Many marketers are following today's shoppers into the digital domains where they spend their time, like social media and e-commerce sites. But few have entered these spaces as successfully from the outset as Fenty Beauty, the cosmetics line launched late last year by Rihanna and Kendo, the beauty brand incubator at luxury conglomerate LVMH. With a stunningly diverse offering designed to be used on every shade of skin, Fenty's "beauty for all" message rings loud and true at a time when many consumers are thirsting for more authenticity and inclusion.
The brand debuted in September 2017 with 40 shades of foundation and 91 total products. A little more than a year later, Fenty has 5.5 million followers on Instagram, and several followers in real life, too—beauty brands like Kylie Jenner's Kylie Cosmetics and ColourPop have expanded their own foundation ranges to serve a wider variety of ethnicities. Those brands subsequently caught flak for appearing to piggyback on what many call Rihanna's genius.
"From its birth, [Fenty] catered to all skin tones—that's a differentiating factor from the other brands who might be perceived as jumping on inclusivity as if it's just a trend," says Lia Neophytou, associate consumer analyst at GlobalData Retail. She adds that such authenticity is a reason many consumers stick with a brand, and beauty brands in particular, for future purchases.
While the company does not break out Fenty sales specifically, on a recent conference calls with analysts, LVMH executives called out the brand's "outstanding year" and noted that it had "performed well" since its debut in 2017. A Vogue report earlier this year estimated that Fenty generated $100 million in sales during its first 40 days of business. Fenty declined to comment. The value of the global cosmetics market should reach $54 billion this year, a 6 percent rise over 2017, according to GlobalData's forecast.
Younger shoppers especially are gravitating to beauty as an affordable option for expressing themselves in a unique manner, says Mary Epner, who runs her own retail consultancy. Fenty has gained a large following in the LGBTQ community, a group that was not being marketed to by other brands, says Epner.
And of course, Rihanna's involvement has been a huge contributor to the brand's popularity.
"She's the real deal," says Epner. "As of yet, we haven't seen her really stumble socially—she is who she says she is and the customers relate to that."
While other brands, like MAC and Bobbi Brown, have had diverse offerings for a broad range of skin tones and consumer types for decades, not all consumers were aware of that. Fenty, by comparison, used the strategy of marketing itself as a cosmetics label filling the needs of most everyone from the outset.
Fenty sells directly to consumers online and through retailers such as Sephora. Experts say it's a smarter way to reach today's millennial and Gen Z customers, who are often intimidated or distrustful of the department store beauty counters their mothers and grandmothers used.
Fenty uses Instagram to announce and promote product drops, and uses its social media network to engage with fans. The account features photographs of diverse individuals, including women wearing hijabs and user-provided selfies displaying a broad range of skin tones. A recent post announcing new lip crayon colors generated nearly 150 comments and 74,000 likes in its first 15 hours. Some commenters asked for advice on how to use the product and received answers within minutes.
"Fenty never disappoints," one commenter wrote.