Cruelty-free, luxury beauty brand Hourglass Cosmetics has a major project on its hands. The brand announced in November 2017 that it wanted all of its products to be vegan by the end of 2020, cementing Hourglass as the first fully vegan luxury beauty brand on the market.
To gain momentum around the push to all-vegan (although roughly 80% of its products are already compliant), Hourglass today launched one of its biggest marketing efforts to date. While the brand launches campaigns throughout the year, the push around vegan is the most comprehensive for Hourglass, covering social, digital, outdoor and in-store activations.
“As the business has grown, we’ve invested more in marketing,” said Carisa Janes, Hourglass Cosmetics founder and CEO. “We’ve had such rapid growth in the last three of four years, so it seemed like the right time for this campaign.” Hourglass declined to provide specifics on growth, but when the brand was acquired by Unilever in 2017, it was reportedly generating $70 million annually in net sales.”
Hourglass’ vegan beauty push is a smart move for the brand considering a larger cultural shift to consumers wanting clean and cruelty-free products. “There is a rising trend where people think about what they are putting on their skin, whether that is skin care or beauty-centric products, in terms of whether it’s something they would feel OK eating,” said brand strategy consultant Valerie Nguyen.
For the new “Eye to Eye” campaign, Hourglass wanted to focus on relatively new marketing mediums for the brand — mainly out-of-home and digital marketing — plus a push on social media to the brand’s 1.4 million Instagram followers. Mobile and digital are key focus areas for the brand, considering that’s where most of the brand’s consumers are spending their time. “She is on Instagram, she’s shopping online,” said Janes. “Recently, we’ve seen a huge shift from our customers to online shopping.” Hourglass is currently sold in over 1,000 locations, including at partner stores like Sephora and Barneys, but declined to share any details around the shift to online.
Out-of-home is another area that’s getting even bigger for Hourglass’ audience. As part of the campaign, Hourglass will cover Manhattan with close-up shots of four women posed next to four horses, zoomed in on one human eye and one horse eye. The imagery is meant to “show the humanity in the eyes of the animal,” said Janes, in order to spark consumers to think twice about purchasing something made from animal-derived products like lanolin and beeswax. Shoppers will also see the eye imagery all over social, in the brand’s flagship stores in New York City and Los Angeles, and in partner stores.
“Transparency with our consumers is crucial,” said Janes. “That includes [being transparent] on what’s in the product, and communicating that through Sephora, on our website and in-store to make sure the consumer has the information she is looking for,” Janes said.
Hourglass is also leveraging influencers as part of the campaign. Representatives for the brand declined to share specifics on who the brand is working with, but a select group of influencers will post their own versions of the campaign on social media, posting close-up photos next to their dogs, cats or other pets.
The move to all-vegan products is fitting for a beauty brand today, considering the global vegan cosmetics industry is expected to hit $20.8 billion by 2025, per market research firm Grand View Research. At a time when customers are demanding transparency more than ever, a handful of mainstream brands, from Kat Von D to Milk Makeup, have pledged to go vegan. Meanwhile, some of the biggest beauty behemoths in the world, like Covergirl, are working toward being cruelty-free. The shift isn’t as common for high-end beauty brands, but Nguyen said she expects that to change.
“I think with Hourglass setting this pace, will every brand follow? Probably not, but I do think that once you raise that bar like this, consumers will transfer their expectations from brand to brand,” Nguyen said.
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