You don’t have to be a Kardashian or a Jenner to build a brand on social media.
You do, however, need to be an influencer with a devoted, engaged following willing to buy whatever product you’re shilling. And in the case of superinfluencer Marianna Hewitt, who together with business partner, fellow influencer and best friend Lauren Gores Ireland, cofounded Summer Fridays, the two already have this down to a science.
Their brand, inclusive of one $48 Jet Lag Mask to start, is already the best-selling skin-care product on sephora.com — less than two weeks after launching on summerfridays.com and the beauty retailer’s app and e-commerce site (the brand will roll out in Sephora doors later this year). Currently, Summer Fridays’ sole product is outselling brands like La Mer, The Ordinary and Sunday Riley, as well as similar masks from SK-II, Glamglow and Dr. Jart, labels all widely known for their masking. WWD was unable to obtain sales figures, but Hewitt confirmed that once Sephora came on board late last year as Summer Fridays’ launch partner, the retailer was so confident in the product that the initial production run was upped by six times.
Hewitt and Gores Ireland credit a thoughtful mix of promotion on Instagram — from a series of stories that started to tease the project a week before going on sale to Hewitt’s reposting of user-generated content — to attaining such rapid success, both from a social media and sales perspective.
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“Everything is really done on social. We call ourselves a social-first brand and we mean that,” Marianna Hewitt said. “We think Instagram first because we know it’s the most effective and fastest way to reach or audience. When we make announcements, we ask, ‘How are we going to post this on Instagram’ and ‘What picture are we going to show?’ and ‘How are we going to show our girls how to use this?’ Instead of making them go to our site or watch a YouTube video, we put all the information there [Instagram].”
This technically makes Summer Fridays an “Instagram-first brand,” but Hewitt and Gores Ireland made sure to supplement all of this online activity with strategic offline activations (which, not surprisingly, wound up fueling even more buzz on Instagram).
Overall it’s a pivotal time in the influencer universe, with Summer Fridays being the latest indication that the content creator turned brand phenomenon has evolved from novelty to status quo. And it’s a recipe that appears to be resonating with consumers, whether it’s a hydrating Jet Lag mask or a contemporary apparel line, in the case of Chriselle Lim’s collaboration with J.O.A. that bowed on March 15 exclusively for Nordstrom.
But for Summer Fridays specifically, the early success from a social media engagement and sales perspective is impressive, as it debunks two of the common doubts that traditional beauty players and retailers have when it comes to ventures of this kind. The first is that influencer and social media marketing does work and the second is that a brand doesn’t need to launch with a plethora of product. Specifically, the latter raises the question of whether it’s possible to launch a brand with just a single item — and all signs point to yes, pending the category is complexion, where variety of shade range is a must.
“There are so many girls using, sharing and posting their reviews, and because of our community — just on Instagram stories alone — it’s made such a huge impact,” Hewitt added. “People with 100 followers to one million followers are all making a huge impact. We really encourage them to share because we repost not just influencers but non-influencers too. [Followers] feel part of all this and see that their reviews are being shared and are important too. It encourages the ripple to post and share because they want to be part of that user-generated content. Everyone is contributing to the success because everyone is sharing themselves using it.”