Sunday, July 31, 2011

Deep Thoughts with Joey: What is so appealing about Indie lines?

There are quite a few things that can make me fall terribly, desperately in love with a brand. As an enthusiastic consumer, there are a myriad of cosmetic and perfume brands at my disposal. All but the most expensive are within my reach, so it takes a lot for me to generate interest in a line. I have to be more than just merely infatuated with a product, or a texture, or a smell.
In this social media-engulfed age, the opportunites for brands to make themselves more appealing and more accessible via networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and (for bloggers) general PR outreach are near infinite. The potential for growth and attraction of new customers is incalculably valuable in a time where traditional modes of advertising (such as magazine ads and product placement) have proven vastly ineffective as compared to the oh-so-simple word of mouth (or, word of fingers?). 
Nowhere is word of mouth and an understanding of the power of social media more important than in the realm of independent beauty lines. Whether someone focuses on perfume, or makeup, or bath and body products is irrelevant; what matters is that person’s ability to be friendly, make the right sort of friends, and make a product so good that those friends can’t shut up about it. 
I’m not saying that indie lines need to suck up to bloggers or high-volume consumers; what I’m saying is that indie lines, because they are by nature smaller and have less man power and financial power to advertise the way bigger, more exposed lines do, have to know how to appeal to the underlying needs and desires of their potential consumers.
This brings me back to my original statement: what, then, makes me - someone who is by default completely over-saturated with all sorts of beauty products - fall in love with a line? It’s no secret that I’m totally indie-crazed right now, whether it be with indie perfumers or indie makeup lines. What are these small companies doing that makes me choose their product over, say, Chanel? What follows are my thoughts on the subject.
1) Indie retailers know how to work Twitter - and they work to develop personal relationships with their consumer base: I love that I can engage with a company’s owner online via Tweeting. I have developed real relationships with some of these people because of this (for example, it’s no small secret that I’m totally enamored with Becca of OHWTO and Marin of Linnaeus Cosmetics). Furthermore, even if I don't have a relationship with a given company's owner, just seeing him or her engage in friendly chatter with others on Twitter is enough to make me want to try the company because the owner seems like a genuinely good person.
2) Indie retailers embrace us nutty bloggers: While I’m sure that most indies get annoyed by constant emails of “Oh hi I blog, send me free stuff!”, they still manage to discern whose voice is worth cultivating. Nothing makes me happier than doing a review of an indie line and having the owner read it and thank me! I am happy to do them the service of advertising for them when I know that my efforts are appreciated. Retweets of reviews, or postings of reviews on a Facebook page or a company website are just incredibly nice gestures. I am impressed to see that a company’s owner takes the time to search out reviews, and thanks those who do them. About press samples: sending free samples to bloggers is always an appreciated gesture, but is not required (and should in NO WAY be forced upon a company by a blogger; there's nothing tackier than to beg for freebies) - what is most important is that there is a synergy between blogger and company. This is especially so when research has shown that consumers are more likely to listen to a blogger’s opinion than, say, the opinion of a celebrity or a magazine ad. I am attracted to intelligent marketing and gratitude. Furthermore, if I see a consistent string of positive reviews for a company and its product (especially from blogger friends I know and trust), I am helpless against ordering. 
3) (In my experience) Indie retailers know the magic of personalized presentation: I know that there are some indie lines that don’t pay much attention to aesthetics, but good god, there is nothing better than ordering a package from an indie company and seeing a handwritten note of thanks, or samples that you know they carefully considered based on their knowledge of you and of your order(s), or a surprise treat like candy or stickers. Whenever I see reviews of a blogger’s haul and they take a picture of the presentation, I always look for the aforementioned additions to the purchase. In the same vein, I love personalized confirmation emails/Paypal notes. It’s the added touch of “I recognize you as a unique consumer and appreciate your business” that will suck me in.
If an indie company does all of this right, then they have me as a devoted fan fo’ life. I’ll order products just to try them, simply for the experience of having a little bit of cheer and happiness delivered to my mailbox. Retail therapy is a powerful agent of positivity, and even more so when a consumer feel strongly engaged by the brand from which she shops. 
Of course, the previous points are rendered invalid if a product is itself terrible. At that point, no amount of Twitter butt-kissing and surprise love packs of free samples can make up for a subpar eyeshadow or a terrible perfume. However, it’s been my experience that the indie brands I have shopped from or been approached by produce quality products. When one doesn’t have a brand name to hide behind, or millions of dollars to use towards effective advertising for bland products, he or she is forced to deliver (or should feel forced to deliver). I can tell when something is made with love and care, and I have yet to be disappointed by any of the indie brands I’ve tried. Furthermore, because these brands are so open and communicative with their consumer base, they take criticism heavily into account and strive to deliver better products with this criticism in mind. At the end of the day, they must produce what their customers want because they know in return they will receive support from their customers - and consequently gain new customers in the process. 
And I, of course, end up placing numerous orders from these lines, taking my excitement and pleasure to Facebook, Twitter, and my blog. It’s like the consumer circle of life! 

