Forbes Magazine, August 31, 2018. On the cover, Kylie Jenner dressed in business attire, a caption alongside to it tells us she is on the path to be the youngest, ‘self – made billionaire’ in history. Debate that verbatim all you want, but propelled by the astronomical success of Kylie Cosmetics, of which she owns 100%, her net worth currently stands at $900 million. For Kylie, 20, another year of growth will see her break the record set by Marc Zuckerberg, who currently holds the title, which he achieved at age 23. As the youngest member of the ‘Kardashian clan’, she is now worth more than all her sisters combined.
Founded in 2015, Kylie Cosmetics has made revenues close to $ 630 Million, and is valued by Forbes at $800 Million. To put that into perspective, it took Bobbi Brown a quarter of a century to reach a similar turnover. Evidently, the business has been a home run. The question is, what lessons can its seemingly fortuitous rise offer others?
Limited Production Run:
On November 30th, 2015, When Kylie Jenner launched her first ‘Lips Kits’ at $29 retail, all 15,000 units of the initial production run were sold out within minutes of their launch. A limited initial run has been a characteristic of every product inception since. Knowing that the items are in short supply has only caused to increase the yearning for them, with its millennial and Generation Z customers driven by a ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out). Ultimately, people want what is difficult to obtain, and the scarcity creates a myth around the product that seemingly makes it more valuable. It’s a technique Apple have been using since the original iPod, and thus after, for every subsequent launch.
Speculation & Anticipation:
Leveraging her enormous Social media presence, Kylie is able to give her audience ‘sneak peeks’ of new products before they are available to purchase. In this way she can gauge customer interest whilst simultaneously creating hype and anticipation. Prior to launch of ‘Lip Kits’ in late 2015, she had spent months teasing their launch on Instagram. When they finally went on sale, they sold out in less than 1 minute.
Jenner is no stranger either to using controversy to drum up interest. It has been said that in the same way her half-sister Kim infamous sex tape launched her career, the controversy surrounding Kylie Lips starting in 2014 effectively paved the way for hers. The internet had taken notice of the changed appearance of Kylie’s Lips which in turn kindled the ‘Kylie Jenner Lips challenge’ on social media. This ‘controversy’ created a market that Kylie was able to later to fill with her Lip Kits.
It is clear that fans of her beauty brand are very much followers of her personal brand too. Jenner is clearly aware of this. For this reason, she also uses the same tactic in revealing personal news. After months of constant speculation, she finally revealed her pregnancy in carefully crafted 11-minute film, which aired during the Superbowl, the time when most of America were packed together in their communities, scrolling through their social media feeds. The subsequent Instagram post, with her child is the most liked photo in the app’s history, racking up 18 million likes.
Leveraging Her Personal Brand
The foundation of the Kylie’s Cosmetics is the personal brand of Kylie Jenner herself. Her personal brand, carefully curated on her social media platforms is predicated on allowing fans sample and ‘share’ in her opulent lifestyle of expensive cars, big homes and rapper boyfriends. Kylie gives her fans on social media a greater insight into her own life than most of her peers. This unparalleled access has contributed to the enormous growth of her reach. Knowing how much her followers crave insight into her life, she will intersperse posts about Kylie Cosmetics with lifestyle images and the selfies she posts regularly.
Kylie knows exactly who her customers are, Millennials and Gen Z customers who reject traditional advertising and are drawn to transparency between the brand and the customer. Social Media creates a kinship and between her and her customer base and this over time, this translates directly into purchase intent.
It has become clear that the Millennial and Generation Z customers have grown lethargic of traditional brands in favour of quick to market, social media powered brands. Rihanna’s beauty brand, Fenty Beauty, launched in 2017 and became the biggest launch in the history of Harvey Nichols in the UK. ‘Huda Beauty’, launched by social media makeup artist Huda Kattan in 2013, is already valued at $550 Million.
In the process of building Kylie Cosmetics, Jenner has chosen to bypass many traditional channels, from Brick and Mortar retail to traditional PR. Instead she sells directly to her customers via a Shopify powered online store and has completely rejected the traditional press releases of PR companies. To get the word out about product launches she has relied heavily of the use of social media influencers. Undoubtedly, she has an inbuilt network of these, and none more so than her own family, who can count nearly 500 million Instagram followers alone between themselves. To educate her customers on products she has leveraged the story functions on her social platforms, on both Instagram and snapchat.
For all of Kylie Cosmetics enormous success, it remains a lean operation. With only 7 full time employees, Manufacturing & Packaging is outsourced to Seed Beauty, a private label manufacturer in California. Sales & Fulfilment is outsourced to Shopify, to whom Kylie pays 0.15% of her Sales Revenue. As mentioned, the brand has no physical retail presence, with the exception of temporary popups from time to time. Finance & PR is outsourced to her mother, Kris Jenner, who takes a 10% Management fee. With all major operations outsourced, it allows Kylie to focus on what matters most, posting on social media and engaging with her fans!