When Rihanna announced her new beauty brand, Fenty, in 2017, many could be forgiven for thinking it would turn into just another celebrity-backed brand. From the Kardashians to Gwyneth Paltrow, famous faces have been adding their names to brands in the hope that their star power will help boost growth and revenue.
However, Rihanna did something different from all the other celebs. Instead of just relying on her name to sell the brand, she focused on creating products that put the customer first and helped to increase diversity within the beauty business.
This forward-thinking approach, alongside a strong brand marketing strategy, led to Fenty generating a remarkable $100 million in its first 40 days alone.
But how exactly did Rihanna manage something so impressive? In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into Fenty's branding to see how the singer’s own image and business savvy helped to build a seemingly unbeatable brand identity.
Additionally, with data gathered via our own brand tracking software, we'll take a close look at areas where Fenty has succeeded in building awareness as a new brand.
Who Is Fenty's Audience?
Every brand needs to know who its target audience is, and this is one area where Fenty has truly excelled.
Hinted at in its “beauty for all” tagline, Fenty offers products in 40 shades for each and every skin tone and undertone — meaning its target audience is quite all-encompassing. By meeting the needs of a mass audience (which includes pretty much every person who wears makeup), Fenty is able to appeal to a very wide range of consumers.
What’s more, all of Fenty’s brand marketing has been unique in that it features mainly Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) models and celebrities — including Mindy Kaling and Naomi Campbell. In doing so, Fenty has been able to appeal directly to consumers from ethnic minorities who might have felt excluded by other brands' mainly white, Euro-centric marketing.
Sure, having Rihanna behind the brand has helped to attract thousands of customers, but pushing boundaries with its marketing and products has really helped Fenty seal the deal with an often underrepresented target audience: minority women.
Another way Fenty has been able to carve out its place in the beauty world? By offering high-quality products at lower prices. Even though Fenty is considered a luxury brand, the price tags on its products are a good bit lower than those of competitor luxury beauty brands.
For example, while Estée Lauder’s foundation will set you back $42, Fenty’s is just $35. By positioning itself at the lower end of the luxury beauty range, Fenty has earned a special spot — not too exclusive for younger consumers or those with smaller budgets, but still high-end and high-quality.
Simply put, Fenty is doing more than just appealing to a diverse audience to boost its sales and reputation. It’s also managed to carve out a niche audience for itself: luxury beauty lovers with a smaller budget.
How Has Fenty Increased Brand Awareness?
Rihanna and the geniuses behind Fenty know a thing or two about increasing brand awareness.
From social media to influencer marketing, they’ve been massively successful in spreading the word about all of Fenty’s products. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective ways Fenty has increased brand awareness.
1. By Using Rihanna’s Social Media Accounts to Raise Awareness
Just me pullin up to Sephora to make sure @fentyskin is loaded! Straight like dat, we in stores from December 26th!! Available at @Sephora, @HarveyNichols, and @BootsUK !! Til then, see you at https://t.co/p7bMMwDkgv 🧖🏿♀️ pic.twitter.com/7hzTcH3MrL— Rihanna (@rihanna) December 9, 2020
What do you get when you combine 90% of the 150 million users on Instagram who are under 35 and a business owner with an impressive 57 million followers? A match made in heaven!
As Instagram’s users fit perfectly into Fenty’s ideal target audience, using this platform to reach potential consumers makes perfect sense. Rihanna’s posts often show her using Fenty products in a playful and authentic manner, bringing a level of fun to the brand which makes it attractive to its youthful audience.
Rihanna also changed the way she uses her Twitter account to further spread the word about Fenty. Since the launch of her 2016 album “Anti”, her Twitter profile picture was Rhenna — an emotionless stick figure that became known as the singer’s alter-ego.
However, in 2019, Rihanna changed this to an image of herself at the Fenty Paris launch party. Since then, the singer’s tweets have been largely promotional for Fenty, and while off-the-cuff tweets are now rare, they always relate to the Fenty brand.
Even if some of Rihanna’s social media followers won’t buy Fenty’s products themselves, she’s still been successful in making them aware of her brand. Think about it — raising awareness for 57 million people with just a few Instagram posts is no small feat!
But that’s not where Rihanna’s social media prowess ends — the Fenty brand has also been extremely active on YouTube.
2. Through Fenty’s Own Digital Platform
The Fenty Beauty by Rihanna YouTube channel currently has 789,000 subscribers — that’s a lot of people who are notified every time the brand uploads a video!
