News that 21-year-old Kylie Jenner is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire hit the headlines earlier this month. In just three years, she has created a global beauty brand with estimated annual sales of $360m. What struck me about the story was not the quality of her products – as someone whose annual spend on makeup is exactly one mascara, I’m no expert. Rather, it is the brilliance of Jenner as a marketer. Here’s how she, and a few others, are using marketing to create billion-dollar beauty brands:

  • Authenticity and a good story. Just like the rest of us when we were teenagers, Kylie Jenner was self-conscious about her appearance. Insecurity about her thin lips inspired her to launch Kylie Cosmetics and her lip kits. Former beauty queen and reality TV star Jamie Kern Lima started IT Cosmetics in 2008 because she couldn’t find a good concealer for her rosacea. L’Oréal acquired IT Cosmetics in 2016 for $1.2bn.
  • Expertise sells and founder-led brands are hugely popular. Leading global makeup artists Pat McGrath and Charlotte Tilbury have leveraged their know-how to create their own brands with strong brand identities. Both have attracted investment, with consumer sector specialist Eurazeo Brands investing $60m in McGrath and Sequoia Capital investing £15m in Tilbury. Vogue fashion assistant Emily Weiss converted her popular beauty blog, Into the Gloss, into online beauty brand Glossier. She has secured over $50m in external investment so far.
  • Know your audience and be where they are. Social media marketing has been key to fast growth. Jenner is a member of Generation Z, a group that live on social media. With 129m Instagram followers (making her the 7th most followed person), she has mastered tools like Instagram Stories to create instant, low cost mini marketing campaigns featuring herself endorsing her products. Glossier built engagement with its products on Instagram before its website went live. For Weiss, Instagram underpins Glossier’s rapid growth. It is the modern-day focus group providing real time feedback, peer-to-peer recommendations among the brand’s 1.8m followers are the perfect testimonials, and it enables a brand to be global instantly.