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PopSugar’s Beauty by PopSugar Readies for Rollout

The licensing deal with Bona Fide Beauty Lab launches at and Ulta next month.

PopSugar — a leading media destination for Millennial women — is getting ready to try its hand at beauty. And with product, not content.

On March 11, Beauty by PopSugar, a 19 product range with 85 stockkeeping units, will launch at and Ulta Beauty, the brand’s exclusive retail partner. Ulta’s e-commerce site will stock the line immediately, with a rollout to 250 doors in the week following the dot-com launch.

The line was developed through a licensing agreement with Bona Fide Beauty Lab, a beauty incubator founded by industry veterans Pamela Baxter, a former executive at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., Dior and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and Cathy O’Brien, who has spent over 20 years in senior executive roles in both the music and beauty industries, including almost a decade at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.

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“We’ve been at the content thing for over 10 years, and we looked at extending the brand from a licensing perspective. We felt PopSugar has become such a trusted voice that it was time to think of new revenue sources,” said Lisa Sugar, president and founder of PopSugar Inc., adding that beauty as a first category was a “no brainer” because it’s the second most popular vertical on, where overall unique visitor numbers across all platforms are 400 million and video views are 390 million.

PopSugar has dabbled in beauty product through its PopSugar Must Have Boxes, a monthly subscription box service that launched in 2012. (Subscriptions will become quarterly in April, a request of customers, PopSugar said.) The lifestyle boxes contain a range of beauty, fashion, fitness, home and entertainment items — but all from existing, third-party brands. This marks the first time PopSugar-branded beauty products will be available to consumers.

“We already have a lot of this information, but we went a level deeper, [and asked] what they felt they needed that they didn’t have and what would they hands down spend all of their money on,” Sugar said, adding the brand building process began with surveys to “tap into the beauty addict” in PopSugar.

Baxter said her and O’Brien were “shocked” when they sent out 2,000 lengthy surveys to PopSugar readers and got more than a third, or 800, of the questionnaires back.

“Normally you’re happy if you get 5 percent back,” said Baxter, who revealed the key findings about the PopSugar reader’s beauty habits.

They are: she’s healthfully minded and thoughtful about what she puts in her body, but not necessarily a wellness “fanatic”; she wants her products to work and have color payoff; she wants “buildable color,” where she can use the same product to look “as little or as much made up as she chooses” to take her from day to night and portability.

The two developed the line with a “No Bad Ingredients” mantra, as dictated by PopSugar’s dedicated readers.

O’Brien called the collection, which starts at $18 for Be the Boss Lip Gloss and goes up to $42 for Dawn and Twilight Eye Palettes, a “direct manifestation of what we were told by these girls.” It’s targeted to young Millennials and Generation Z shoppers, reflected in a sweet spot in the $20 range. This includes items such as Be Noticed Eye Shimmer Putty Powder, $23; a volumizing Thick & Thin Mascara, $25; a three-in-one Triple Play All You Need Brow pencil equipped with highlighter and clear brow gel, $23, and Sweet Stix Satin Matte Lip Color, $20. An eight-shade range of Just Enough Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 Sunscreen, $32, is also part of the offering, as well as Make Me Blush Cheek Color, $30.

Baxter, holding up one of the compacts, added that the clean, optic white packaging — emblazoned with blue watercolor poppies painted by South African artist Magrikie Berg — was deliberate in an effort to speak to this demographic. It’s feminine and fresh, but not too girly.

“PopSugar delivers — from a content standpoint — healthy, optimistic reporting. Not that it’s sugary, but it’s real, it’s very friendly and inclusive and it’s something you want to have around you. You look at this and say, ‘That feels good,'” O’Brien said.

In addition to the evergreen collection, a series of limited-edition products to be sold exclusively online will rotate in and out of and on a regular basis. Baxter said these items will be more seasonal and trendy, such as an Eye Sorbet packaged in a little ice cream cup with a painted ice cream cone print created by Berg that comes out in May. Sugar called these exclusives the “In and Out” that are “fun, playful and for the Gram,” calling out an iridescent lip gloss that “photographs really beautifully” and is perfect for social sharing.

The project is an ambitious one. Industry sources project that Beauty by PopSugar could do more than $20 million at retail in its first year. Baxter and O’Brien declined to comment on financials, but they did reveal that Ulta is an exclusive retail partner for two years, with the range on track to enter additional doors in 2019. Next year will also see the introduction of additional categories, inclusive of skin care, complexion and fragrance.

Beauty by PopSugar will be consistently promoted across the editorial site where and when appropriate, Baxter said. This includes native advertising on PopSugar as well as editorial coverage the same way the site would cover any new brand or product launch. There are plans for paid digital advertising across media platforms and a robust influencer strategy — an employee was just hired solely to oversee influencer relationships — to ensure that product gets in the hands of “beauty junkies” with social sway and engaged followings.