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?