Anyway, why do I bring this all up? Well, this is a topic I feel strongly about. You’ll be seeing quite a bit of indie brand reviews here on this blog, mixed in with more well-known brands. I wanted to explain my reasoning for why I intend on shining such a strong spotlight on these brands. 
To summarize, there are so many indie brands out there that deserve our attention, that deserve more attention. Every day I learn about a new brand that I feel I should have already known about. Every day I get tempted to spend another dollar (or I just go ahead and spend that damned dollar!) on an indie line. These men and women work hard, and good products deserve good support!

What do you think?

25 love notes:

PerilouslyPale said...

What a great post! Ordering from Linnaeus Cosmetics based on your referral is actually my very first foray into Indie brands. I do love companies that offer personalized and outstanding customer support so I imagine this won't be my only adventure with Indie brands. Considering I order everything online and it's a gamble anyways then I may as well order more Indie products. Because, you know, I need more addictions. LOL

Joey said...

Thanks Christa!

I really hope you end up enjoying the Linnaeus shadows!

I do wish more bigger lines took the sort of approach indie lines take with their consumers. Le Metier is the only one I can think of that does it on the level that I described in my post.

Indie lines in general do deserve more attention. There are lines who offer colors that aren't crazy or super shimmer, etc. You just need to try them and experiment. And since you do order everything online, you might as well. The products are so affordable anyway =)

Joan said...

Good point. There was inevitably going to be a backlash to overmarketing, and that's the best time for indie companies to flourish. The American Apparel-style might over matter concept was getting old.

KimmieKarma♥ said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly and LOVE this post! Sometimes it's hard for other people to grasp why I love indie so much and you summed it up.

I love being able to talk with the owners and feel like I know who I am purchasing from. I also love handwritten notes and the little extras when I get a package.

Great post, more people need to see this!

Liz said...

Thanks for opening up the discussion...

I agree with everything you wrote particularly items 3 & 1 (in that order).

Because beauty is a luxury ('s a necessity for me but one I could work around if forced - let's hope that NEVER!) the "experience" of a purchase (presentation, service, etc.) is everything to me.

And if a company also consistently engages on Twitter (for example) making them approachable, that scores high points with me.

Of course the product needs to perform but I will gladly support with my dollars and with my blog posts any company that delivers on both presentation and personalization.

As for blogger relations, I would add that indie companies (in particular) strongly consider the social media "spokespeople" they align with.

It's true that I will respond to a blogger review before a magazine review which supports my point...if a blogger doesn't share the companies world view, ethics, integrity, etc. they become a liability rather than an asset which hinders sales and brand loyalty.

It's a slippery slope and I can tell you I've been turned off from a couple of indie companies because the social media spokesperson they aligned with was, well...a turn off.

I think that's enough of my ramblings for one post! Thank you again for the conversation.

Looking forward to learning about more indie companies through you! I love my Dior and Chanel but my makeup bag and vanity has room for other great finds...


lexi920 said...

Very cool - looking forward to more indie reviews. I have been more interested in indie fragrances house because of you. I need to learn about more indie makeup companies as well.

Larie said...

