Monday, 15 August 2011

An interview with Jelly Pong Pong about how to create a successful beauty range on a budget

Susan Chyi, founder of Jelly Pong Pong
Years in beauty industry: 10

I have had the pleasure of knowing Susan Chyi for years and it's a joy to while away hours with her over cups of green tea to discuss the beauty industry – I always leave feeling completely inspired and armed with new information. Susan talks to Your Beauty Industry about creating a beauty brand on a budget, changes in the beauty industry and opportunities created by international markets.


Tell me a bit about your career background.
I started out distributing niche cosmetics brands like Watosa from Japan & Dollface Beauty Cocktails from the States. It was a way for me to get into the business and learn from the ground up, without huge startup costs normally associated with product-based industries.

How did you build a beauty brand from your bedroom into the success it is today?
With a lot of creative thinking and careful budgeting. I sourced packaging from factories with overrun stocks which they could give me in the hundreds instead of the thousands, I had my sister do the design and I took stock formulations from private label manufacturers. I also had to learn how to create a press kit and cold-call beauty editors in order to get the word out there. Blogging and social media were literally non-existent then.

When I got my first order from a retailer in Covent Garden, it was for 5,000 units. It was then that I approached a friend to invest in the business so that I could mass-manufacture all the products, which gave me a larger profit margin. Things just naturally took off from there.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to create their own beauty range?
Ensure you have enough capital set aside, as well as an emergency fund, as cosmetics is a very product-intensive business (i.e. capital-heavy). Due to all the competition that’s out there today, it has become an extremely volatile business; retailers are demanding shorter sell-through timelines, and you therefore need to have your emergency fund to see you through tougher times.

"Ensure you have enough capital set aside, as well as an emergency fund, as cosmetics is a very product-intensive business - i.e. capital-heavy"

Jelly Pong Pong has recently expanded internationally – tell me more about that.
Jelly Pong Pong is now in Sephora Asia, which gives us an opportunity to grow and learn about beauty preferences here. Although I am Malaysian, Jelly Pong Pong has never been sold in this region before, and our products and colours reflect that. Being here, speaking to retailers and end consumers enables me to build a stronger brand that reaches a wider audience.

What opportunities do you think international beauty markets represent?
The ability to grow and to extend the reach of your brand beyond your comfort zone. You now have the opportunity to learn how to appeal to a completely different set of consumers, along with their unique buying patterns.

"International beauty markets allow brands to grow and to extend the reach of their brand beyond their comfort zone"

Jelly Pong Pong cosmetics
are fun, quirky and unique
How has the beauty industry changed since you first started and how have you adapted to suit?
Believe it or not, it used to be quite difficult starting a beauty brand. Nowadays, there are new companies popping up every other day, and I’m reading about new brands constantly - some which I genuinely applaud for making a difference, and some which I feel are there because they’ve heard about the generous margins that can be made.

I was never in the business to build 1,000 SKUs, and this holds true to today. In the face of competition, I try to work harder, do more intensive research into new approaches to ingredients and packaging innovations, I foster stronger relationships with my suppliers and customers, and I surround myself with passionate people in the business.

What inspires you when you are creating your quirky products?

Anything from desserts, design blogs (Creature Comforts is particularly inspiring), great stationery and adverts (loving the new Kate Spade ad campaign).

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt in business?
Always keep a close eye on cashflow and set aside strict budgets for each division of your business.

Who inspires you in your career?

Maureen Kelly at Tarte cosmetics for knowing how to build an awesome brand.


Monday, 8 August 2011

Nailphilila: a London exhibition dedicated to nail art

Images from 'Nailed', directed by Nick Knight & Marian Newman
(courtesy of, full credits at bottom)

I was really excited to hear that there is an exhibition dedicated to nail art coming to London – the beauty industry is full of amazing visuals, incredible packaging and passionate people, so I am surprised that there are not more exhibitions dedicated to beauty.

Curated by Ryan Lanji and, a company ‘investing in the artists of the future’ by selling, commissioning and renting the most prestigious student and graduate artwork,they have teamed up with the likes of Marian Newman, Sophy Robson, Sam Biddle, Jenny Longworth and Sue Marsh to showcase nail art as an art in its own right.

Image courtesy of Laruicci
The incredible talent and techniques of these nail heavyweights will be showcased through installation, photography, film, and books. Highlights will include Sophy Robson exhibiting a secret installation, Sam Biddle exhibiting a piece which will blend fantasy and ready-to-wear nail art, exhibitions from extreme Nail Artists Antony Buckley, Mike Pocock, Megumi Mizuno and Kirsty Meaks, while pioneer nail technician Sue Marsh will be displaying some of her key archived pieces.

Nail-savvy brands such as Cheap Monday and Laruicci (creator of the gold claws seen in Beyonce’s new music video ‘Run The World’) will also be on show.

