In 2001, a decade after Bobbi Brown Cosmetics launched, the brand released its Vitamin Enriched Face Base — a hydrating primer brimming with good-for-skin ingredients. It went on to serve as the blueprint for an entirely new category: skin care-infused makeup.
That skin-care-centric prescience has paid off. On Estée Lauder Companies’ fourth quarter 2022 earnings call in August, Fabrizio Freda, president and CEO of ELC, noted Bobbi Brown’s remarkable skin-care sales. Freda also said that the brand’s success in skin care demonstrated a hero strategy driving “strong repeat and consumer loyalty.” He added, “Bobbi Brown’s global and regional hero philosophy is driving its mix of business in skin care much higher.”
Across ELC’s portfolio, the skin-care category saw full-year net sales of $9.9 billion, an increase from $9.5 billion from the previous year. And Bobbi Brown saw strong double-digit skin-care net sales growth in every region, led by demand from Chinese consumers. The brand’s China strategy includes buzz-driving partnerships, including with the game Monopoly in 2021, Japanese-inspired lifestyle brand Tokidoki in 2022, and “KOLs prior to Singles’ Day,” said Aline Belda, svp of global marketing for Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. As an example, she named Bobbi Brown celebrity spokesmodel Ni Ni, a Chinese actress. “These types of partnerships are irreverent and fun, and resonate with the Chinese consumer,” she said.
Aside from Face Base, the brand’s other best-selling skin-care products include the Soothing Cleansing Oil, a makeup-remover-and-cleanser in one; the Vitamin Enriched Eye Base, which launched in 2020 as an extension of Face Base; and the Intensive Serum Primer, a glow-delivering SPF primer launched in 2021. Upcoming launches within the Vitamin Enriched franchise are in the pipeline, but the brand declined to share further details.
“[The Vitamin Enriched Face Base] was kind of a weird product [when it launched],” said Belda. “It was two products in one — a primer and a moisturizer — in a jar with a highly concentrated fragrance. It’s [now] a global hero product for us. At Bobbi Brown, our philosophy is that great makeup starts with great skin.”
Bobbi Brown’s skin-care category launched in 1995 — the same year ELC acquired the company — with classics like the Hydrating Eye Cream and Hydrating Face Cream, both of which can still be found in the brand’s assortment. Today, Bobbi Brown boasts more than 15 skin-care products. Representatives declined to share the split between makeup and skin-care sales.
A major driver of skin-care sales is the pivot in consumer behavior reflecting a collective prioritization of skin care. Many see this as the result of Covid-19 when people spent much time at home. Makeup too has been on a rebound since the onset of the pandemic. Estée Lauder posted $4.7 billion in 2022 full-year net sales in August, an increase from $4.2 billion in 2021.
“We’re seeing the skin-care category grow. In fact, during the spring 2023 season of New York Fashion Week, in September, skin-care brands were sponsoring shows and becoming a big part of the backstage getting-ready process,” said Aleni Mackarey, COO of Base Beauty, a beauty and wellness brand marketing agency. “Covid shifted the way people go about their beauty routines, so even though makeup looks are back, consumers are still focused on the skin-care piece of her routine.”
Covid-19 had a profound effect on Bobbi Brown in other ways, too: The brand’s cohort of makeup artists in residence were allowed to experiment and familiarize themselves with ways to offer their expertise virtually. That included before-and-after tutorials and masterclasses on Instagram, TikTok or the Bobbi Brown website. “We’re a makeup artistry brand, so a community of great makeup artists, like Hannah Murray, is at the core of everything we do,” Belda said. “And now, their services are online, on their own social platform or ours. We have so many of these easy-to-learn [tutorials] that are compelling for consumers. We’re investing in our artists and in our consumer journey.”
According to previous Glossy reporting, virtual consultations have been instrumental in bringing in new customers. A pilot program between May 2020 and June 2020, centered on existing customers sharing a consultation email with non-customers, showed a 15% bump in new customers. Additionally, 46% of people converted from the online consultation within three hours, and 51% of customers who converted during the pilot came back to repurchase. Since then, the virtual consultation program has scaled to 11 countries.
On average, about 30% of those who complete a Bobbi Brown consultation convert, and the brand sees about a 40% lift in average order value for these customers, compared to other shoppers. Not only is the program working to acquire new customers, but — with over 30% of people becoming new shoppers once they’ve completed the consultation— it’s also driving repeat purchases, with 54% of consumers returning within a year.
Bobbi Brown has maintained its strong skin-care focus since emerging out of the height of Covid-19. The brand launched on TikTok in 2021 with a crew of TikTok content creators in North America before eventually expanding to feature influencers from around the world. The brand’s own account boasts nearly 60,000 followers.
In September 2021, the brand gifted products to 60 U.K.-based TikTok influencers to promote awareness of the Vitamin Enriched Face Base and Soothing Cleansing Oil. The objective was to build relationships with local talent to promote the brand. Of the 60 influencers, 48% posted about the products, and the videos reached a total of over 11 million views. As for whether those views translated to sales, Belda said that couldn’t be determined due to the existing popularity of the two products.
In the U.S, Bobbi Brown’s TikTok strategy is to work with “relevant partners to drive awareness.” It did so for a May 2022 partnership with award-winning singers Aly & AJ to promote the brand’s Long Wear Cream Shadow Stick.
“TikTok is still an up-and-coming platform in the beauty marketing world, but if a brand like Bobbi Brown has the resources to leverage a TikTok strategy to create authentic content, it’s worth the time,” Mackarey said. “It’s impressive when a brand can tap into consumers’ [skin-care] needs, because it takes so much time to gain a consumer’s trust. Bobbi Brown has done that.”