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Essence Expands North American Distribution

The mass-market color brand has just entered 555 Target stores in the U.S. and is rolling out in 100 doors of Canada's Loblaws.

With e-commerce to launch on March 16 and a rapidly growing distribution base in North America that boosted the company’s sales by 40 percent in 2015, German color cosmetics brand Essence is aiming for an equally successful 2016.

The mass-market color brand, owned by Cosnova, has just entered 555 Target stores in the U.S. and is rolling out in 100 doors of Canadian supermarket chain Loblaws.

“Our goal is to build off the foundation we’ve established in North America in the last year,” said Jeffrey Wagstaff, chief executive officer of Essence’s U.S. subsidiary. The brand’s distribution also includes Ulta in the U.S. and Fred Meyer, Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix in Canada. In 2015, Ulta growth grew 45 percent, he noted. “E-commerce is key to our future, as we believe in the omnichannel strategy. The consumer is evolving; she’s buying from her phone as well as at a bricks-and-mortar door. Our objective is to offer the consumer the opportunity to buy any time she wants.”

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The brand’s moderate pricing — $2.99 for traditional lipsticks, eyeliners and eye shadows, $9.99 for a kit that includes bronzer, highlighter, blush, step-by-step instructions and a mirror — is a natural draw for Generation Z, noted Felicia Rintanen, the brand’s marketing director. The brand is taking that concept a step further with bloggers and influencers it calls stylists. The twist: these are 17 girls and young women across the U.S. and Canada who are “real girls doing interesting things,” said Rintanen. “Particularly in the ultracompetitive U.S. market, we needed a point of difference. And Generation Z wants to be spoken to by those they believe are credible. We are building an online community with these stylists and our consumers.”

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The brand is reinforcing that positioning with ads and sale links on social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest. Snapchat and Tumblr are also on the list.

“We don’t do print ads, but social media has democratized the beauty space — brands can be successful without spending massive amounts of money,” said Rintanen.

And, Wagstaff pointed out, social media is where the brand’s key consumer is spending her time. “The key tenets of marketing haven’t changed, they’ve just moved to a new platform, he said. “We’ve had terrific growth in social [media] and our strategy is to build on that engagement.”