This YouTube channel has been invaluable to Fenty’s brand strategy by providing a means to invite consumers behind the scenes. Videos cover Rihanna’s involvement in the development of products and brand strategy, as well as useful beauty tutorials and insights on new releases.
In the same vein as her Instagram posts, these videos show the casual, authentic side of both Rihanna and Fenty — making it easy for viewers to relate. Plus, Rihanna knows this is the vibe that will hit the right note with Fenty’s audience. Corporate or blatantly promotional videos wouldn’t go over well with the crowd or have the desired effect.
It’s not just Rihanna’s personal profile that the brand relies upon on Instagram — there’s also a dedicated Fenty profile with 10.8 million followers of its own. This account’s posts range from promotional content and information on products to memes and tutorials.
The brand’s Twitter account (boasting 755.4K followers), functions in a similar way — mainly posting and retweeting memes and promotional content. Fenty’s Twitter presence is highly celebrated and was even nominated for a Shorty Award thanks to viral tweets that made appearances in Billboard and Teen Vogue.
3. By Raising Brand Awareness with Influencer Marketing
Of course, Fenty’s success on YouTube isn’t owed solely to the brand’s own channel. Partnering with social media influencers has also been incredibly helpful in spreading awareness.
As the brand sells a huge range of different shades and colors, thousands of influencers are able to film product reviews. By raising awareness of their products to more diverse vloggers, the brand is reaching even more potential customers on YouTube — especially compared to brands that tailor mainly to white and pale complexions.
Take a look at one of Patricia Bright’s Fenty videos, pictured above. A British YouTuber with 2.83 million subscribers and video views anywhere between 800,000 and 1.1 million — Patricia is a force to be reckoned with in the YouTube beauty world.
In this particular video, Bright tries out some new Fenty products while following instructions from a tutorial video that Rihanna filmed for Vogue. Throughout the video, Bright chats to her viewers while simultaneously reviewing products and explaining how and why she’s using them — quite similar to how someone working a makeup counter would operate.
And the response has been largely positive. Just check out some of the comments viewers have left behind on the video linked to above:
How Fenty Successfully Rolled Out Campaigns on Different Digital Channels
We’ve already touched on the fact that Rihanna spotted a huge gap in the beauty industry — a lack of diversity — and was able to capitalize on it to help Fenty’s brand awareness skyrocket. But how exactly did the brand’s campaigns roll out across the different digital channels?
There are some slight differences between Rihanna’s use of Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
1. The Launch of Fenty Skin: Instagram
In the summer of 2020, Rihanna launched Fenty’s very first skincare line: Fenty Skin. As this product line was meant for everyone, it makes sense that it was launched with an uber-inclusive ad featuring both male and female models with a variety of skin colors. What’s more, it even included some of her A-list friends.
When the ad was first posted to Rihanna’s Instagram, followers were excited to see big names like Lil Nas X and A$AP Rocky as cameos. Rihanna also posted a photo of herself and A$AP Rocky with the caption "No matter who you are, you deserve to have great skin!" — which referred back to one of her tweets from 2017.
With the launch of this campaign, the Fenty brand boasted a rousing success: $100 million in sales for Fenty Skin during the first week alone.
2. Fenty Beauty’s ProFiltr Foundation: Twitter
The ProFiltr Foundation is one of Fenty’s most iconic products, as it offers an impressive number of shades — covering pretty much every skin tone. The promo image expertly highlighted this by showing off the foundation’s color pallet on real models.
Clearly catering to as many customers as possible, this campaign showed that Fenty dared to go where few beauty brands have gone before: radical inclusivity.
The campaign for the foundation similarly pushed diversity and multiculturalism to the front with promo shots featuring Rihanna and BAME models, including Jessie Li and Slick Woods.
The launch of this product was such a success, it even had celebrities like Gabby Sidibe and Mindy Kaling tweeting about how much they loved the new products.
In case you're wondering about #FentyBeauty on dark skin, issa YES for me dawg. pic.twitter.com/RRiFkvQKR6— Gabby Sidibe (@GabbySidibe) September 9, 2017
😍#FentyBeauty has got SHADES! Thank you @rihanna!!! Kween! ❤️🙏🏾💄💋👩🏻👩🏿👩🏼👩🏽👩🏾👱🏾♀️👱🏿♀️🙋🏾💃🏾👄💪🏾🙌🏾 pic.twitter.com/6FoFIaI3f4— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) September 8, 2017
3. Fenty’s Work with Influencers: Instagram & YouTube
Social media influencers are very powerful when it comes to shaping consumers’ purchasing behavior these days — something Rihanna was all too aware of even before she launched a beauty brand.