I can’t wait.

Anyone interested in exhibiting their own nail art can still send their semi-professional photos to for possible inclusion in the exhibition.

Nailphilia,’s Execution Room, 12A Vyner St, London E2 9DG
Press View: August 31st 2011 5 pm-10 pm (RSVP
Private View: September 1st 2011 6 pm-9 pm (General Public)
Exhibition runs from 1 September 2011-25 September 2011

For all enquiries email or call 020 8980 0395.
For more information visit 

First two photos courtesy of SHOWstudio
Still from the video "Nailed" by Nick Knight
Concept by Alex Fury and Marian Newman
Nails by Marian Newman
Hair by Christian Wood
Make-Up by Laura Dominique
Set Design by Andrea Cellerino

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Sampling opportunities for beauty brands

I’ve always liked the idea of sample sizes of beauty products, as it can be difficult to know what products are best for your face or body. I’ve spent more than I care to remember on products that I only end up using a couple of times, as it turns out it is either not suitable for my needs or it hasn’t performed in the way I thought it would.

Sampling can be costly activity for beauty brands, so it is vital that it is done in the right way to ensure it delivers a return on investment.

I spoke to two beauty industry experts from both sides of sampling to find out how beauty brands can use sampling to their advantage.

Mark Lockyer is MD of Sampling Innovations Ltd, the UK’s leading experts in promotional beauty sampling innovations.

Louise Reed is head of marketing and communications at, an online beauty boutique. Being an online store, customers can’t directly try the beauty products before they buy them as they would in a high street store, so uses a variety of sampling initiatives to help overcome this.

...On the benefits of ‘try before you buy’

LR, “At Escentual we always try to offer our customers samples. We have always tried to include samples in our orders so customers can experience the latest launches and other products we sell.

However, further to customer research and discussions with our suppliers, we now also offer a number of ‘try before you buy’ sample sets at The idea is to offer a range of samples from a single brand, so the customers can try the products and decide which products suit them best. The customer pays for the sets, but they are then sent a gift voucher for the full price to be redeemed off that brand.

For example, our La Roche-Posay set costs £10 and comes with a whopping 36 sample products for customers to try. Once they find a product they like, they simply use the voucher to get £10 off a full-sized product. So in effect they got the samples for free and were able to try the products in the comfort of their own home. We also have sets for fragrance, make-up and hair care brands.

These sets are going down really well with our customers, and we are working with our suppliers to roll out this concept further. And because the samples go to people who want them, as opposed to random sampling, and because of the voucher, we find a lot more customers come back to buy a full-sized product. So as far as sampling is concerned, it really works.”

...On innovations in beauty sampling
ML, Sampling Innovations: “Sampling is a vibrant industry with new innovations coming through to suit every budget and brand requirement.

For fragrance we are seeing technological innovation from Castelberg, a company that has the ability to fragrance any item. As you can imagine, the options are endless and creative ideas include keepsakes such as fragranced collar stiffeners, bracelets and pillow petals. 

Another new format for fragrance is Imagin®, a credit card sized sample that contains 4-6 sprays, which is just enough to help someone decide whether they want to purchase a brand. We’re seeing many high profile brands starting to use Imagin®, including Thierry Mugler, Clive Christian, Jaeger and Liz Earle.

Lancome used ColorKiss sampling
for it's Color Fever lipstick
One of the most exciting formats I’ve seen in make-up is ColorKiss, which delivers a perfect lipstick “kiss” to the lips without mess. It’s an ideal way for lipstick brands to sample shades and for customers to try without commitment to purchasing. How many women have tried a lipstick on the back of their hand only to be disappointed with their purchase when they get it back home?

Stick packs are a sampling format that have been around for some time, but have only recently adopted by beauty companies who are using them more and more. Sampling Innovations has organised a number of successful sampling campaigns using stick packs with brands such as Sanex, Imperial Leather [see top photo], Molton Brown and Space NK. I’m very pleased that we have been at the forefront of changing consumers’ perceptions about this sampling format, which offers easy opening and more accurate dosage than other traditional sachet shapes.”

...On beauty brands’ understanding of sampling

LR, “Fortunately I think more and more brands are starting to appreciate the importance of sampling, but not everybody has the budget for it. We tend to still get more support from the larger multinationals, as they can assign large amounts of budget for samples. The smaller independent retailers tend to have fewer samples, and when they do, quite often they are reserved for their PR teams.

I do still think that brands focus on new launches – and whilst this is understandable, many customers still want to try the existing products but it can be impossible to get hold of samples for older products.”

ML, Sampling Innovations: “While brands have looked to cut back on TV and press advertising [during the economic downturn], we’ve found that many are still investing heavily in sampling activity. Sampling can be highly profitable so long as the quality of the sample reflects well on the brand. Although it might be tempting to cut corners, this will be to the detriment of the sampling activity.

