How to make a product that is difficult to market cool

There are often beauty products to hide, heal or erase blemishes. But there are some conditions — from thigh chafing to body acne to yeast infections — that many top brands have long ignored.

“We’d buy these things at a Target or a CVS and they were bad, but it didn’t matter,” said Claire McCormack, editor of Beauty Independent, noting that products that support everyday needs like hair removal items and even tools for menses – used mostly by women – were either dominated by big, unsexy brands or ignored altogether. “Now, we want the stuff on display to look good,” she added.

But that is changing. In recent years, a new category has emerged that sits at the intersection of beauty and personal care to address issues rarely discussed in the past. Megababe deals with thigh rubbing and cleavage sweat. Fur creates a pubic hair care ritual with hair oil and an ingrown hair serum, packaged in elegant round bottles. There’s also Truly Beauty, a TikTok-favorite skincare brand that makes items formulated for skin on the butt and breasts. And also Love Wellness, which sells supplements and vitamins for everything from preventing UTIs to restoring the pH balance of a user’s vagina.

By selling direct to the consumer and updating their packaging to make it more accessible and more appealing, these labels are trying to turn once-taboo products into items worthy of front row display in a medicine cabinet. The hope is that by labeling them as beauty products instead of consumer packaged goods, they will take advantage of the deeper, longer-lasting relationships beauty companies often develop with shoppers, not to mention the attractiveness the category brings compared to other goods. of packaged consumption. .

“Beauty as a category has always been able to connect so strongly with consumers,” said Cristina Nunez, partner at True Beauty Ventures. “It could be anything from branding to imagery to digital marketing strategies, all of which can be applied to these other categories to create the same connection with the consumer that beauty can.”

Identifying a white space

While founders tackling these lesser-explored categories may have initially been motivated by a need for better, shameless products, these reasons for existing have also made it harder to get attention.

“When we talked about what our brand was doing, addressing the pubic hair taboo, we got the most polarized response,” said Lillian Tung, co-founder of pubic hair maintenance brand Fur. “People either thought it was a brilliant idea or it was disgusting. There was no middle ground.”

This attracted press attention, said Katie Sturino, founder of Megababe, who added that publications were often a little confused by the brand’s premise, which began with a product that treated thigh irritation – or l ‘red irritation that can occur between people’s thighs if they rub directly against each other – and has since expanded to make ‘Le Tush Butt Mask’, for back acne, ‘Bust Dust’, a “anti-roof-sweat” spray and “Happy Pits,” an underarm mask.

“People really didn’t know how to approach a beauty brand that was okay with talking about things no one was talking about,” said Sturino.

Nancy Jarecki, founder of Betty, which makes hair dye for pubic hair, said a desire to make her product press-friendly was what motivated her to categorize it as a “beauty” product rather than the category “personal care”.

“I figured if I create it and label it a beauty product, it’s going to slip into the hands of beauty editors and end up in these glossy magazines,” she said. “And my impression was right.”

But social media has helped remove some of the stigma around these categories. While Instagram has perhaps put a greater focus on appearance, it has also played a role in the rise of the body positivity movement.

“This category has the empowering aspect of talking about this thing that you shouldn’t be ashamed of and still falls under body positivity,” McCormack said. “All of that has really helped fuel the growth this category has seen.”

Demand has prompted mainstream retailers like Target and Ulta Beauty to sell brands like Megababe and Maelys, which make products like a “booty” mask and a “boob” mask. Megababe, for example, entered Ulta Beauty stores less than a year after its 2017 launch. This too was necessary: ​​The brand has not sought financing, and has not yet sought financing, and entry into mainstream retail it provided him with faster access to a larger consumer base. It’s been profitable from the start, Sturino said.

Chains and smaller boutiques have also provided an opening to the physical store, a boon for self-financed Fur, co-founder Laura Schubert said. “We really needed to get dollars in the door,” she said. “We couldn’t wait three years for Ulta Beauty to get us.”

For example, the buy-in by Jessica Richards — founder of influential Brooklyn beauty retailer Shen, who often advertises the brands she buys for the store on her social media — created a halo effect.

In physical retail, brands can also figure out which product category they fit best into. Love Wellness founder Lauren Bosworth said that at Target stores, the brand is housed in the natural beauty aisle instead of the vitamins aisle, as might be expected.

“Target’s aisle of natural beauty is a place you want to spend time, that you’re not ashamed to be, compared to the tampon aisle, you run in, grab what you need, and you’re running out,” she said. “You’re willing to linger, pick up the product, and experiment with it.”

There has been investor interest in the category: Love Wellness raised $4 million in Series A in 2019 and an additional round this year. But others, like Megababe and Fur, have remained self-financed despite investor interest. The Honey Pot Company, which makes menstrual and feminine care products, raised venture capital, but also used other methods, such as a crowdfunding campaign on Indie GoGo, to fund its tampon launch in 2017.

Appease with packaging

Historically, products that existed in this category came in utilitarian or even awkward packaging—the kind of item you’d stash in your grocery cart and then in the back of your closet at home. Now, design and packaging play a major role in helping them stand out.

Megababe, for example, uses colors like bright neons and soft pastels decorated with cute illustrations: her product “Le Tush,” which treats butt acne, features a drawing of a corgi’s backside. Cheeky product names are also often used: Megababe’s hero thigh product is called “Thigh Rescue,” while Love Wellness’s “The Killer” product is meant to help prevent yeast infections.

“There’s an acceptance and recognition when you use bright colors,” said Laura of period produce manufacturer The Honey Pot Company. “We’re not trying to hide it in how we all grew up.”

Other brands have taken a more upmarket approach, like Fur, which sells products like its Ingrown Concentrate in sleek, round bottles with sleek black-and-white branding.

“For people to take seriously that we are as a true beauty brand, it has to be something that someone feels proud of, that they know is well-designed, whether it’s the look, the ingredient, or the claims we make. we are talking about effectiveness.”

Nunez said that as innovation in the space grows and gains more consumer attention, conglomerates will start paying attention too, incorporating similar products into their own assortments and acquiring these brands.

However, there are still skeptics: Tung said last year, when Fur launched an out-of-home campaign featuring wild posts of women with pubic hair, the reaction wasn’t entirely positive.

“People would stop on the street, go get art supplies, and come back and cover it up, or like graffiti with the word ‘shave’ on it, and this was in the West Village of New York City,” he said. “It’s clearly still shocking to so many and there’s still a long way to go.”

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