Episode 144 – Coffee N5 – Brewing Beauty Brand Secrets with Colette Laxton

Join Lara and Colette Laxton of The INKEY List in a caffeinated conversation on Coffee N° 5. Discover the impact of the internet on beauty brands, the secrets to connecting with consumers, and Colette’s personal skincare journey. Get industry insights and tips for success in the beauty world. Sip and savor this beauty-focused episode!

We’ll talk about:

  • How the internet led to the birth of a new level of accountability for brands
  • How the global shift in 2020 impacted beauty brands
  • The reality of going retail
  • The importance of packaging and connecting with consumers
  • How to measure and manage business success at a retail level
  • The life cycle of product development
  • Crossovers in the makeup world
  • The importance of beauty education

For more information, visit The INKEY List here.

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Follow our host Lara Schmoisman on social media:

Instagram: @laraschmoisman

Facebook: @LaraSchmoisman

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Twitter: @LaraSchmoisman

About Colette Laxton

A true brand and product visionary, Colette’s career has seen her work across multiple brands and roles
within the beauty industry. But it didn’t always start that way.

“I never planned to be in beauty, but I was always interested in learning about consumers’ behaviour.
While I was still at University, I realised I needed to start applying for jobs. The big local company was
Boots, so I began a job there, without truly knowing what I wanted to do. I worked next to the team that
covered brand development and although I was initially in a different department, I became more and
more curious about what they were working on and thought this is my vibe, this is what I want to be
doing.”

Diving into every element of the customer experience, Colette has worked across marketing, branding
and product development for brands such as No. 7, Soap & Glory, Liz Earle and WAH Nails, using her
instinct and passion to help build tribes and give identity and purpose to new, niche brands. Shortly after
leaving WAH Nails, Colette begun consulting on a variety of brands and fell in contact with Mark Curry.

Lara Schmoisman 0:05
This is Coffee Number Five. I’m your host, Lara Schmoisman. Hi there. Welcome back to Coffee Number Five. Today. I excited. Well, I’m always excited because I always meet amazing people and they show on the show. I think that’s the best about having this show. I was able to connect with people that I wouldn’t never cross pathway. It may even because you’re in different countries or it will never have that opportunity just to have this one on one. And I’m so happy that I can bring that opportunity to you. So today I have here with me, Colette Laxton. Did I say it right? Yes, good. Hi, welcome. Welcome to copy number five. Thank you so much for being here. And let me tell you something to you guys. I just confess this to call it. And this is so fitting to our podcast, because I was obsessed with her cafe in ninth grade.

Colette Laxton 1:09
I love, love, love that. Hi, thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure to be on this amazing podcast.

Lara Schmoisman 1:15
So I want to I I know you are the founder, the owner, the everything of the Ag key, but you haven’t I mean, I want to hear a little more about your trajectory, because you chesnoff came from one day and say, I’m going to have a beauty brand. You found no. And that’s what I love about the stories behind the brand. There is just not okay, I’m gonna just develop a brand, you have a reason for creating this brand.

Colette Laxton 1:48
Yeah, so me and my co founders, our background is in beauty. And we knew all about all the different beauty categories. But there was a real time and a place in a moment that that it felt right to launch the list. We it was 2017. And we’d gone from a world where consumers were told by brands, this is the magic product, go buy it. And they had all the bells and whistles and the industry was quite opaque. So you couldn’t get behind the scenes of what was going on. But in 2017, consumers were starting to kind of question that a little bit. And with the rise of Reddit and Facebook communities, people were turning to each other and saying, Hey, like, what’s in this product? I don’t know what I’m using. That’s you know,

Lara Schmoisman 2:36
That’s so interesting. You say that, because I always say that the internet changed the beauty, the beauty lines, the period, for the for the power shift, it was a real power shift.

Colette Laxton 2:44
And at that time you did you know that most brands or retailers didn’t have inky lists on the websites. So you would buy a product on the website and have no idea what was in it. And consumers were starting to question that and say, hey, I want to know, I want to know I want the transparency. And I also don’t know what’s going on with my skin. I don’t know if this product is right for me. So they were turning to each other on these forums and saying, Hey, can you help me out? Then you get into a world of misinformation because everybody’s telling everybody everything. So we were like there’s a there’s a time and a place for knowledge at the time and a place to kind of stand there and say, Hey, we’re going to help you out. We’re going to be super transparent. And our mission is to help deliver knowledge to the consumer. It sounds quite obvious, but at the time, it just, it just wasn’t there.

Lara Schmoisman 3:36
No, it wasn’t. And you’re completely right at that time is when people start while we had forums we have read it as you say Facebook, so they start being a dual communication before that people will put an ad if you like to try it, and then they will not hear the call the customer as loud as we started hearing them.

