This week, a look at Josie Maran’s entry into the OTC space and the founder support groups popping up on Slack.
Beauty brand Josie Maran wants to bring its clean positioning to the over-the-counter aisle.
OTC products refer to drugs and medicines sold directly to a consumer without a requirement for a prescription. In the case of Josie Maran, its Intensive Daily Repair Body Butter, launched on Tuesday, is an OTC product for eczema. The body butter is the first product within the brand’s new OTC category called Argan Apothecary, which will launch one additional product this year, around August. The body butter contains 0.8% of colloidal oatmeal, which soothes skin and serves as a protective barrier. It does not contain steroids, mineral oils or other harsh additives often found in OTC and prescription eczema products. Colloidal oatmeal is featured in other sensitive skin products by First Aid Beauty, Aveeno and Honest Beauty.
But, the creation of Argan Apothecary to house OTC products is the first move by the brand outside of the traditional beauty categories. In 2020, lip-care brand Eos launched into the OTC lip category with two products sold in mass retailers like Target and CVS. As the skin-care category continues to swell with products for the face, body, scalp and even vulva, there is a need to create additional growth categories. The body butter will sell through Ulta Beauty, QVC, Sephora and JosieMaran.com. Ulta Beauty, QVC and Sephora already sell eczema-specific face and body products from brands like Skinfix, Dermadoctor and La Roche Posay. However, these retailers do not appear to offer a dedicated OTC or sensitive skin product category.
“This is a huge opportunity. I’ve been doing clean beauty for 14 years … and it’s amazing that nobody is doing [clean OTC beauty]. We are planning on going big with [the category],” said Josie Maran, founder and CEO of her eponymous brand.
Josie Maran expanded to Ulta Beauty in Jan. 2021, marking its first new retail partner in a decade. At the time, QVC accounted for 60% of its sales, while Sephora made up 30% of sales, and the brand’s DTC e-commerce site contributed 10%. Maran declined to provide an updated breakdown of sales. Maran previously said that the privately-owned brand earned approximately $150 million in sales in both 2019 and 2020, but she declined to provide 2021 figures. She did share that the brand saw a 30% year-over-year increase in new customers on its DTC website in 2021.
As the beauty industry has continued to develop new product categories to drive growth, the sensitive skin customer has quickly become a new demo gaining attention. According to Cetaphil, 70% of Americans self-diagnose themselves with sensitive skin and claim skin symptoms like dryness, irritation, roughness and tightness. The beauty industry responded by launching many sensitive skin products in 2021.
“There [has been] more self-diagnosed sensitive skin or allergic skin because of awareness. I don’t know if it’s more prevalent, but it’s more talked about,” said Dr. Morgan Rabach, a practicing NYC-based dermatologist. She added that steroids are not always necessary for eczema, depending on the severity, and that ceramides are helpful in combatting the skin issue when used regularly.
“The plan is to continue to bring out new, intensely hydrating OTC formulas targeting all types of skin issues,” said Maran. “We might go into scalp or any kind of topical disease that is lacking in plant-based [alternative solutions].”
In 2022, the plan for Josie Maran is to increase new customer acquisition through influencer partnerships, both paid and unpaid. The company will also use its first-party customer data to improve its customer relationship management and customer lifetime value by tailoring its website and digital communication strategies. Maran said the brand aims to increase its DTC sales by 100% in 2022. Josie Maran hired a vp of DTC and a head of CRM in 2021.
For the body butter launch, Josie Maran will focus on user-generated content across Instagram and TikTok to demonstrate the efficacy of the product. The brand increased its influencer mailing budget by 700% for the launch to gather “hundreds” of pre-launch user reviews and photos ahead of the rollout. Less than 2% of the brand’s launch strategy is centered on paid influencer content.
Typically, Josie Maran works with 700 unpaid influencers throughout the year, in paid and unpaid capacities. It plans to increase that number by 100% in 2022. It will also launch UGC on the product description pages of its DTC website. Josie Maran tapped four dermatologists to serve as brand ambassadors for the launch, to add further credibility.
“This year, we’re focused on our community, and how we can find our vibe and attract our tribe,” said Maran.
Indie entrepreneurs create ‘Founder Therapy’ Slack group
In the vast world of beauty entrepreneurialism, distinct ecosystems of founders regularly pop up.
Case in point: a Slack group that goes by the name Founder Therapy. Alongside Slack groups like “DTC E-com Brain Trust” and a temporary, unnamed coronavirus response group led by RéVive CEO Elana Drell Szyfer, brands have found ways to come together digitally to support one another in times of need. Founder Therapy is made up of seven indie beauty founders, including Common Heir founder Angela Ubias and Solar Suncare founder Stephanie DiPisa. They use the platform to share advice, vendor partners and occasionally commiserate.
Lindsey Martin, founder of skin-care brand Kiramoon, teamed up with Anastasia Bezrukova, founder of makeup brand Minori Beauty, to create the Slack group in 2020. They first met virtually through Instagram in the summer of 2020, before moving their conversations over to Zoom. During one of their Zoom calls, they decided to extend the invitation to other founders. They hosted the meetings on Zoom before migrating them to an ongoing Slack channel called Founder Therapy.
“There are a lot of things you don’t think about if you’ve never been in the beauty industry, and are there for each other. [We] give each other a heads-up,” said Martin.
Martin said she would like to see the Slack group formalized with more mentorship, members and organized calls. Bezrukova said there are plans to invite additional founders in early 2022.
“Building a [professional] network and a support network is probably the most beneficial thing that a founder can do to avoid making early mistakes,” said Bezrukova.
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