Why The Ordinary foundation has a 25,000 person waiting list


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Every few years a beauty product comes along that works so splendiferously well it achieves cult status. YSL’s Touche Eclat concealer, (still so popular, one is purchased every 10 seconds somewhere around the world). Nars Blush in Orgasm, lustful hue so crowd-pleasing Nars developed a proper makeup range out of it.

Then, there are those that become cult products because they not only work, they’re eye-poppingly cheap. Like, the Maybelline Great Lash Mascara, endorsed by models and makeup artists, it has not altered its bright green and pink colours since its inception in 1971. It’s still only $13.

The latest beauty product to join those ranks is a foundation with a 25,000 person waiting list., developed by a Canadian-based company called The Ordinary, part of an umbrella group of beauty products by DECIEM.

The foundation is one of a handful of The Ordinary’s skin-care products, which include Advanced Retinoid 2% and Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution.

They’re the brainchild of Brandon Truaxe, who comes from a software background, and co-CEO Nicola Kilner, a former beauty buying manager for innovation at UK pharmacy chain Boots. (The British pharmaceutical company is already known for its cult products. Its No. 7 serum almost caused a riot in 2009.)

The reason for the extraordinarily long wait-list is that the foundation contains ingredients normally only found in super-expensive brands, which accounts for its reportedly long-lasting, silky texture. Oh, and it’s ridiculously cheap. Due for release in Australia later this month, the lightweight serum foundation will retail for $12.70 and the full coverage will be only 20 cents more.

“We have combined what we believe are the ideal aspects of any foundation,” says Kilner.

“Technologies for lasting adherence, technologies to avoid pigments collecting within fine lines, treated pigments for rich, saturated colours, non-chemical SPF without a grey-tone effect.”

We’ve heard this sort of thing before. It seems like every season, a beauty company releases a product that combines the latest technological innovation, along with the hippest model with the skin of a newborn and just the right amount of weird jargon to convince us to buy it. Who could forget Derek Zoolander’s commercial for Aveda, which claimed that “moisture is the essence of wetness”?

But Kilner isn’t having it. “The consumer today is more knowledgeable about products and brands than even most employees of those products and brands,” she says.

“People are more educated; they are thirsty for transparency and brands at large have ignored these very important changes in the audience profile.

“The Ordinary took steps to shake up the industry and the demand for the brand (through to the foundations) grew entirely out of consumer word-of-mouth.”

Word-of-mouth has almost always been how a product reaches cult status, although there is something to be said for a non-paid celebrity endorsement, (the holy grail on Instagram). Still, we tend to believe each other over the advertising.

These days, that word-of-mouth can spread faster than ever before, thanks to social media. However, if the product doesn’t stack up, or the marketing feels unauthentic or out-of-touch, consumers can turn just as quickly, (As Nivea’s “white is purity” campaign can ruefully attest.)

It’s an alchemic process, but Kilner believes that a lot of what’s driving beauty product marketing campaigns is precisely what’s pushing up the cost.

“Expensive marketing, celebrity endorsements, high margin demands and expensive packaging are all elements that drive pricing up and aren’t always needed,” says Kilner, who has opted for a minimalist design for the Ordinary products, with nary a model in sight.

“We will for a long time still love the feeling of getting a Chanel lipstick out of our bag,” she adds.

“But with a foundation the function of how your skin looks will always be the highest priority.” 

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