In January 2018, things were not going well for Gisselle Hernandez, founder of direct-to-consumer indie makeup company Glamlite. The brand, which was founded two months prior, was having trouble finding its footing in the competitive beauty landscape and among the Gen-Z and younger millennial target consumer group.

It was then that Hernandez began designing a new product: the Pizza Palette, an eyeshadow palette mirroring the shape of a pizza and featuring 18 shades, like “Marinara” and “Prosciutto.” It took $100,000 to create the palette and cost three times more to manufacture and ship compared to a standard eyeshadow palette, said Hernandez, who declined to share the exact cost.

“I knew this wouldn’t leave much money for marketing because we couldn’t afford it,” said Hernandez. “[Going viral] is hard in the cosmetics industry because it’s a saturated market.”

Hernandez sent the $40 palette, unsolicited and packaged in full-size pizza boxes, to 40 influencers in December 2018, including Jeffree Star (who has almost 14 million YouTube subscribers) and whose address she acquired from a friend. Star posted a video review of the product the same month, which has since garnered over 7 million views. In the 24 hours after, Glamlite sold $50,000 worth of inventory through its e-commerce site. In a week, sales reached $150,000. Glamlite expects the brand to do $2 million to $3 million in sales in 2019, Hernandez said.

To build on the viral product, Glamlite is pivoting to focus exclusively on fast-food-themed products, extending beyond eyeshadow to false eyelashes, face powders and brushes. The traditional palettes on the website will not be restocked once they sell out. In April, the brand will launch a burger-themed collection which includes French fry and milkshake palettes. On May 5, it will launch a taco-themed range with horchatas and margaritas.

“We started this amazing trend of fast-food makeup, and we want to do more things we are passionate about,” she said. “We think we are creating an experience that hasn’t been done.”

To scale its growth and keep up with the demand for Instagram-worthy designs, the Hollywood, California-based brand expanded its warehouse in late 2018 from almost 5,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet. This year, it’s hiring 12 new employees, including a marketing lead and two staff members dedicated to running its in-house content studio that was created in January.

Creating viral products has become less of a phenomenon in beauty and more of a full-fledged strategy. Brands like Taste Beauty with its Nickelodeon eyeshadow palette, Storybook Cosmetics with its “Mean Girls”-themed palette, and Morphe and Colourpop with influencer and Disney collaborations have been able to garner tremendous growth and earned media value as a result of viral products. However, having one viral product does not guarantee long-term success, said Conor Begley, co-founder and president of data analytics firm Tribe Dynamics.

“If it’s a product that is purely an internet phenomenon and doesn’t provide underlying value, it can be here and gone in a couple of months,” he said. “When it stands the test of time is if it shows up in [digital] content on a repeated basis for four months or longer.”

To ensure Glamlite remains relevant, its doubling down on its social media strategy. Previously, the brand was posting up to three times a day on Instagram and Facebook, where it currently has 143,000 followers and 11,000 “likes,” respectively. It has scaled back to one post a day, as of January, in order to focus on higher-quality content.

Once the two additional social hires are made, the brand will post twice a day across Instagram (including Stories) and Facebook, with a focus on makeup tutorials, Hernandez said. Additionally, Glamlite will build its influencer and media gifting list in 2019 from 150 people to 500 people — but it has no plans to invest in paid digital marketing or influencers.

“Our goal is to continue being creative,” said Hernandez. “The beauty market is so saturated, and consumers have so many options, but we found a niche where we are having fun.”

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