At a time when presidential election was top of mind, Gregg Renfrew compared building Beautycounter to running a political campaign.
Three key pillars of the direct-sales beauty business, which markets cosmetics without the more than 1,300 ingredients the European Union has banned that are permitted in the U.S., are advocacy, education and commerce. While it amplifies its message and drives sales with digital efforts, Beautycounter relies on one-to-one connections between people to spread the word about its products and its goal to reform personal-care legislation.
“I am out there talking to people about the need for safer ingredients. I’m talking to people about sharing, not just Beautycounter’s products because it’s not just about our products at all, but asking them to share the story so that people can make better and more informed choices on behalf of themselves and their families,” said founder and chief executive officer Renfrew, noting the company has held hundreds of meetings with members of Congress, and sent thousands upon thousands of e-mails and texts to government officials to urge them to enhance U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversight over cosmetics.
The best messengers in Beautycounter’s communication arsenal to both push sales and publicize its purpose are its some 30,000 consultants, according to Renfrew. She dubbed those consultants microinfluencers versus macroinfluencers such as celebrities or recognizable social-media personalities. “We believe that, through microinfluencers, we can reach as many or more people than using macroinfluencers,” she said, asserting, “We can be reaching hundreds of thousands if not millions of people on any given day.”
If perhaps it seems like the brand narrative could get jumbled with numerous messengers, Beautycounter’s mission — and the materials it provides — helps consultants coalesce around important themes. “In traditional direct sales, they always say that there is one brand, a million voices. They allow people to sort of run wild with what they want to talk about, but that’s not how we look at it,” Renfrew said. “We look at it as taking a million voices and creating one brand, and allowing both user-generated content and the things that we create to build our brand and to build our movement for better beauty.”
So far, Beautycounter’s direct-sales consultant methods have surpassed its brick-and-mortar retail experiences. The brand has partnered with Goop and J. Crew, and launched a capsule collection with Target in the fall. “Even though we sold a bunch of product in Target, we didn’t see the lift that we see from this very small group of [30,000] influencers who are our consultants,” Renfrew said. “As you think about your products and how you are going to bring your brand and products to market, you really want to be focused on creating a direct-to-consumer relationship.”
At stores, Beautycounter has found it challenging to convey what it stands for and effectively fight for its cause the way volunteers for a candidate do during a political campaign. “Transparency is king today. Consumers don’t want to be sold to anymore. They want to have an open, honest, authentic and transparent relationship with you,” Renfrew said. “They want to have a two-way dialog, and it’s very difficult to do that in the traditional retail channels.”