Indie beauty brands continue to rise, but few are able to cut through the noise and become household names. In other categories, the most successful brands are typically built around a core product. In the indie sector, however, the path from lesser-known to leader involves a creative mix of traditional and social media strategies.

Many small indie brands use social media as a low-cost way to drive brand awareness and refer traffic to brand sites. Not only is social media accessible, it’s effective. A third of beauty consumers in the US rely on social media for beauty inspiration, and 47% have been influenced to purchase a beauty product because of it, according to L2’s Indie Index.

Color cosmetics brands shine on social media, especially YouTube, thanks to frequent influencer mentions through organic or paid partnerships.  YouTube offers brands a lasting source of visibility and directly generates traffic to brand sites. For example, BH Cosmetics was an early adopter of influencer partnerships, collaborating with high-profile YouTube beauty vloggers including Shaanxo and Carlibybel. These became crucial to the brand’s success. Although the vloggers update brand collaboration playlists regularly with new videos, primary real estate is given to older uploads, helping to ensure consistent views over time.

While color cosmetics brands find their footing on social, skincare brands gain recognition through more traditional media. For example, The Ordinary first became a cult favorite on research-oriented forum Reddit. It then rose to public recognition through editorial praise; a quarter of all traffic to comes from referrals, driven by top editorial sites like Refinery29 and BuzzFeed. In comparison, the average Indie Index brand receives just 11% of brand site traffic from referrals. These publications helped to make The Ordinary a well-known name among beauty consumers and eventually launch at retailers like Sephora.

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