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It’s difficult to convey the size and power of the YouTube beauty community. As someone who regularly watches several beauty YouTubers, I have long been aware of their ability to influence viewers’ conception of makeup, skin, and haircare brands. The beauty world of YouTube grew from a handful of creators posting short makeup tutorials to the creation of multi-million dollar cosmetic companies and thousands upon thousands of hours of beauty content. It has become the first place many consumers go for advice on future purchases and application tips, but many beauty brands have yet to make full use of the marketing opportunities the platform holds.
Here’s why YouTube’s Beauty Community is Important
The Major Players
Some of the most famous names in the YouTube beauty world—NikkieTutorials, Jeffree Star, Tati Westbrook, Michelle Phan—have incredibly strong fanbases ranging from 9 to 17 million subscribers each. Though this particular community of YouTubers is often subject to controversy and drama, most fans remain loyal to their subscribed creators. With recent events, it is easy for brands to become dissuaded from partnerships with the YouTube beauty elite. For example, Morphe Cosmetics decided to pull all of their collaborations with Jeffree Star from shelves after videos and allegations resurfaced of racist and anti-semitic behavior. But the real question is whether or not the potential boost in sales and awareness is worth the risk of entanglement in a potential scandal.
Influencer Vs. Brand Content
As of right now, the views received by influencer beauty content are significantly higher than views received from branded content. Many brands have their own channels to which they upload instructional content for their products, but many consumers would rather hear an unbiased opinion from a third party. Most YouTubers do not have extended partnerships with brands, but rather promote and test products they would use normally. Most cosmetics brands keep these creators on their PR lists and sent them new products to try out on their channels. YouTubers then test out the products for their audience and decide whether or not they recommend that their viewers purchase the items. If a respected beauty YouTuber approves a product, it can make a significantly positive impact on the brand’s awareness and reputation. On the other side, some popular YouTubers also have videos solely focused on disappointing or lackluster products.
An Under-Utilized Platform
Overall, it seems there are many opportunities for beauty brands to take better advantage of the wide buyer audience actively using YouTube. Most viewers of beauty content on the platform watch regularly and frequently, and often with the intention of learning about products for future purchases. With such a readily engaged fanbase, it seems that partnering with influential creators would be the optimal path to reach a large, interested audience. It is reported that over 90% of shoppers have discovered a brand or product on YouTube, but marketers seem to not put as much effort into their brand’s presence on the platform. Brands can increase awareness through uploading their own informational content, running traditional ads, sending PR to influencers with the hopes that they do an unboxing and review (but with this option, there is a risk that the influencer will not like the product(s)). When it comes to partnerships, many creators find that they want to keep the integrity and honesty of their reviews by not receiving monetary incentives to approve products. More often, YouTubers will promote and use their own products or even make videos that have nothing to do with makeup. Though the community has changed drastically from the creation of purely makeup-centric content to a broader social community, YouTube’s beauty world continues to hold significant sway over millions of consumers, as well as enormous marketing potential for brands.
For years, NikkieTutorials had been inspired by Lady Gaga’s persona and music. Lady Gaga released her makeup brand Haus Labs, in 2018, and Nikkie was one of the first to post her reviews. Her videos on the brand were positively received, and in 2019 Lady Gaga met with her to do a collab. In this video, NikkieTutorials does Lady Gaga’s makeup while interviewing her about her products and her interest in beauty. This video—which garnered over 7 million views, 414k likes, and 17k comments—does an amazing job of showing Lady Gaga’s passion for the brand she has created and how she wants to nourish consumers’ capacity for creativity. The video develops an ethos for the brand, eliciting warm and appreciative comments for the products as well as the creators.
In this unsponsored Instagram post, Tati Westbrook put up her own picture of Pat McGrath’s new palette. She asks her followers in the caption to comment on whether or not they would like to see a full tutorial or simply her first impressions. This is representative of the unbiased reviews creators often give new products, as well as the level of engagement most creators prefer to uphold.
This video is a great example of a typical format where creators will do an entire makeup look using only one brand. Here, KathleenLights uses all Glossier products to complete her look. The majority of this review is positive and allows viewers to see the application and payoff of multiple products.
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