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Why are so Many Beauty Brands Mid? How to Create a Beauty Brand That Stands Out


A visual display of standout beauty brand packaging. On the left is a uniquely shaped, vibrant green Foile bottle against a mint green tiled background. In the center, an array of Dip haircare products is presented on clear glass shelving, featuring eye-catching packaging with bold typography in shades of orange, blue, and teal. To the right, a whimsical Vacation Classic Whip sunscreen mousse bottle with a retro design and SPF 30 sits against a vivid red backdrop, accompanied by a cluster of glossy cherries. The image is annotated with the question 'WHY ARE SO MANY BEAUTY BRANDS MID?' followed by the statement 'HOW TO CREATE A BEAUTY BRAND THAT STANDS OUT' in bold, white lettering.

What Makes Beauty Brands Mid?

You will often hear people ask the question “how many beauty brands are too many?”. This has often been discussed related to the boom of celebrity founded beauty brands, but also as a response to another mediocre beauty brand launch that nobody wanted, and no one is excited about. When creating your own brand, you really can create absolutely anything you want, if you have the time and money to invest in it. Then my question becomes, why are so many beauty brands mid?

 

The answer can’t be just budget, because plenty of brands created by corporations with functionally limitless budgets are just as or even more mid than brands created by independent bootstrapped brand founders. So, let’s look at the reasons that contribute to creating mediocre, boring, uninteresting, non-innovative or MID Beauty Brands.

 

Sections


Product display of Dip Haircare's solid shampoos and conditioners. Various pastel-colored boxes with bold pink logos are arranged against a lilac backdrop with bubbles, and on a textured green surface. A bar of solid shampoo is visible on the left. The packaging is labeled with different scents such as Rosemary Jasmine and Rose + Matcha Tea, emphasizing the brand's vibrant and eco-conscious design.

No Clear Vision

Many people that I talk to that are in the beginning stages of creating a new beauty brand have no clear idea of what kind of brand or products they want to create; they have simply decided that they wanted to create some kind of beauty brand. Without a clear vision it’s very difficult to make any interesting choices. You end up listening to what others tell you to do and if those people are your supplier and service providers what they will tell you to do will most often be whatever is the easiest for them. It’s always easier for them to create someone they have done before rather than doing additional new work and innovation or multiple revisions.I find that even looking at a single product in isolation can often tell you if there was a clear vision behind the creation of the product. There are some beauty products that I try where it becomes instantly obvious that “there is no way this is exactly what someone set out to create, this can not have been the intention.”.  By this I mean that’s it’s clear that this is just the point the product was at when someone said “yep, that’s good enough.” And carried on with things. You can also tell when a product was created with intention, with a clear vision of exactly what it should be, and they didn’t settle until that’s exactly what they had created.

 

When Dip Haircare founder Kate Assaraf (read my blog post about Dip for more) set out to create their shampoo and conditioner bars, she wanted to create a product that was so good that she would never be tempted to go back to the salon brands she was previously using. She had a clear vision of what she wanted to product and brand to be and did not compromise.


Three Glitch Skin skincare tubes in solid, vibrant colors with text in a similar tone. From left to right: lavender for an Exfoliating Mask, orange for a Serum + Moisturizer, and blue for a Weekly Treatment Mask. The bold 'GLITCH' logo is prominent on each tube, indicating the brand and product benefits.

Constant Compromises

We really wanted to make a plastic free brand, but the MOQ was too high, so we settled for this plastic packaging. We really wanted to create a perfect custom formulation, but the development time was too long so we went with these white labelled premade formulations. We really wanted the design to be amazing, but we couldn’t afford the designer we wanted to work with and went with a cheaper option. We really wanted to add holographic effects to our secondary packaging, but it would increase the CPU. We really wanted to create an amazing brand, but it was too difficult, slow, and expensive so we created something mid.

 

I think often in these cases even the people creating the brand loose all excitement of what the brands ends up being. Brands need the people behind them to be excited about the possibilities, but when every idea ultimately gets flattened down to nothing things just loose all momentum and brand end up being abandoned shortly after launching.

 

For an example of a brand that just ended up abandoned in it’s first year look at Glitch Skin, even though there was likely a significant investment into creating this brand the result feels flat and after launching in January 2023 the brands last Instagram post was in February 2023 and now a year later their website is completely gone. Somewhere along the way all steam must have been lost.

 

If the people creating a brand are not even excited about it, then you should really question why you are even creating a brand at all. If you’re just in it to make money, then this still aint it chief, because this is not how you create a profitable brand either.



Two images of Isamaya's lipstick: On the left, a bold red lipstick with silver packaging is being applied to lips. The right image features a metallic pink and silver lipstick with a unique, anatomical design, placed against a light background. Both products are notable for their distinctive shape that resembles male anatomy, showcasing the brand's daring and unconventional approach.