I would like to see the distribution of samples handled more efficiently. All too often I see samples left out in baskets or bins so people can help themselves and they’ll take 3 or 4 instead of one.”

...On sampling opportunities for the internet
ML, Sampling Innovations: “A few years ago, magazines and in-store activity were the main method of sampling for beauty brands, but this has all changed with the advent of the internet. There are now many new opportunities for brands to sample through their own and retailer websites, as well as sampling schemes such as Latest in Beauty and Glossy Box, which sell sample boxes of beauty products. There’s been an explosion of online fashion retailers and we’ve produced several samples to be sent out to purchasers of fashion - on the ASOS website, for instance.

A few years ago, fragrance sampling on the internet was unheard of. Ormonde Jayne was one of the first UK companies to sell starter kits of fragrance samples, enabling customers to try from the complete range before committing to a purchase.”

LR, “Being an online retailer, our customers can’t directly try the products we sell. We know they can try them via high street shops – but they can also buy them there too! So we need to provide samples to ensure our customers can try the products we sell beforehand. This is especially important for the more niche, prestige or hard-to-find brands that you can’t always try on the high street. If a customer has tried a product before buying, there is less risk that they would want to return it.

Customers also benefit because they get to try the products at home, as they would normally use them. For examples many fragrances change through the course of the day – the initial whiff can smell very different to the dry down a few hours later – so you need to try fragrances on your skin and appreciate every stage. It's the same with skincare products; a quick rub of cream on the back of your hand is not the same as using it in the morning on freshly cleaned skin with your usual make-up on top.

I think all beauty brands should invest in samples, as it helps the customer to really appreciate a product. And if you believe in your brand, there’s no reason not to. It may seem costly to begin with – but in time, if the product is good, customers will convert from the sample to a full size, hopefully gaining loyal customers.”

...On potential sampling opportunities in the beauty market
ML, Sampling Innovations: “Men’s toiletries is recognised as having enormous growth potential and I believe this is an area where sampling could be used to far greater effect. Some brands have done the odd campaign in gyms and sports venues, but it needs a brand like King of Shaves, Bulldog or Nivea for Men to grab that space and really gain the initiative.”

To contact Mark Lockyer at Sampling Innovations about potential sampling opportunities, email or call (0)1444 441 100.

To contact about potential stocking and sampling opportunities, email Rakesh Aggarwalat

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

An interview with beauty brand Illamasqua about how social media has contributed to its cult status

Alex Cummins, Junior Brand Manager
Years in beauty industry: 3

When I met Alex Cummins at Illamasqua’s HQ recently, it was clear to me that she lived and breathed the brand. No wonder really, seeing as she’s been with the company since its humble beginnings. Alex talks to Your Beauty Industry about being at the forefront of social media since 2008 and how this has contributed to the brand’s huge success in such a short period of time. 

Illamasqua launched in 2008 and already it's achieved cult status. How has this been achieved?
Illamasqua is an independently owned beauty brand in a sea of massive conglomerates with numerous beauty brands under their umbrellas, so I think we were always going to come in with a fresh approach, because we are an independent brand. Illamasqua’s also a British brand, and when we launched in November 2008 we were actually the only British beauty brand in Selfridges, so that gave us a good point of difference.

When we first approached Selfridges we went to them with a concept – we didn’t even go to them with products! We said to them ‘we’re creating a brand that’s going to be marketed in a different way, it’s going to be an emotional brand that wants to connect with its customers on a deeper, more profound level’. I think that’s what they bought into – they hadn’t even tried the products when they gave us a £1million site in Selfridges. They took a massive risk. From the beginning it was always clear that we had a strong identity and a good idea.

The mentality of the brand challenged different ways of thinking in our industry - social media being one element of this. We did a lot of research into how women wear make up, how they identify with it, why there wasn’t any consistent brand loyalty in make up, which you would usually find in clothes, perfume and so on.

Two groups of people were found: the Night Time Divas; the girls who don’t wear any make up during the day, but when they go out during the night that’s when the lipstick comes out, the lashes, etc. And then you have your Dare to be Different; the sub-cultures who will always wear strong make up and won’t care what anyone thinks – they wear their identity on their sleeves. Those were the two groups of people that we identified to create make up that would appeal to them.

We got [make up artist] Alex Box on board as Creative Director, and I think she was a great starting point for the brand – she’s already been in the industry for 10 years, so we had her weight to help us start. Her type of look isn’t about a subtle smoky eye and a nude lip – it was about being a bit mental. Showing make up as an art form.

"I got my job through the medium of blog, which is pretty cool!"
You’ve been with Illamasqua since the beginning – tell me about the journey.
I joined 3 weeks after they launched. I first heard about Illamasqua in Grazia magazine and I went up to London for the launch. It blew my mind - Selfridges had laid down a black carpet instead of a red carpet and there were alter-ego ballerinas – kind of like Black Swan – who were dancing around; there was so much fanfare you couldn’t help but be completely engrossed in it. And then when I tried the products I was like ‘wow!’ It was such great stuff. The make up artists were so extravagantly dressed – it’s like a culture that you want to be a part of.

