Most brands start with products and then build an audience. Cult Cosmetics has done it the other way around.
This story first appeared in the December 27, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
During almost three years as senior director of e-commerce and online marketing at skin-care brand Murad, Ryan Eberhard sensed that something big was happening online with nail art, and he wanted to be a part of it. So, last year, he launched a Facebook page entitled Nail Art, which has rapidly developed into an unparalleled digital platform dedicated to nails with more than 1.6 million likes and a quarter of a million users engaging with it weekly.
Nail Art on Facebook has become perhaps the most enormous focus group in the world for Eberhard’s new brand, Cult Cosmetics. “It has created this huge community for me to interact with. We ask them about colors and textures and designs. We get so much feedback it is like running a nail salon with 1.5 million customers,” he said.
Cult Cosmetics has introduced a nail product range with 16 polishes, two topcoats and a basecoat priced at $12 each, as well as nine polish sets for $29. There are ancillary nail products too, including nail clippers and nail art tool and brush kits priced from $3.99 to $14.99. The theme of the initial assortment of polishes centers on Los Angeles locales. A polish named Mulholland, for example, is rich chocolate brown, Chateau Marmont is maroon and Runyon is sage green.
“L.A. is driving edgy and irreverent nail fashion, and we were inspired by that and wanted to pay tribute to that,” said Eberhard. Speaking generally of what the collection says about Cult Cosmetics, he continued, “Compared to many of the established brands, it’s a little rebellious. It’s a little bold. The customers that are drawn to Cult are drawn to colors, designs and nail art trends that are more expressive than what a lot of the incumbent brands are providing.”
The polish collection isn’t Cult Cosmetics’ first foray into marketing products. The brand has been selling a subscription service it calls Blackbox, which is priced at $19.99 monthly for three seasonal polishes and a professional tool. “Everything that we sell in Blackbox has already been part of a conversation that we have had with the community. Every month, we are on top of whatever the hottest nail trend is and ensure that women get it,” explained Eberhard. “We are in six-figure-per-month sales and had well over 1,000 subscribers prior to the launch of our collection. That’s with in-house fulfillment basically at the kitchen table.”
Although products by Cult Cosmetics, which is backed by Santa Monica, Calif.-based firm Science Inc., are only available at cultcosmetics.com currently, Eberhard doesn’t believe the brand will be limited to online sales for long. “Our online presence is large enough that we will be driving customers into retail asking for Cult,” he said. “Another thing that will make us interesting to retail is that Cult stands for what’s trending right now. I like to think of us as a fast-beauty company in the same model as Zara is for fashion. I think that it is going to be very compelling to retailers.”