What a great post! I agree - seeing an owner interact with people - past and potential customers - definitely makes me more interested in their company, because I can see that they really are passionate about what they do. It also helps to know that my money is going to a real person, not just some massive corporate conglomerate (though I definitely do enough of that, as well). I don't really find it ever to be a "high-end/widespread commercial line vs. indie" battle, though, which is often what I see. Thank you for coming forth and showing that a person can have equal love for Chanel and, say, Linnaeus Cosmetics :)

Polarbelle said...

Great post, Joey. You male excellent points. I look forward to developing relationships with indies whose products I can believe in. Totally LOVE the blog background!

Joey said...

Joan: I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you for reading and commenting! Overexposure to products leaves us asking "Ok, so I see this everywhere but you still leave me *no incentive* to use it." I feel like most indie brands understand incentive.

KimmieKarma: Thank you for reading and commenting! I am glad I was able to accurately verbalize what you thought as well. The handwritten notes are my favorite - I save them all!

Liz: Thank you for bringing up something I didn't even THINK about. I think the idea of choosing "spokespeople" is something that I didn't consider only because the bloggers (makeup, perfume, and nail) that I am friends with would never consider doing such a thing. The entire concept of a "guru" turns me off and I actually try to avoid companies (indie or not) that play into that idea. I've made one exception that I could think of, and that's only because I believe that the company's owner is simply enthusiastic about people's love for her product. For me, it's less about whether the blogger and company mesh and more about whether I mesh with that blogger. Does that make sense? I hope it does. Thank you for expanding the scope of my thought!

Lexi: I'm always good for a lemming, am I not? =D you're the best, and I feel like you've been a personal cheerleader with all of your support and comments! xoxo

Larie: Haha! I actually paired a Linnaeus Cosmetics eyeshadow with an Armani eyeshadow the other day. I dip it low and bring it back up, if you know what I mean ;) high end, low end - doesn't matter to me! I care more about performance than labels. Thank you for reading!

Polarbelle: Thanks! I was feeling very Pollack-y when I chose it.

Carrie Meredith said...

Joey: Thank you SO much for writing this post. It's exactly why I am a part of the Fragrance Foundation's new Indie Fragrance Committee, and this is a topic that is very dear to me.

I like to review all kinds of perfumes, but I love to focus on independent perfumers as much as they can. You listed all of the crucial points, so I don't have much to add, except that I am also extremely fulfilled by the relationships I've formed with perfumers through social media, and email, and in some cases have turned into frequent phone calls. These are real-live, meaningful friendships now, that just started out with a random sample order. How sweet is that? These people work harder than most perfumers because they know that in order to stand out, their products, presentation and reputation need to be spotless, and you know what? They deliver. So many of them deliver in ways that big perfumery just can't. They've got the freedom to express themselves the way they choose without ridiculous briefs to follow or people to answer to- all they care about is realizing their creative visions and pleasing their customers.

Joey said...

Carrie, you were admittedly on my mind when I wrote this (my brain was griping over how expensive you are to know =P). Again, let me express how THRILLED I am that you are on the Indie Fragrance Committee!

I was mainly spurred to write this because after I told you that I ordered Roxana's To Bee sampler, Roxana emailed me to thank me. I was so shocked to have received such a speedy response to my order, and such a lovely response at that. To think, I hadn't even known her line existed up until, oh, three weeks ago?

In the past couple of weeks, I have learned so much and have made so many new friendships all through the simple connection of wanting to try someone's product. While I'm now forced to eat ramen, I'm entirely pleased with everything I have purchased mainly because I believe in the people who made them. The intimacy of a real "thank you" and the ability to share the products with my friends and my readers is more than I could ask for. It is entirely very sweet.

These perfumers and makeup mavens consistently and constantly deliver, and I am glad that there are people who recognize their hard work. I have to thank you for educating me!

Carrie Meredith said...

You're sweet for saying that, Joey, which brings me to my next thought- I've made some amazing blogger friends, you included. I've been so lucky! Roxana posted on her own blog about the review I did of To Bee, and I noticed that she made a point of being pleased to say that I purchased the samples. It made me think, I am sure many bloggers expect free products and samples all the time, and have no problem begging indiscriminately. I just can't do that. Anyway, Roxana made me realize how grateful indie perfumers are not just for the PR support bloggers can offer, but the financial support, too. It's expensive for them to do what they do.

