Influencers have become a mainstay in the beauty marketing world. Largely embraced in the color cosmetics space, influencers can help spread the word about new collections by sharing their favorite makeup looks for their fans and followers to copy. But because skincare brand TULA exists at the intersection of beauty and wellness, CEO Savannah Sachs felt that the budding brand had to take a different approach to influencer marketing.
Founded six years ago by Dr. Roshini Raj, TULA is a direct-to-consumer (DTC) digitally native and social-first skincare brand that uses probiotics to help consumers “embrace their skin,” Sachs explained in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. A practicing gastroenterologist, Dr. Raj saw the benefits patients experienced when they incorporated probiotics into their diet — not just in their internal health but in their skin as well.
“She had this light bulb moment where not only did she recognize the power of probiotics, but how deeply personal and emotional that skin health journey is,” Sachs said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Ultimately, we want to inspire confidence in our community.”
mission permeates not only TULA’s branded content and campaigns but also its influencer
strategy. Sachs shared that 75% of consumers discover TULA through social
media and influencers, and both are critical for driving traffic to the
brand’s e-Commerce site or to one of the 1,300+ brick-and-mortar stores
that sell its products.
By forging partnerships with “authentic storytellers and content creators,” TULA has seen significant gains including:
- 3X year-over-year growth via the e-Commerce site;
- 80% growth between Q1 and Q2 2020; and
- Nearly 4X year-over-year growth in Q2 2020.
Sachs revealed some of the core components that drive TULA’s influencer marketing approach and, in turn, the company’s success in bolstering brand awareness, consumer engagement and overall loyalty.
1. Partnerships are guided by in-depth research and strategic relationship building:
Because so many people discover the TULA brand through social media and influencers, the team takes a highly strategic approach to identifying and building partnerships with the right creators. The influencer strategy is managed in-house, and new partners are identified based on their alignment to TULA’s brand vision and values. Team members have direct relationships with influencer partners, and they work closely with them to ensure consistent content creation and word-of-mouth creation.
“We see influencers as entrepreneurs, as distribution channels on the front lines that are building our brand, telling our brand’s story to our communities and, essentially, acting as digital storefronts,” Sachs said. “It all starts with great relationships and we work with [influencers] on a long-term basis.”
2. Influencers have creative freedom to use platforms the way that they want:
Many brands provide influencers with strict parameters around the messaging for specific campaigns and activities. But TULA gives influencers 100% creative control to these partners, to post the imagery and captions that best align with their unique brand and audience.
“Because we give partners complete creative control, that upfront research and relationship building, and making sure that it’s really a great fit, is so important,” noted Sachs. “We want to ultimately trust them to tell the story in the right ways and support them to do so.”
3. TULA emphasizes “real and raw” storytelling:
Although the brand gives influencers complete creative control, the brand does share guidelines around what has been successful for other partners in the past. Sachs explained that “real, raw authentic video content” has been extremely powerful for the brand. “That’s why we really focus on Instagram Stories. We believe that the storytelling you can provide and the context [of how products are used] is really powerful.” Instagram Stories also offers a seamless path to purchase that allows consumers to get inspired by content and go directly to the e-Commerce site.
4. User-generated content (UGC) is always in the mix:
“We really want to ensure that our community sees themselves in our brand,” said Sachs. “We want to see real women and real men with acne, dark circles, stretch marks and all. We go about that by weaving in customer UGC and influencer content into all organic and paid channels, to help ensure everyone sees themselves in our brand.”
Having a treasure trove of influencer and customer content has been especially valuable for TULA during the pandemic. The brand has had to rethink the traditional approach to photoshoots, which require many people to be on set. “We’ve been able to really continue to produce and create amazing on-brand content because we’ve always tapped into our customers and influencers, to be the brand and content engine behind the scenes as well as in the spotlight,” she noted.
5. TULA is going beyond content sharing to forge influencer partnerships:
“In color and makeup, influencer co-created products and collaborations have been around for a while — but it’s not really done in skincare,” Sachs explained. “In part that’s because it’s very involved and has a long development process, so we were really excited to take on the challenge.”
In mid-July, TULA released Glow Hour, an eye balm co-created with lifestyle influencer Courtney Shields — who also is one of the company’s top revenue drivers. Shields found that 43% of her following struggled with under-eye circles, just like her. As a result, the two parties worked side by side for a year to develop and launch the product, and due to the success so far, TULA is exploring more such opportunities.
“We want to continue to explore and innovate because we really see this as white space [in our market],” Sachs said. “We see influencers as entrepreneurs, and we’re excited to see how we can continue to build the brand together.”
6. Providing exclusive community access has helped drive demand:
With the launch of Glow Hour, TULA gave Shields’ social community early access to the Glow Hour product for its launch. “We really wanted to give her community special first access — like VIP treatment,” Sachs said. “In the first day of her sharing it with her community, we sold our entire first-month forecast. That speaks to the incredibly powerful, engaged communities that our partners can build.”