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Deciem’s Nicola Kilner Talks Low Prices, Differentation

Thanks to its nontraditional methods of marketing and manufacturing, Deciem is one of the most popular brands in beauty.

Deciem — The Abnormal Beauty Company — certainly does not create or market products in a traditional way, especially per beauty industry standards.

An umbrella company covering 10 skin and hair brands, Deciem preaches radical transparency and has amassed a cult customer following in doing so — and about $120 million to $150 million in retail sales last year, a number projected to double or possibly triple in 2018, according to the company’s founder and co-chief executive officer Brandon Truaxe. The Ordinary alone sold over 8 million units — “far beyond capacity,” according to co-ceo Nicola Kilner. The brand is continuing to grow in the U.S. — last month it announced its entry into the market here with a launch in Sephora and an announcement that it would open several standalone stores. Six are expected to open in New York by this summer.

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In keeping with its radically transparent ethos, Deciem has bypassed traditional marketing and advertising strategies in favor of communicating directly with consumers via Instagram. Most recently, Truaxe took over the company’s account himself, announcing he was trading his chief executive title for that of “worker.”

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The company’s mentality most notably extends to pricing — Deciem’s The Ordinary brand sells skin care in its most basic ingredient form at the lowest possible prices. For instance, a Lactic Acid 10 percent plus Hyaluronic Acid solution retails on the company’s website for $6.79. Yet despite its low pricing, Deciem still considers itself a brand in the luxury category — and it has the Luxury Briefing Award to prove it.

“Luxury shouldn’t have to be about price point anymore, luxury should be about authenticity [and quality],” said Kilner. “In the past, [luxury] was more about people being interested in marble and gold, and now you go into some [luxury] stores and it’s exposed brick walls. Just a generational thing, the definition of luxury is changing.”

But how exactly are The Ordinary’s prices so cheap?

“The ingredients in The Ordinary have been around for quite a long time, and there’s a few benefits to that,” said Kilner. “We don’t have to do as much testing in terms of the consumer end results. Just like in medicine, once the efficacy and result is proven and once it goes through stability testing, we don’t have to go through that expense because people know [how] retinols and retinoids are going to benefit their skin. The innovation around the price point is the marketing that we need — because so many people manufacture [these ingredients] around the world, effectively those [wholesale] prices are more affordable for us and we pass that on to the consumer.”

Eschewing vague marketing terms like “glow” and “purify” in favor of naming products after the primary ingredient that is in them — i.e. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10 Percent and 100 Percent Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil — has been an effective marketing tool, a way for Deciem to appeal to Millennial consumers who want to be hyper-educated in the skin-care space. It’s especially a marketing boon when those Millennial consumers turn around and share their knowledge on social media. “When I talk to my peers, in the past they didn’t feel as compelled to post about a hocus pocus serum that had a more generic name. They like to sound educating by saying, “Oh, I’m using the Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate.”

Deciem relies on its consumers — not influencers — to propel conversation around the brand on social media. Kilner noted one fan group — The Ordinary Chat Room — on Facebook has 28,000 members. She herself is a member — albeit a silent one.

The company has no paid influencer marketing strategy. It does send product to influencers — when it has the stock — but it has yet to forge any kind of paid partnership. Kilner said Deciem does not plan to ever pay influencers. “When it comes to skin care, trust is so important and we never want to have an influencers where their audience and our audience thinks they’re only saying good things because there’s been a financial exchange,” said Kilner, who said that negative feedback has a purpose too. “We’re just as happy to have someone say, ‘I don’t like this product,’ because the thing about skin care is that not every product and ingredient is for everyone. That’s what’s nice about The Ordinary is that people now are a lot more familiar with ingredients, some people’s skin like retinol and some people’s skin like Vitamin C. It’s allowing people to differentiate more.”