Watch out, YouTubers. The first of the TikTok influencer beauty brands has arrived.
A tried-and-true business strategy for an earlier generation of beauty bloggers including Jeffree Starr, Huda Kattan and Jaclyn Hill, the launch of a beauty line is now being embraced by the TikTok generation.
The first brand out of the gate is the newly launched beauty line Gloss Twins created by TikTok “twinfluencers” Shanae and Renae Nel, who have 1.2 million followers on their shared account, which features dances, lip-syncing and comedy and beauty videos. The 20-year-old U.K.-based twin sisters launched a lip gloss collection on March 29, making it available for pre-order on their DTC site. The brand is being promoted on their own TikTok account, as well as by fellow TikTok stars and influencers across YouTube and Snapchat to whom they gifted the products.
Beauty influencers who rose to popularity on YouTube and Instagram have found their personal brands to be highly lucrative. Huda Kattan’s Huda Beauty reportedly saw $250 million in annual sales in 2018, and Jeffree Starr Cosmetics reportedly sold $100 million worth of makeup that same year. And the Nel twins’ launch is the start of a wave of TikTok influencer beauty brands set to roll out in the near future.
“We sort of joined the craze,” said Shanae Nel. “The reason we chose lip gloss is we literally wear it all the time. Lip gloss is more hydrating to the lips, whereas matte looks quite dry and uncomfortable.”
The products are being produced in partnership with Florence Adepoju, the founder of the cult beauty brand MDMflow. Adepoju also works with the twins as the head of retail partnerships at Fanbytes, the Gen-Z-focused talent agency representing them.
“We’re using this idea of beauty being the new merch, the same way that historically you’d go to a concert and you’d wear a T-shirt from your favorite band or artist,” said Adepoju.
Adepoju said at least two other influencers represented by the agency also have beauty launches in the works, including a lipstick line and a setting spray. Launches are likely to pick up once the quarantine period is over and brick-and-mortar retailers are open for business.
“Our strategy in the long term is to work with other managed talent on products that they want to bring out and go to retailers with a curated collection,” as opposed to proposing a larger influencer brand at one time, said Adepoju.
Launching the Nel twins’ brand during a quarantine has not been without its challenges, as originally planned in-person promotions, including a London pop-up, have been put on hold. The supply chain has also been slowed, with a delay in the arrival of product packaging.
“We wanted to do a pop-up shop to meet and greet fans and show them the lip glosses in person,” said Renae Nel. “But we can’t be anywhere near our fans or anybody, so we’re going to have to wait.” The twins had also planned on doing an international tour to meet with fans and promote the products.
But TikTok engagement is especially high right now among the Gen Z audience stuck at home and bored. According to Sensor Tower, TikTok was the No. 1 app downloaded worldwide in March 2020, earning a 98.4% increase in year-over-year downloads with over 115.2 million installs for the month.
According to Adepoju, the agency’s influencers have collectively seen a “massive spike in engagement” on TikTok. Just prior to the U.K. lockdown, the agency opened the Byte House, or a U.K.-based equivalent to the Hype House; its TikTok account has already grown to over 221,000 followers.
“So much of the [Gen Z] audience is at home and on social,” said Adepoju, who noted that because most of TikTok’s audience consists of teens home from school, “there’s just so much more attention on the platform.” She said, to promote Gloss Twins, the Nel twins are mainly using this time to focus on brand storytelling and community-building. According to the twins, comedic content is especially popular with their young audience. Their recent posts about their lip gloss embrace TikTok’s irreverent style: examples include a version of the “Where’s My Juul” meme and a variation of the “The Ting Goes” meme.
Geared toward Gen Z, the lip gloss is set at an affordable £9.50, or $11.88. Shanae Nel said fans have been sending comments expressing interest in the lip gloss, but they frequently have one caveat: “I don’t think my parents will let me buy anything now.”