Ok. I think I'll stop yammering now. <3

Joey said...

But...I like yammering? =(

I always send "thank you!" emails whenever I am sent something. I make a point to not ask for samples. I have no trouble asking for press sheets and other info, but actual products? Oh no. I am appalled to know how many bloggers will expect freebies and will readily ask for them unprompted (which is different than being approached by a PR firm). I am especially turned off when Indie companies are approached in such a manner. They don't have the means to be doling out samples left and right. It is important to financially support these people, because they make good products! Nobody should have a problem paying for something that they believe to be a quality product. That's just my two cents.

Maybe three cents, because that was a long paragraph.

I am lucky to know you, and lucky to exist and move within such a wonderful community! <3333

Nicholas said...

I can't wait to try the perfume you reviewed. I look forward to more indie cosmetic reviews from your blog. I know you will tell the truth about the products you review. Can you recommend a good taupe shadow to accentuate my abs?

Joey said...

Nickypoo, that's why they have spray tanning for fake abs <3

Also, I love that I can share my product obsessions with you on my blog, Twitter, Gchat, and text messaging. Don't ever forget how much I love you.

Zuzu's Petals said...

Excellent post, Joey; it resonated strongly with me because I love supporting smaller brands who really deserve a shot because of excellent products that aren't overly trendy and/or a true interest in their customers. I like all of the indie brands I've tried over the last couple years, except for Coastal Classic Creations (excellent customer service--I just didn't care for the products) and Terressentials (couldn't make the stuff work with my hair). I've purchased Julie Hewett cosmetics based on Olivia's reviews on the Unknown Beauty Blog; Besame Cosmetics based on a referral on a forum, where the owner, Gabriela, personally helped me select a shade; Alima Pure Mineral Makeup, where the customer service is excellent; Ellis Faas products are in my top three brands, currently of all time, and they have extremely responsive customer service;, who put the personal touch in the customer service with hand-written notes and lovely wrapping. I also adore CB I Hate Perfume, which stands out in the sea of celebrity-endorsed stink bombs.

I have also had outstanding experiences with non-indie brands; for example, I received a hand-written *and* illustrated thank you card from Zappos for alerting them to issues with butter LONDON nail polish. And, unfortunately, I have had some of the worst customer service imaginable, even after getting the American Express hit men involved, from one of the beauty giants, such that I have stopped purchasing anything from them except the one perfume I can't give up. And Aromaleigh, which started out so promising, is how NOT to run an indie cosmetic business by having a public meltdown and flaming anyone who writes a non-positive review.

I also respect some of the mid-sized brands who don't do tons of advertising (Chantecaille, Laura Mercier) but rely on excellent quality and word of mouth to be successful. Chantecaille goes the extra step with its philanthropy, and Laura Mercier's customer service is fantastic. (I swear there's ONE woman in their Texas office.) Vincent Longo is another brand with really incredible customer service, and although his line is probably not considered indie or even niche, it seems it has been struggling to find a foothold in the competition that is the Estee Lauder mother ship.

I look forward to being introduced to more of the smaller brands through your blog.

Joey said...

Zuzu, thank you so much for reading and commenting! I appreciate all of your insights; I forgot about Besame and I'm going to be featuring Alima in the next day or two.

xoxo =)

Anya said...

The lovely commentary on Indie products covers all the bases and then some. As a natural perfumer who was there when perfume blogs started in early 2005, and as a witness as to how our small businesses grew after that, I have to point to bloggers as the main reason we're still in business.

We don't get but rare coverage in beauty magazines or old-school newspapers, so how else would the world know about us but for bloggers, with a nod to forums, also, such as Basenotes and Perfume of Life.

In May of 2005, when was launched (now redirected to the Guild website, but a google search will turn up archived pages), natural perfumers were few and far between, with websites hidden from Google for the most part. helped with rankings and helped sales a bit, but bloggers are the real heart and soul of our visibility. Bloggers picked up on us, and the first natural perfume reviews started soon after. Andy Tauer, another niche perfumer, was actually the first person to review one of my perfumes!

