Clean beauty brand Captain Blankenship is doubling down on its e-commerce business and marketing initiatives in 2019.
The indie brand, which was founded in 2009 and earned $1.5 million in sales in 2018, has a wide array of retail partners including Sephora, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and The Detox Market, plus an exclusive distribution partnership for its unisex line, Sailor by Captain Blankenship, with Target. As its exclusive distribution contract with Target ends in January 2019, the brand plans to expand distribution of Sailor to its own website that month. Wholesale accounted for 90 percent of the brand’s sales in 2018, and the goal is to even out its e-commerce business to 30 percent by 2020, according to Jana Blankenship, founder and CEO of Captain Blankenship.
In November, the company re-launched CaptainBlankenship.com to set the stage for this shift in strategy. The new website offers a separate menu option for Sailor and more video content. It also de-emphasizes third-party stockists, now found via a link at the bottom of the homepage versus the main menu. The brand intends to spend more capital than ever before on marketing in 2019, which was “practically nonexistent” prior, Blankenship said. The online investment for 2019 is between $80,000 and $100,000, which will facilitate a focus on influencer affiliate marketing, a sample-size program — both online and with retail partners — and online ads on Facebook and Instagram. In June, the brand hired a marketing director to help with its influencer outreach strategy. Captain Blankenship currently works with unpaid influencers, either gifting them product or cross-promoting their channels, however in 2019, the brand will be starting an affiliate program as well as working with macro-influencers on a paid basis, for the first time. Additionally the brand offer promotional giveaways on its Instagram throughout 2019. (The brand has over 15,000 followers for Captain Blankenship and over 2,000 followers on its Sailor account.) Captain Blankenship recently partnered with brands like Meow Meow Tweet, I Dunn, Smoke Perfume, The Seaweed Bath Co. on giveaways, and plans to continue working with those partners in 2019.
The company is also expanding its five-piece Sailor unisex line in January, with an additional three items (a hair gel, a cleansing oil and acne spot treatment). The expansion of its unisex line, as well as the brand’s growing marketing budget, comes at a time when the clean beauty market has matured and genderless products have taken off. “There wasn’t the same awareness [of clean beauty in 2009] as there is today,” said Blankenship. “The clean beauty industry is [now] looking to fill any category gaps, [like men and unisex].” Captain Blankenship expects the Sailor line to be a key revenue driver after having grossed $500,000 in sales for the company from the Target-only partnership.
According to a 2017 report by global market research company Mintel, brands are becoming more aware of the shift in gender barriers and are adjusting by becoming gender-neutral. Indeed, there have been a number of new entrants in the unisex beauty space, from skin-care brands Non Gender Specific and Grown Alchemist, as well as cosmetics brand Jecca. Heritage companies have also added unisex products to their merchandise assortments, like Maison Margiela’s Replica Dancing on the Moon fragrance, which offers a “gender anonymous” scent. Likewise, in 2017, Guerlain released its Liu fragrance for “a new gender order.”
Blankenship is hoping the company’s wider e-commerce assortment will offer the brand opportunities to understand its customer better. (Target has not provided customer demographic data to the brand, she said.) Up until now, Sailor has only been able to meet its customers on social media, but Blankenship is hoping the company will learn more about who is buying Sailor, when they are buying it and how they feel about the brand.
“We have been happy with the products we create, but we [want] to reach customers directly and have a conversation to understand what they think and what they want to see,” she said.