Just because you’ve been given the opportunity to grace your products on the shelves of Sephora doesn’t mean your brand will be successful. Take it from brands like Item Beauty and Selfless by Hyram, two brands founded by TikTok stars Addison Rae and Hyram Yarbro, which were pulled from Sephora shelves in early 2023.
This situation serves as a valuable lesson, as Jeffrey Ten, the president of Global Indie Brand Development, aptly pointed out at the time: “They [Sephora] sell you space. They don’t build your brand. You are in charge of building your brand.”
In light of this, the importance of brands and retailers constantly seeking opportunities to engage with consumers and boost sales has grown even more significant, especially for those who take up shelf space in-store. With that, one increasingly effective approach that has gained significant traction in recent years is the emphasis on storytelling and community building. This strategy has proven to be a powerful tool for engaging customers, fostering brand loyalty, and ultimately boosting sales.
In a conversation with PYMNTS, Priyanka Ganjoo, the founder of D2C beauty brand Kulfi, delves into the significance of storytelling and community engagement in driving sales. Ganjoo further elaborates on how Kulfi is strategically leveraging educational content to raise awareness and foster the adoption of its products.
“Every brand has to figure out their own DNA and figure out how they find success in beauty because it is a challenging space to get a share-of-mind of the consumer today. And so, for us, it’s been really doubling down on our roots and kind of like our differentiation,” said Ganjoo.
For Kulfi, in order to do that — doubling down on its roots, aka its differentiation — means leaning into thoughtful storytelling and its community to convey these narratives.
Through storytelling, brands can forge emotional connections with their customers. Rather than just selling products, they share narratives that resonate with their target audience’s values, desires, and aspirations. With that, when consumers feel emotionally connected to a brand, they are more likely to make purchases and become repeat customers.
“For us, that means our mission is really a group of people feel seen,” said Ganjoo.
And it’s a strategy that seems promising as impactful storytelling makes for memorable content as people tend to remember stories far better than they do product details or advertisements. With that, by incorporating storytelling into their marketing efforts, brands can ensure that their message sticks with consumers. This memorability can lead to increased brand recall and a higher likelihood of being top-of-mind when a purchase decision is made.
Furthermore, in a crowded marketplace where numerous products often offer similar features and benefits, storytelling provides a unique way to stand out.
For example, Ganjoo notes that Kulfi looks to standout as experts in undertones.
Before Ganjoo started Kulfi, she found it challenging to discover products that harmonized with her unique undertone and skin tone. Additionally, her observations revealed a gap in representation within the beauty industry, particularly for individuals of South Asian descent.
Motivated by this void in the industry, Priyanka Ganjoo made the pivotal dedcision to depart from her corporate job and embark on her entrepreneurial journey, giving birth to Kulfi Beauty.
In 2021, Kulfi Beauty officially launched its inaugural product, the “Kajal Eyeliner.” This eyeliner, deeply rooted in South Asian culture, offered a highly pigmented formula conducive to creating a striking and smoky eye look. The beauty community, according to Ganjoo and TikTok, embraced the product, propelling it to win the coveted Allure Best of Beauty Award.
With that, as Kulfi looked to expand its assortment of offerings, the purple blush shade had its viral moment on TikTok when consumers realized how the blush would look on South Asian skin tones.
“We launched, for example, our blushes and we our purple blush, which actually, initially we were planning it for our merchants, they were like “oh purple blush just doesn’t do well.” But then our purple blush became a TikTok viral sensation and now it’s our best performing shade,” said Ganjoo. “And, we saw that again with our lipstick, which we just launched.”
Ganjoo highlights that due to the brand’s primary exposure through online platforms, Kulfi is looking to closing the divide between the digital and physical realms.
An initiative on this front is the flagship event set for this upcoming Saturday, a collaborative effort with the Meatpacking District. At this event, attendees will be able to engage directly with Kulfi’s products, receive tailored makeovers at dedicated stations, and savor Kulfi, the delightful Indian frozen dairy dessert.
Expanding the pop-up experience to Dallas, Miami, and Los Angeles, Kulfi seeks to establish authentic connections with consumers in intimate, one-on-one settings.
“I know like a lot of marketing is now digital, but it also makes the space really crowded. And now we have this opportunity to actually meet in person and for people to experience Kulfi in person, so we definitely want to double down on that,” said Ganjoo.