From plants to meal kits, beauty and personal care brands are forging Instagram alliances with labels across the DTC world. 

With new DTC beauty startups joining the market practically every week, brands have been turning to like-minded partners across categories as a cost-effective way to build brand awareness, social engagement and sales. 

“We are constantly doing brand partnerships, whether cross-promotion or Instagram giveaways,” said Sarah Moret, founder and CEO of 2-year-old body-care brand Curie. Curie participated in multiple cross-category collaborations last year, including a giveaway with DTC plant startup Lively Root in December. “Our brands are very adjacent and share similar customers,” said Moret. The brand also hosted a January 19 “detox-themed” Zoom media event with Lively Root to promote the launch of its new clay detox mask for armpits. Lively Root supported the detox theme through highlighting the air purification abilities of plants.

The collab strategy pays off for DTC brands. A November campaign for female and BIPOC DTC founders, which was called Better Together and organized by outdoor personal care brand Kinfield, drove a 1,000% increase in sales for Curie the week it was live. The 50 participating DTC brands, including swimwear brand Andie, fashion label Modern Citizen and jewelry line Amarilo, promoted the campaign on social media with a universal discount code.

“It’s a great way to discover new brands, and you can tap into customer bases because there’s already that built-in trust,” said Moret. 

Cross-brand partnerships can be amplified by influencers. For example, Bread Beauty Supply is currently running a giveaway with “it” bag brand Telfar and Fenty Beauty, which is being promoted by influencer Tiara Willis on her Instagram account.

 

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But these types of partnerships are frequently used in lieu of costly influencer promotions. Curie’s December partnership with Lively Root, for example, called on users to follow the brands, tag a friend and like the post to enter. Partnerships with other brands can have benefits that influencer posts do not, according to Lively Root’s marketing director Mariel Kilroy. 

Followers looking at brand content are “already in a shopping mindset, versus influencer [content], where it’s more of an earlier stage in the buying process,” she said. 

And unlike influencer sponcon or Instagram ads, these partnerships are generally free.

“With the growing cost of traditional online advertising and pay-per-click advertising, costs have risen so much that brands are looking for other ways to to tap into new audiences,” said Moret.

 

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The cross-brand DTC partnerships began taking off in 2019, with Glossier’s collab with pet startup Bark serving as an especially successful example. It is now “pretty common for like-minded brands” to team up, said Moret.

Fashion and jewelry brands are especially popular for beauty collabs, and brands are eager to secure the most hype-generating partnerships. Other examples include Blume’s giveaway with bag brand Hershel in August and Saie’s collab with underwear brand Knickey and activewear brand Live the Process this month. Mara Skincare, meanwhile, did collabs with jeweler Jean Dousset, loungewear brand Helena Quinn and Tori Praver Swimwear in December.

 

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Food and beverage is another popular partner category: Juice Beauty did a giveaway with vegan meal kit brand Purple Carrot this month, while Farmacy did a giveaway with candy brand Sugarfina and Flow spring water in December. Wellness themes are especially common: Kopari currently has a promo running in partnership with supplement brand Vital Proteins and athletic shoe brand APL. 

The Instagram collaboration is one of multiple paths, aside from paid ads, to generate awareness and sales in a saturated market. Brands are also turning to hip niche e-tailers or social commerce on Instagram, which has ramped up its shopping curation with millennials in mind over the past year.

Cross-brand collabs are set to remain a key promotion strategy in the world of DTC Instagram in the coming year.

“We have several brand partnerships already lined up for 2021, so it’s going to be a big part of our strategy,” said Moret.