When someone owns a small business, whether it is perfume or homemade cookies, the personal touch will always be there, or they will fade from the scene, because there is so much mega business vying for "eyes" on the product, we would be lost. Thanks for the post, it was long overdue.

Joey said...

Hello Anya, thank you for reading!

You're absolutely right. I would have literally zero idea about you and other natural/Indie perfumers without the perfume blog community and without sites like Basenotes.

Incredible that Andy was the first to review your scents! A Tauer sampler is high on my list of things to purchase myself.

I committed myself, about a year ago, to expanding my knowledge of Indie cosmetic lines. Now, I am doing Indie fragrance lines - I have had nothing but monumentally wonderful experiences. I feel as if I have been missing out on so much. I have so much to try and to learn.

It is a natural human instinct to support those we care about; as a blogger, this instinct is amplified in the realm of small businesses who deliver quality and deserve more recognition. We have to all keep each other afloat.

I am happy that my post reached you, and I look forward to trying your fragrances!

xoxo Joey

Shannon (Lipstick Musings) said...

Joey, great post. I've had great experiences with indie companies like Alima, Concrete Minerals and Linnaeus (CM and Linnaeus were both based on YOUR recommendations!) I'm incredibly impressed that, even though I'm still just contemplating my first LMdB purchase (haven't spent a dime on them yet!), they have responded to every single one of the tweets I've posted that include them, they've advised me on first-purchase products to try, etc. So impressive for such a high-end line!

As for the others, Concrete Minerals was extremely responsive during my entire transaction, and although I haven't received my first Linnaeus order (it's due today), Marin has been communicating with me through her invoices, by email and on Twitter--she's as excited as I am to try everything!

Personal contact and those extra touches are, in my opinion, what set apart the smaller and indie lines from the giants. I will say that I've developed great relationships with my SA's at Dior, Chanel, and Laura Mercier, so I get plenty of personalized attention there as well. But those relationships had to be nurtured by me...they weren't automatic. With the smaller lines, I find there is an attitude of friendliness and approachability that can't be found elsewhere.

I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said. Thanks for bringing it up!


Joanna said...

Hi J,
Very nice piece -> I agree on so many levels. Thanks to you and the beauty bloggersphere (and a few "mainstream" media), Le Metier de Beaute became a "cult brand" early on and has been growing steadily ever since. You and the many beauty bloggers gave LMdB a voice in the beauty landscape dominated by big brands and massive advertising/marketing budgets. For that, and your friendship and support, we are eternally grateful.

P.S. Thank you for the call out to Christa. Ya'll make my job so much more fun. :)

Joey said...


Thank you for commenting! I'm really glad that my recommendations have gone well for you. Concrete and Linnaeus both make amazing eyeshadows =)

As for Le Metier, hurry the hell up and get on that! =D Start with Corinthian eyeshadow and a Lip Creme. You will be hooked in no time.

As for nurturing relationships with bigger lines, it's near impossible to do if they don't readily put themselves out there. I have met very few SAs who give their brands a good name - but I think that's as much the fault of the actual store who hired these people as it is the fault of the brands' training policies. Although, with Dior - the Dior Diva program is genius, as is MAC's Back2MAC program.


Joey said...



You are what make Le Metier so wonderful. The excellent products are actually outshone by your friendliness and generosity, and the friendliness and generosity of the makeup artists who sell your products. Whoever hired Dustin, Kayla, Mikey, Erin, etc. is a genius. There is such a general and genuine feel of enthusiasm, knowledge, and fun that spring forth from the brand as a whole.

Every big-name brand should be taking notes from you.

Thank you for bringing to us such excellent, luxurious products, and thank you for always being there for a giggle and a smile! You make going broke so much fun =)


ChiffonLaceLeather said...

I so agree with you on this

Chiffon, Lace and Leather Fashion Blog

Joey said...

ChiffonLaceLeather, thank you for reading! I am so glad that you agree.