Smoothing Out All the Edges

I often hear people give feedback on a new brand, product or design being developed that goes something like this “I totally get it and I think it’s super cool and all that, but other people won’t get it.”. Who are these “other people” that are speaking of? This is a common logical fallacy called “appeal to the majority”. It implies that if most people are not expected to like something, then it is somehow less valuable, less good, or should not be pursued. This fallacy assumes that popular opinion is a reliable indicator of value or quality.


If the founder or lead or a brand does not have a clear vision, then this kind of feedback will bit by bit remove any of the edge or flavor from the brand. Design by committee can be a fatal flaw if the target is not super clear to everyone. Too many cooks can really ruin the broth. Everyone comes with their own preconceptions and ideas of what “the average person” would want, which we shouldn’t even be aiming to appease anyway. Real people are not the average, they are all unique individuals with specific tastes and preferences. Most of the time you’re better off sticking to your own vision or relying on the vision of experts that understand what you’re trying to do.

 

For an example here we can look at makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench’s makeup brand Isamaya. I think it’s fair to say that most people do not get the appeal of a fancy high end $95 lipstick with packaging shaped like male genitals, but the girlies that get it, get it. The brand hitting rank 16 of Makeup Brands trending on Instagram globally during 2023 after just launching in 2022 shows that their strategy clearly is working.



A split image for Vacation brand products. On the left, Arizona Tea collaboration lip balms with colorful, patterned designs are scattered on a sandy surface with cacti in the background. On the right, a Vacation sunscreen mousse bottle, stylized in an '80s advertisement fashion, features a 'Double Whip' promotion with a 'Buy 1 Get 1' sticker, next to a sundae glass topped with whipped cream and a cherry, evoking a playful retro vibe.

Aiming for “Broad Appeal”

Trying to aim for “Broad Appeal” is a trap. Trying to make something that’s for everyone is a guaranteed ticket to creating something that no one is especially interested in. Having a niche target audience is a tool that helps you make better decisions. It doesn’t mean that people outside your target wont like or buy your products. It’s more about who you have in mind when making choices. If you’re trying to target to many people, you will start compromising on one end or another. It’s much better and more profitable to be the best in a smaller category than to be in the middle of the pack of a bigger one. Creating a brand or products that are for everyone is the same as throwing out this very useful tool.

 

Brands that aim for broad appeal do not excite us or give us anything to talk about. Brands that gain traction, build interest, and ultimately succeed are brands that are brave enough to stand out. Vacation is a great example of this, they went 200% all in for a quirky vintage 80’s vibe and you can clearly see it in every aspect of the brand. From the products, packaging design, website, messaging, lifestyle photography and even IP collabs (like the vaporwave vibes of the Arizona Tea lip balm); it all works together to create a brand that people love and talk about.


Split image of Foile glass beauty packaging. The left side displays four uniquely shaped bottles with 'foile' embossed on them, in white, teal, pink, and orange, each topped with a colorful cap. The right side features a close-up of a single teal bottle with a blue cap against a tile background, emphasizing the brand's distinct glass design.

Playing it “Safe”

Trying to play it safe is usually a mistake. When starting a new venture, if you’re not at least a little bit nervous you’re probably playing it too “safe” and that should make you nervous. Most of the time going the safe path is the same as going the path of least resistance. This is a road that most other people also take so there’s not much opportunity to be found. You don’t create something great by doing what everyone else is doing. Most of the brands are incredibly mid, but I still get excited when I find something different. For example, earlier this year I was so hyped when I found the brand Foile, even though they launched in 2019. Their design is so quirky and modern, they’re not playing it safe. They created something completely different!


Conclusion

Even if a big part of my work is keeping track of all the beauty brands in the market and I have a database with over 20k beauty brands, I still find new brands that I have never ever seen before literally every day. It’s not just brands that we’re just launched, I constantly find brands that have been out there for a couple years, waiting for me to find them! There really is no end to it.

 

I don’t believe that there are too many beauty brands, the problem is that there are too many beauty brands that are not bringing anything new to the table. If you want to create a beauty brand that isn’t mid you need to have a clear vision and stick to it. Don’t try to aim for broad appeal. Never compromise on what’s important. Don’t smooth out the edges and lose what makes your brand special and unique. And lastly remember that playing it safe is not going to put you on the road to success. Thank you for reading! /Jennifer Carlsson

Portrait photo of Jennifer Carlsson, short neon green hair and rainbow colored eye makeup
Jennifer Carlsson
The Beauty Brand Expert

I'm Jennifer Carlsson, a 30 year old strategy consultant, competitive market researcher, data analyst and designer from Stockholm, Sweden. I know more about more beauty brands than anyone else and I'm an expert in what it takes for beauty brands to succeed.
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