I went home and wrote a blog post about it (I started my blog in 2007). At the top of my blog it said ‘Just graduated from university, looking for a job’. The MD of Illamasqua came across my post through a Google Alert and he got in contact to offer me an internship. So I got my job through the medium of blog, which is pretty cool!

We went from a little pokey office in Wardour Street to an office with 2 floors in Amwell Street, London with a head office of about 30 people, plus 5 people in our head office in Australia, and over 100 make up artists worldwide. In 2 and a half years, that’s pretty astounding.

"We were working with beauty bloggers and YouTubers from February 2009 - long before it was cool and fashionable"
Illamasqua went Global a lot faster than anyone would have predicted. I think the online revolution has definitely had a huge impact on that. We were working with beauty bloggers and YouTubers from February 2009 - long before it was cool and fashionable.

How did you know about the blogging world to do that?
Well I was a blogger; I was from that world, I was already commenting on other people’s blogs. I had a sudden brainwave; I was in the office about 3 weeks after starting and I was reading a make up blog – Temptalia – and she said something about this new body oil that had come out. Then on my lunch break I went straight to Space NK and bought it and on my way back I suddenly thought ‘hmmmmm, that’s powerful’! I didn’t even question it; I just went out and bought it.

I thought that honest blogger reviews were genius so I sent off a few Illamasqua samples to some beauty bloggers and all the reviews started coming back really positive. Suddenly we were getting all this extra traffic to our website and it kept crashing. After being featured on Temptalia’s blog there was such a surge of interest and it prompted Sephora to get in touch with us – just 5 months after we launched – they said ‘we have to have you in our store’.

I couldn’t believe it. I had done a fashion marketing course but no-one had ever said bloggers would be the next big thing. I don’t think anyone knew what social media would become. Even now to a certain extent, this isn’t it. Social media is just going to get bigger. Estee Lauder only joined Twitter last month. Prada didn’t have a website until 2007. You can’t yet shop on Morrisons online and Asda only set up an online service last year - it blows my mind how slow some of the big corporations have been.

You manage Illamasqua’s digital marketing – what does this entail and how do stay on top of the continual developments in social media?
My sole job is social media; I am embedded in the internet all day. I do small things such as Twitter and Facebook updates, and then I deal with bigger things such as organising international blogger events. I work very closely with the website development agency as well. All social media platforms are intangibly linked; Twitter feeds off of Facebook, Facebook feeds off the blog, the blog feeds off of other bloggers, bloggers feed off other bloggers... and before you know it, it’s gone viral.

You have a huge Facebook and Twitter following – how do you keep your fans interested?
We’ve never used Facebook or Twitter to solely push our products; it’s always been more content-driven than that. I go out and source content where perhaps most brands wouldn’t, for instance we interviewed Boy George when we were writing about the New Romantics trend. It’s about providing ways for people to interact with our brand rather than just pushing product. Then on the occasions when we do talk about our products, people continue to interact with us as they would on our other content.

All our collections have a very strong narrative and the more narrative you give to a collection, the more you have to talk about. With the Toxic Nature collection we had interviews with the stylist, the hairdresser, the nail artist, Alex Box, plus backstage film and even the making of the backstage film! Plus we had the official film and images, we created a ‘how-to’ to recreate the look... rather than just creating static images we produce all this content that generates more and more interaction.

We also do competitions, giveaways, how-to’s, back stage catwalk interviews and we produce a lot of films.

What do you think are the most exciting things happening in digital marketing?
The speed that everything happens at is probably the most exciting aspect of digital. It’s gone from not a lot in 2008 to being at the top of everyone’s marketing agenda now. Every big beauty brand holds blogger events. What I think is really exciting is that it is probably the first media type that small brands have a shot at. We don’t have £50k to put an ad in Vogue, we don’t have the right contacts with TV execs that we can wine and dine to get something on TV, so it’s about being clever and a bit more strategic with social media.

We don’t make outrageous claims with our products and that’s what’s really exciting about social media as well; the brands that are hiding behind marketing claims, or who are charging extortionate prices for products that don’t really work are going to get found out through the freedom of speech on social media. In a way I think that’s what the industry needs.

There is also new technology called Aurasma [an augmented reality app] that I’m really excited about; you hold your phone over a static image in a newspaper or something and it becomes a video of the footage. So for instance when Rupert Murdoch recently got a cream pie thrown in his face, a photo of this in a newspaper would convert into a video of the full footage. I think Aurasma’s going to be massive.


If you'd like to learn more abou how social media can help your business, visit my website at or email at