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Dupes are Dope for Beauty Brands

Research firm L2 determines marketing facsimiles of Kylie Cosmetics' liquid matte lipsticks is good for sales and online search.

In the beauty industry, it pays to copy your peers.

The popularity and scarcity of Kylie Cosmetics’ Lip Kits have spurred competitors to identify dupes in their existing assortments or develop them for the Kylie Jenner-led brand’s matte liquid lipsticks — and for good reason. The research firm L2 has concluded purveyors of the dupes or passable product approximations have increased sales and online prominence.

“If you can’t get your hands on the shade of Kylie Lip Kit that you want, a dupe is the next best thing,” said Claude Émilie de Jocas, vice president of beauty at L2. “It comes down to the fact that these products are selling out, and consumers today expect immediate gratification. If they can easily find the next best thing, they certainly will.”

L2 maintained that it’s no coincidence Anastasia Beverly Hills, Benefit Cosmetics, Kat Von D, Smashbox, Stila and Too Faced are responsible for items that rank among the top 50 best-selling lip products on Amazon and Sephora, and they are known to be sources of Lip Kit dupes. Similarly, it pointed to the success of lip merchandise from Tarte and ColourPop, a sister company of Kylie Cosmetics, as related to dupes.

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“It’s pretty clear that these brands are actively creating products as quickly as possible to capitalize on trending categories,” de Jocas said. Expounding the phenomenon of dupes, he added, “Brands are approaching them on a shade-by-shade level, and it’s an incredibly strategic and smart way to optimize your business if you can get down to that granularity around dupes.”

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Although beauty brands in the past may not have copped to promoting product replicates, they’re getting more comfortable with the proposition. “NYX has been incredibly promiscuous about it,” de Jocas said. “They went as far as sending an email to their database positioning their products next to a Kylie Lip Kit to say this NYX shade is a dupe for the Kylie Lip Kit shade. They are completely transparent about what they are trying to do.”

Because beauty enthusiasts are eagerly scouring details about dupes on the web and various sites are disseminating information about them, dupes have also been important for getting brands that market them in front of customers virtually. L2 revealed ColourPop, NYX and Anastasia scored the largest share of media impressions for editorial content comparing their products to Kylie Lip Kit shades. It singled out ColourPop and NYX as commanding the leading two organic search results for matte liquid lipstick. (Dupes are not only reserved for matte liquid lipsticks as the recent surge of stories and posts on substitutes for Kylie Cosmetics’ Burgundy KyShadow palette shows.)

“Search is huge. We are finding that there is a direct correlation between the number of times a site like Cosmo or Refinery29 recommends a brand’s dupes and that brand’s search visibility on Google,” de Jocas said. “If you can get bloggers or traditional editors talking about these products because they’re so buzzy, it’s going to do great things for you in search.”

The customer acquisition caused by hunts for dupes could be meaningful even for brands that don’t have substantial dupe businesses. “They have a whole new host of customers discovering their brand when looking for the next best thing to a Kylie Lip Kit. As soon as they can hook the customer and get them on their site, they can serve them up amazing content and other consumer discovery vehicles,” de Jocas said. “Now, the consumer is aware of what they have, and they might come back to buy a mascara or something else later on.”