Whereas some companies might pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into huge marketing campaigns to launch a new brand or product line, Rihanna took a slightly different approach for Fenty. She decided to invite a host of influencers to the brand’s launch.
Fans, beauty bloggers, and makeup artists were all present at the brand’s launch party in New York City during Fashion Week. With plenty of samples for the party-goers to try and take home with them, Rihanna approached this launch with a vision.
By encouraging everyone who took samples home to leave honest reviews on social media, as well as asking customers to leave online reviews, Rihanna made it clear she was open to feedback from her target audience.
Customers praised the beauty guru for listening to their opinions and taking their feedback on board — and all of the positive reviews really did pay off. In the first month alone, the brand made a whopping $72 million.
Partnering up with super-star influencers also helped Fenty’s sales grow by generating Media Impact Value (MIV). The five influencers who helped contribute to Fenty’s astonishing $53.6 million MIV were: Jeffree Star ($1.37M), Laila Loves ($1.1M), Nikkie Tutorials ($1.09M), Lizy P ($1.05M), and Tati Westbrook ($1.03M).
4. The 2020 Savage x Fenty Fashion Show: Twitter
Never in my adult life have I seen a male model that has a similar body to mine. I feel... almost emotional? Like I finally can buy something I saw and want and KNOW it was made for people like me in mind 😭— Cody Jacob 🧣 (@imcodyjacob) October 2, 2020
Over the past couple of years, female body positivity has really made some strides thanks to plus-size models and celebrities like Lizzo gracing the cover of Vogue. However, the same can’t be said for the male fashion industry, as plus-size male models have been left in the shadows.
However, things look are looking up in this area — and it seems that Rhianna and Fenty have something to do with it. At the October 2020 Savage x Fenty fashion show, where the star showcased her latest lingerie line, plus-sized models were used to show the star’s first-ever line of male underwear.
This latest example of Fenty embracing diversity has allowed the brand to connect with a new target audience that was previously ignored: plus-size men.
Although the show was an offline marketing event, it was extremely well-received on social media, with many people taking to Twitter to praise the singer’s use of plus-size male models.
5. Fenty EAU DE PARFUM: Instagram
In August 2021, Fenty dropped the much-anticipated Fenty EUR DE PARFUM, dubbed by Rihanna "a memory encapsulated in into a fragrance. You never forget it."
Combining the scents of magnolia, blueberry, bergamot, tangerine, incense, Bulgarian rose absolute, and more — Fenty's scent is all at once vibrant and seductive. And, just like Rihanna's other products, is extremely well-thought-out and sticks to the brand's visual identity.
Of the fragrance's creation, Rihanna shared:
"If I'm going to make a fragrance that represents me, even the body language of the bottle needs to marry that."
This sentiment was achieved and even extended to the imagery used on Fenty's Instagram posts announcing and promoting the fragrance, seen above. And, once again, Fenty joined forces with influencers who have helped spread awareness for the new product and strengthen its allure through their association with it.
The fragrance sold out quickly and it wasn't until May 2022 that the second, highly-anticipated drop arrived.
Once again, Rihanna has managed to walk the fine line between being aspirational yet accessible with her products. Consumers all over the world are clamoring to smell like the Fenty founder — and while the $140 price tag isn't cheap, it's still nowhere near as expensive as some other luxury scents.
Rihanna didn’t rely solely on marketing and branding to win over such a large target audience: Fenty developed products that centered the customer experience and put their desires first.
Consumers wanted a diverse beauty product that promoted multiculturalism and inclusivity. And when you combine all of the positivity this brand generated with the products’ unique place in the beauty world, it makes sense that Fenty’s word-of-mouth marketing was off the charts.
Furthermore, Fenty’s products are incredibly high-quality. If Rihanna hadn’t been so focused on maintaining the quality of her products, it would have been much more difficult to achieve the cult brand following Fenty now has.
For example, if Rihanna had skimped on the quality of her products, influencers and social media followers could have easily turned against her — just like they did with Kylie Jenner’s brand, Kylie Beauty.
In 2019, Kylie Beauty launched a new walnut-powder face scrub that the megastar claimed was soft, gentle, and good for everyday use. However, many people on social media were quick to point out that it wasn’t actually the case. On the contrary, there’s some evidence to suggest that walnuts can be damaging to facial skin.
However, thanks to Rihanna’s product-savviness and preference for high-quality, she's yet to deal with any similar PR disasters — which has made it much easier to build a stronger, more sustainable brand.
Want data-driven insights on how Fenty Beauty of performing? Download our exclusive Brand Bite for more insights below!