As the race to partner with beauty and fashion creators and brands continues to heat up among apps like Instagram and Snapchat, the AR and AI self-editing app Facetune2, which is used by influencers to perfect themselves, has taken another approach: event activations.
Since May, Facetune2 has upped its focus on experiential marketing techniques, such as events at DragCon in L.A. and New York, and New York Fashion Week sponsorships with designer brands LaQuan Smith and Luar. This week, the app has partnered with designer Christian Cowan on a limited-edition, co-branded holiday merchandise giveaway called Sleigh This Holiday.
“Until the last few months, we had done all of our advertising online via Facebook and Instagram ads. We know there are more opportunities out there,” said Stav Tishler, director of marketing and communications at Lightricks, the parent company of Facetune and Facetune2. “We are always trying to find new ways to reach new audiences and to connect with our users, so we look for events our users are excited about and go there.”
Currently, Facetune2 is ranked sixth on the Apple App Store under photo and video, while Snapchat and Instagram are ranked third and fourth, respectively. Both apps have lured creators and brands in the last several months — Instagram, with its launches of IGTV and custom Stories filters with Huda Kattan and Kylie Cosmetics, respectively, and Snapchat, with its Shoppable AR Lenses with Nicki Minaj.
This is just another example of how Facetune2 continues to evolve from its original version, the 2013 app Facetune. Developed by Jerusalem-based startup Lightricks, the second version debuted in November 2016 and relies on a yearly subscription model that costs users $69.99, or $5.99 a month. (The original had a one-time flat rate of $3.99.) Facetune2 is powered by image-processing technology, which allows for more advanced 3D facial modeling and features simulated studio lighting. Lightricks received a $60 million funding round in November and has recently seen extreme growth. It has increased revenue by 270 percent year over year since 2015 and is projected to exceed $100 million in revenue 2019. Though Lightricks would not break out users among the two apps, it said the tools together have 70 million downloads worldwide, and Facetune2 has been a primary driver, experiencing over 100 percent revenue growth in the last year.
For the Christian Cowan holiday giveaway, which was announced on the designer’s channel, it gave Facetune2 the opportunity to reach the brand’s 109,000 Instagram followers. (For its part, the app has around 37,500 followers on the platform, and for customers to be able to participate in the giveaway, they had to tag both #Facetune2 and #SleighThisHoliday.) “It is about selfie culture. Our clothing attracts people who want to Instagram their clothes — it’s big and bright. Facetune2’s new features like adding glitter to your face suits our aesthetic,” said Natthias Mitchinson, Christian Cowan’s studio manager. “In terms of engagement, the holiday season is our biggest outside of Fashion Week, so we wanted to draw eyeballs to our viewers virtually.”
The American customer (Facetune and Facetune2 reportedly have 20 million American users) continues to be a source of development for “brand awareness,” said Daniel Berkovitz, Facetune2 lead designer and product manager. “We have not done much for the U.S. user, so we want to explore relationships that feel like a fit and are mutually beneficial,” he said. In the last year, Facetune2 has earned 500,000 new subscribers, largely through these type of activations.
In many ways, these activations give Facetune2 the recognition it misses out on, as droves of brands and creators use its product, but do not typically tag the app in photos. #Facetune only has about 183,000 tags on Instagram, while #Facetune2 has just over 8,000. Meanwhile, high-profile beauty creator James Charles did a “Facetuning My Followers’ Selfies” YouTube video that garnered nearly 9 million views. (Charles has not tagged the app on his Instagram posts as of yet.) “Facetune2 is a go-to in the fashion and beauty industries, but it is still taboo or a secret,” said Tishler.
Beauty creator and influencer Marlena Stell, who has nearly 700,000 followers on Instagram, 1.4 million followers on YouTube through her personal platform and 2.6 Instagram followers through her beauty line MakeupGeek, backs that claim. Though she has been using Facetune2 for almost two years, she does not tag the app in her photos. “It is my favorite photo editing app to use, especially for the retouch feature, but no one wants to admit that they touch up their photos, even though everyone is using it,” she said. Stell said her average likes per post on Instagram are between 5,000 and 7,000, except when she uses Facetune2. Then posts receive upward of 12,000 likes.
Beauty, fashion and lifestyle blogger Kasey Ma of TheStyleWright is another example. She subscribed to Facetune2 in November and also does not tag the app in her posts. Still, her engagement on in-feed posts has gone up almost two times in the last month. “Both fans and creators are still worried about projecting something fake,” she said. Still, Ma said she would be open to a more formalized partnership with the app around activations in the next year. “I can support the ‘no makeup makeup’ movement to a point, but those are not the posts getting the likes or engagement,” she added.
Facetune 2 will not be pulling out of Facebook or Instagram ads in favor of events in 2019, said Tishler, but it will only be “increasing spend” with both more collaborations and activations, especially tied to new app updates and features. In late December, the app will be releasing a Neon feature, a multicolor lighting effect tool, and in first quarter of 2019, the app will work on its exclusive content arm via how-to tutorials and polls with creators and brands. “We want to continue to be valuable and the go-to place our users want to be,” she said. “It is just the beginning.”