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October 29, 2020

How Fenty Beauty Has Built Brand Awareness - and Won

by Laura Harker

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 alongside a strong brand marketing attack 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 the Fenty brand to see how the singer’s beauty and branding savvy helped to build a seemingly unbeatable brand image. We’ll take a look, using data we gathered, to see the areas in which the brand has prevailed to build brand awareness as a new brand.

Who Is the Fenty Audience?

Every brand needs to have its target audience nailed and this is one area where Fenty has excelled.

The Fenty audience is neatly hinted at in the brand’s tagline “beauty for all”. Offering products in 40 shades for each and every skin tone and undertone, the brand has been able to appeal to a mass audience that encompasses pretty much every woman.

What’s more, all of Fenty’s brand marketing has been unique in that it features mainly BAME models and celebrities including Mindy Kaling and Naomi Campbell. In doing so, Fenty has been able to open its products up to many women from ethnic minorities who might have felt excluded from other brand’s mainly white marketing.

Sure, having Rihanna behind the brand has been a huge pulling power to attract many customers, but being able to push boundaries with its marketing and product has really helped seal the deal with minority women.

There’s another way Fenty has been able to carve out its very own audience in the beauty world: by offering lower prices. Even though Fenty is considered to be a luxury brand, the price tags on all of its products are much lower than those on other luxury beauty items.

Here’s one example: Estée Lauder’s foundation will set you back $42 whereas Fenty’s is just $35. As the brand has positioned itself at the lower end of the luxury beauty range, it’s not too exclusive for younger consumers and those with smaller budgets. This also shows that Fenty is doing more than simply appealing to a diverse audience to boost sales and reputation; it also managed to carve out a niche audience for itself as well: Luxury beauty lovers on a low income.

How Has Fenty Increased Brand Awareness?

Using Rihanna’s Social Media Accounts to Raise Awareness

With 90% of the 150 million users on Instagram under the age of 35—an age range that perfectly fits into Fenty’s target audience - and a business owner with an impressive 57 million followers of her own, it made sense to use this platform as one of the main ways to reach potential consumers.

Rihanna’s Instagram posts often show the singer using Fenty products herself in a playful and authentic way, bringing a level of fun to the brand that is attractive to its youthful audience.

Rihanna also changed the way she used her Twitter account to spread the word about Fenty.

Ever since the 2016 “Anti” album launch, her Twitter profile picture has been 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. Off-the-cuff tweets are now rare but when they are made they always relate to the Fenty brand.

Even if some of Rihanna’s followers, on either Twitter or Instagram, wouldn’t go out and buy the products themselves, this is still making them aware of the brand. Making 57 million people aware of your brand with just a few Instagram posts is no mean feat!

But that’s not where Rihanna’s social media prowess ends—the Fenty brand has also been extremely active on YouTube.

Fenty’s Own Digital Platform

The Fenty Beauty by Rihanna YouTube channel currently has 713,000 subscribers. That’s a lot of people who are getting notified every time the brand uploads a video! The YouTube channel has been invaluable in giving the brand a place to take 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 products and releases.

As with the Instagram posts, these videos are all casual and show the authentic side of both Rihanna and Fenty, making it easy for viewers to relate to them. Plus, this is the kind of vibe that will hit the right tone with the Fenty audience; corporate and blatantly promotional videos wouldn’t gel with the crowd and wouldn’t have the desired effect.

It’s not just Rihanna’s own profile that the brand relies on Instagram; there’s also a dedicated Fenty profile too with 10.3 million followers. Posts on this account range from promotional and product info to memes and tutorials.

This is similar to the brand’s Twitter account (boasting 640.4 thousand followers), which posts and retweets mainly memes and promotional content. Fenty’s Twitter presence is highly celebrated having been nominated for a Shorty Award thanks to viral tweets that made appearances in Billboard and Teen Vogue.

Raising Brand Awareness with Influencer Marketing

Of course, Fenty’s success on YouTube isn’t just down to the brand’s own channel. Vloggers have also been incredibly helpful in spreading awareness too.

