you try to connect with influencers who also share these principles and actively talk about them on their online presence. Be selective and take your time. Do not go with the first influencer you come across, unless they are the perfect fit!
HOT TIP: When looking for the right influencers, ask yourself… what are the principles of that person? Their ethics? Their message? What is their image? How do they dress? What do they write about? Would they be the right person to talk about your products? What does their image bring to your brand? Would they add value to your product? If yes, then definitely go ahead and write to them. Explain who you are and why you are contacting them. Perhaps even offer to send them some of your products. Remember sending products free of charge doesn’t necessarily equate to free publicity on their social channels. Sometimes you need a budget. However, they may feature your products regardless of whether there is money involved or not. If they like your vibe and If your product is good, the chances are, you may end up with some free press anyway.
Final mini tip on nailing the sale. You have got to be responsive! If you do not reply to your customers with haste, they may move on to something else, or worse… forget you all together. Living in the digital age means we have access to loads of information all of the time and so as a result we get distracted rather easily. This is a fact of the 21st century. Unless the client comes to you by a recommendation of a movie star, you might wish to consider being super responsive, so they do not loose interest and you do not loose that sale!
So go get em Beauties!!!
About the author:
Ula Blocksage is a Natural/Organic Skincare Formulator, Herbalist, Blogger, YouTuber, Green Beauty Consultant and Student at Formula Botanica
Connect with Ula: @ulablocksage (instagram)
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