Target is deepening its relationship with celebrity hairstylist and beauty influencer Kristin Ess. On Sunday, Nov. 4, Ess launched a line of hot hair tools in stores and on Target.com — a new product category for the stylist.

The launch builds on the existing Target and Ess relationship — the latter launched her eponymous hair-care line in January 2017. That first collection consisted of 15 products, including a shine serum and a cleansing conditioner that sold out in two weeks. In January 2018, Ess expanded her lineup to 26 products with purple shampoos and recovery balms. Ess’ new hot tools consist of eight items, including a flat iron, a blow dryer and different sizes of curling wands — the tools are all priced between $50 and $100 to achieve a sweet spot between premium and mass products.

Ess, who has 479,000 followers on Instagram, is not the only influencer Target has worked with in the past. Still, those partnerships often relied on celebrities who have built their influence outside of social media, like supermodel Chrissy Teigen for cookware, interior designer Nate Berkus for furniture and home design and Olympic athlete Shaun White for apparel. The Target-Ess partnership is tapping into the power of social media-born influencers for product development and reach.

“Kristin’s personality and engagement on her social channels really sets her and the collection apart from others in the category,” a Target spokesperson said. “For this brand, social media plays a key role in its success and gives our guests direct access to the founder of a brand we know they love.”

When Ess first debuted her hair-care brand and it sold out, it changed the relationship structure she had with the retailer, Ess said. When she first pitched Target with a line of 25 products, it was ultimately narrowed down. After its success, however, the retailer decided to give Ess free rein because of the close contact with her base.

“[Target] said, ‘We know that you know what’s happening and what should be next,’ so when we pitched the next 11 [products], they rolled them all out,” she said. “They know that I have an ear to the ground with social media and that the specific things I want to launch don’t come just from me [but from my followers].”

While the hair styling tool market is expected to grow to $19.6 billion globally by 2024, Target’s existing assortment relies on legacy brands like Panasonic hair dryers and flat irons and Conair blowdryers and curling irons.

“Target is focused on differentiating within our portfolio of owned brands and only-at-Target exclusives,” said a brand spokesperson. “It’s the balance of each of those key components that sets Target apart and builds preference with our [customers].”

An additional boon to this type of collaboration, other than the sheer popularity of the products, is that Target gets to leverage Ess as a marketing vehicle through her social media popularity. “For us, we don’t spend money on traditional marketing,” Ess said.

To offer hair tool education to her followers and customers, Ess is creating Instagram Highlights — which are stories that can be saved and displayed at the top of a person’s profile — for each of the individual tools. Videos will be rolled out this week, she said. But for those who come across the products in stores and sans video, the packaging copy will instruct customers to her social media channel for specific usage information.

“A point of differentiation is that I can show tutorials instantly on social when we launch something,” she said. “I think that’s our biggest driver.”

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