Seven months after launching their buzzy beauty brand, Summer Fridays, lifestyle influencers Marianna Hewitt and Lauren Gores have found that their “social-first” approach to the category continues to win.
Hewitt and Gores used their own social presences (the former has 823,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 286,000 You Tube followers, while the latter has 68,300 Instagram fans) to create interest for their beauty brand after announcing a project was in the works last fall. Summer Fridays’ own following on Instagram has grown to nearly 66,000 followers in less than a year.
At launch, Summer Fridays relied on one single hero product, a hydrating cream called Jet Lag Mask, which they announced on Instagram first. The Jet Lag Mask became the best-selling skin-care product on Sephora.com two weeks after its March debut, and earlier this month, it rolled out in all Sephora stores in the retailer’s #ScoutedBySephora favorites section of the store.
Today, Hewitt and Gores release their latest beauty must-have: a brightening face mask called Overtime in Sephora stores, Sephora.com and SummerFridays.com. It is the first addition to their beauty assortment since Jet Lag.
Below, the pair discuss their slow and steady strategy for launching an influencer beauty brand.
Make a product, but build a brand
Though Hewitt and Gores started working on Overtime at the same time as Jet Lag – almost two years ago — the twosome wanted to purposefully space out their launches. “As an influencer, you get so overwhelmed when you get sent a really large box with several products and don’t know what you’re supposed to try and really fall in love with,” said Gores. “We specifically wanted to launch with one product and do it one at a time, so people can get to know us.”
Hewitt said that when Jet Lag was first introduced, it wasn’t just about building a product but also building a brand personality. As such, the founders, who consider Summer Fridays a “social first” initiative, began humming about the launch in November — three months before it was available — and facilitated two launch events in New York and Los Angeles in advance of the debut for influencers to try the product and create their own user generated content.
“We had to give people time to find out about what Summer Fridays is,” said Hewitt. “Who am I, who is Lauren, and why they should care?”
Social first — always
With the Overtime launch, Summer Fridays’ social approach was very different: Hewitt and Gores posted a teaser video last Wednesday, followed by an another in-feed video and post on Thursday announcing the product launch. This was purposeful: “Everything gets lost in the shuffle if you try to announce you are launching something one, two, three weeks in advance of actually being able to use it,” said Hewitt. “There are so many new product launches all the time, consumers will forget to go back and check a website and buy.”
When Jet Lag was first teased on Instagram, it garnered 2,700 likes on the Summer Fridays Instagram account; the Overtime video announcement, meanwhile, reached 11,600 views, proving the founders’ point about built-in brand awareness.
This time, Summer Fridays also released Overtime on its own platform on Friday — the last summer Friday of the year — before its Sephora debut today.
While the duo, wouldn’t share the breakdown of its direct-to-consumer business versus its Sephora reach, Hewitt said, “They really understand influencer-founded brands; if you look at what they’ve done with Jen Atkin, Pat McGrath, Huda Beauty, Anastasia Beverly Hills, they know the power of social media.” In March, the month it launched the Jet Lag Mask on Sephora.com, the beauty giant upped its initial production run of Summer Fridays by six times. Since it hit stores in mid-August, Sephora has increased it by two times.
Reach every woman
That skin care is even more personal and less trend-driven than makeup has also required extra patience from the duo, said Hewitt — though prestige skin-care sales have increased by 14 percent since last year. Still there is opportunity: It has allowed Summer Fridays to bank on more millennial customers, because skin-care is, indeed, all-inclusive and not dependent on a specific color or shade range.
Buck the perception of influencer beauty brands
More influencers are clamoring for their own piece of the beauty space — think Huda Kattan, Manny Mua and Laura Lee, to name a few. Hewitt and Gores think their measured growth has helped them establish trust with customers and within the industry.
“There is almost more pressure being an influencer starting a brand, because people have this initial feeling that your product is not as good as what else is already out there,” said Hewitt. “People come in trying the product with a chip on their shoulder, but we have been purposefully slow and really focused on what we do, being clean and effective, and that has helped us.”
Appropriately, Hewitt and Gores don’t play in the paid influencer marketing space at all, relying on their channels to do the heavy lifting, as well as organic influencer gifting.
And their brand hasn’t compromised the pair’s own relationships with the brands they continue to work with (Hewitt, for one, has worked with beauty giants like La Mer, Dior and Armani Beauty, and both recently collaborated with NARS). Frequently, both showcased Instagram posts with Summer Fridays’ Jet Lag alongside Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Soel Walker.
“Summer Fridays is supposed to complement your skin-care routine, not compete with it,” said Hewitt. Gores added, “It’s really unrealistic today to think that one person is going to use one brand alone in their entire beauty routine. The world has changed.”