As the brand sells a huge range of different shades and colors, a lot more vloggers are able to film product reviews. By getting 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, a British YouTuber with 2.91 million subscribers and video views anywhere between 800,000 and 1.1 million times. In this one particular video on Fenty, Bright tries out some new products while taking tips from a tutorial video that Rihanna filmed for Vogue. Throughout the video, Bright keeps on chatting to the viewer while also reviewing products and explaining how and why she’s using them, similar to how somebody working at a makeup counter would operate.

And the response is largely positive. Just check out some of the comments that viewers have left behind on the video linked to above:

The Success of Fenty’s Digital Brand Campaigns to Build Brand Awareness

We’ve already seen that Rihanna spotted a huge gap in the beauty industry—diversity—which has helped Fenty’s brand awareness skyrocket. But how exactly did the brand’s campaigns around this roll out across the different digital channels? There are some slight differences between Rihanna’s use of Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube; here are a few examples.

The Launch of Fenty Skin

In the summer of 2020, Rihanna launched Fenty’s very first skincare line: Fenty Skin, a series of products that was meant for everyone. So, it makes sense that the new product line was launched with a super-inclusive advert that featured male and female models of a variety of skin colors. What’s more, it also included some of her A-list friends.

The advert was first posted to Rihanna’s Instagram and followers were excited to see big names including 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!", something which referred back to one of her tweets from 2017.

With the launch of this campaign, the Fenty brand boasted an impressive 10.41% engagement rate compared to the usual 1% - a huge success. This achievement in brand awareness then translates to sales topping $100 million for Fenty Skin’s first week alone.

Fenty Beauty’s ProFiltr Foundation

The ProFiltr Foundation is one of Fenty’s iconic products as it comes in a huge number of shades to cover pretty much every skin tone. The promo image expertly highlighted this by showing off the foundation’s color pallet with real models.

Clearly catering to as many customers as possible, the campaign shows that Fenty is doing something that many other beauty brands don’t: include everyone.

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 celebs tweeting about how much they loved the new products.

Fenty’s Work with Influencers

Social media influencers are very powerful in shaping consumers’ purchasing behavior these days. This is something that Rihanna was all too aware of even before her beauty brand had launched.

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 and decided to invite a host of influencers to the brand’s launch.

She invited a whole bunch of fans, beauty bloggers, and makeup artists to the brand’s launch party in New York City during Fashion Week. There were plenty of samples for all of these party-goers to try out and they were even encouraged to take sample products home with them.

Rihanna then encouraged everyone who had taken samples to leave honest reviews on social media. She also asked anyone who had bought the products to also leave online reviews. Users praised the singer for listening to their opinions and taking feedback, 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 has helped Fenty’s sales grow. There were five influencers that helped contribute to Fenty’s astonishing $53.6 million MIV gained from influencers: Jeffree Star ($1.37M), Laila Loves ($1.1M), Nikkie Tutorials ($1.09M), Lizy P ($1.05M), and Tati Westbrook ($1.03M).

Offline Marketing at the Savage x Fenty Show

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.

Things look to be changing in this area, and it all seems to be thanks to Rhianna and Fenty. 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 instance of diversity from the Fenty brand has allowed it to open up to one further target audience that might not have previously felt catered for plus-size men.

As well as this, the show has gone down really well on social media. Many people took to Twitter to praise the singer’s use of plus-size male models.

Final Thoughts

Rihanna didn’t just rely on marketing and branding alone to win over such a large target audience: Fenty developed products that centered around the customer and put their needs and wants first. Customers wanted a diverse beauty product that promoted multiculturalism. All of the positivity around this, and the products’ unique place in the beauty world, then helped to generate some equally positive word-of-mouth marketing.

The products are actually of very good quality as well. If Rihanna has scrimped in this area, then it would have been a much more difficult journey to get the impressive brand status Fenty now has. In fact, some 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 and gentle to use every day. Many people on social media quickly pointed out that that isn’t actually the case and there’s some evidence to suggest that walnuts can be damaging to facial skin.

Thanks to Rihanna’s product-savviness and preference to go for quality, she's yet to deal with any PR disaster such as Kylie Jenner’s. That’s made it so much easier to grow a stronger and more sustainable brand.

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