There is no shortage of up-and-coming cosmetics brands promising consumers a more personalized, customized experience. Jouer, a makeup brand that entered the scene 11 years ago, has seen many such up-start competitors rise … and fall. Beauty, cosmetics, fitness and wellness are popular categories, with an annual value measured in the tens of billions – but the competition is stiff and the field is crowded.
According to CEO and Founder Christina Zilber, the goal of the firm has never just been to sell cosmetics to customers. Instead, Jouer works to create full, customized palettes for consumers and send them directly to their doors. It’s been a winning strategy, Zilber said, and one that gives customers something they both want and need: “simple, easy-to-wear colors with the best ingredients in smart packaging.”
Zilber noted in an interview that she first come up with the concept of Jouer back in her modeling days, as she sat in a makeup chair watching an artist fill and empty a palette with some favorite lipsticks.
“I loved the idea of makeup palettes, but was frustrated by the limitations of products and color choices in the market,” she said. “So I started to obsess over the idea of customized palettes, and the idea of Jouer was born – I set about creating a line of colors the customer could build into her own individualized palette.”
The makeup business, Zilber noted, is hard work – harder than most people realize when they aspire to launch a cosmetics startup.
“The biggest misconception is that making makeup is easy and fun. The idea that you just pick a color, put it in some packaging and go to market is simplistic. There are so many logistics that go behind launching a product from concept to market, it's staggering,” she said.
And even things that sound like they ought to be a lighthearted lark often aren’t, she pointed out. Naming colors isn’t something that’s finger-snap easy, for example – though Zilber noted the ability to solicit ideas over social media has helped.
In recent months, Jouer has been broadening its horizons as it moves away from being an online-only, DTC brand and onto the shelves of physical stores. As of last month, Jouer was on the shelves of 47 Sephora locations in the U.S., and by the end of the year, that number will rise to 10. The brand is also carving out a more international niche with an expansion into Australia planned for this year, though details are still emerging.
As Jouer makes its first moves offline, the company is also rethinking its entire content creation strategy. In the past, Zilber said, they have relied heavily on their Instagram influencer fans to curate the visual content element. And while that strategy does effectively move the product further and wider than it might otherwise, it needs some balancing out. Because ultimately, she noted, letting third parties create the product’s visual storytelling aspect meant that story was in some aspect getting away from the brand. That strategy also changed the brand’s image a bit, as influencers tended to showcase “very stylized versions of Jouer Cosmetics’ makeup.”
While that is wonderful and attention-getting, Zilber said, it is also a bit at odds with the brand’s core aesthetic of “French-minimalist.”
“[Influencers] would use a product in their way, and we have become known as an Instagram brand,” Zilber said. “We need to show our perspective on how to use something versus how an influencer might do it, because it’s not always in sync with our intention.”
To support telling their own story, the brand is planning video tutorials, as well as product and lifestyle imagery using models and select unpaid influencers.
The goal is to reach the customer who is into beauty, but still has fun with the process. The person who likes quality, but perhaps isn’t ready to camp out in search of designer goods.
“There are a lot of trend-driven categories, like K-beauty, where there is kitschy, fun packaging, but those aren’t products you keep forever,” Zilber said. “Then there are older brands that are luxury, but there is not much middle ground. There isn’t a brand that’s both trendy and luxury, and not cost [prohibitive].”