Colette Laxton 3:59
Which is great. Really, really great. So yeah, so that moment

Lara Schmoisman 4:03
Is great, but also you hear the complaints and the things that people don’t like and it’s also how you address them.

Colette Laxton 4:10
100% I would say within so when you do packaging runs so when you when you launch a product you have you know you do the first run of products, our first three runs, we changed the wording on packaging every single time. Because what you think is right, that it might not land with the consumer. It might be just perfect. This is exactly you know, we were trying to simplify skincare the whole premise of inky is to spread the beauty of knowledge and simplify the world of skincare. We were like we’ve nailed it. We’ve been really clear on what Retinol is and then someone messaged us saying I don’t understand your packaging and you’re like, hey, but actually the most powerful thing is clear to me, but actually the most powerful thing you can do is listen to the consumer. You thinking right all the time as a brand owner is the worst thing you can do listen to them, if people people will always complain, but right from the start, we we’ve really, really been a data led company, and we saved down every single consumer interaction. So we know, you know, okay, 10 people have said the same thing about a product. Okay, let’s go back to the manufacturer. Let’s look at the batch, let’s see what’s going on. You know, never think you’re right, as a brand owner, you know, you always need to listen to the consumer, you know, things that you love products that I’m obsessed with, it might not land in the market, and that’s okay.

Lara Schmoisman 5:31
And of course, it’s okay. And that’s a key point to listen to your consumer because I’ve seen it so many times that brands and even indie brands, so lunch, they are doing a huge amount mo Q’s. And then you are stocked with packaging that, yes, you’re saving a cent here and they are but at the same time you’re stuck with something that it might not be your final in and your love. That is I love that he said that about experimenting and changing things because that can make it or break in packaging is so important.

Colette Laxton 6:06
Be okay with it be okay with it, I think you know, we are from a background of being an industry. So, you know, there are smart things you can do you know, whether it’s committing to raw material, so therefore, you know, you can speed up, you know, if something does sell well, and you need to get it back into stock, you’ve got those raw materials down. But but don’t kind of commit too much from day one, because there might be changes that need to be made. And then you’re kind of stuck with a load of inventory. So yeah, never never go in too hard. And you know, sometimes, you know, when you’re working with retailers, they get super excited. And you get the big – that comes in, you know, be wary, because that that replan order might never come in. So just just don’t get overexcited.

Lara Schmoisman 6:50
Okay, let’s talk about that a second. Because going – is a big commitment, big, big commitment for a brand. It’s great. But at the same time, you need to deliver huge quantities.

Colette Laxton 7:02
Huge, huge, huge, huge quantities. Now I I’m from a retailer background, so I used to work boots. Okay. I knew and I understood that lifecycle of, of being a retailer and understanding what it took. But it takes huge amounts of investment. And I think for me, we’re very lucky. You know, we’re we’re globally distributed with Sephora. But we’ve kept our distribution really tight because it’s very easy to get overexcited, get into retail and think that’s it that’s tick your your brand is a success. You’re in Sephora, or you’re in a boots or you’re in a Ulta or Walgreens.

Lara Schmoisman 7:38
That’s when when the word starts.

Colette Laxton 7:42
It does and it’s the sell through. And you know what being stopped on that’s probably you know, even though I was from that industry, it was like, we’ve made it and then you get in there and you’re like, oh, no, we’ve literally not even started

Lara Schmoisman 7:56
For a second because what when and you know, these from the, from both sides, actually, which is fantastic. That if you don’t sell through what happens?

Colette Laxton 8:09
You get delisted

Lara Schmoisman 8:12
by back the product? Oh, the RTV.

Colette Laxton 8:14
Yes, yeah, yeah, yeah, it gets worse and worse. So yeah, you can, you can get a range of view. And then if you’re not selling the right amount of products, they can delist you. And then yet they you have to buy back the product. So yeah, it’s It’s a scary world. And and no one gets it right. And sometimes a product does really well, we’ve just launched a product, we literally cannot keep in stock. But then we’ve had products before where we thought it was going to be a huge success, the retailer thought it was going to be huge success, and it just didn’t work. And actually, that’s pretty scary, because it can get you in a difficult place from a cash perspective. You know, you’re trying to do your marketing, you’re trying to buy new inventory, and then you’ve got this kind of weight hanging over your head. It’s a continual kind of battle. And just to make sure that you’re not like, over exerting yourself that you guys are bringing a new product to life.

Lara Schmoisman 9:02
What’s your process, she has to come up with an idea and say, hey, I want to do a product for this condition. Or I should say that this is trending or this is something that is happening to me personally, and it’s something that I want to address. So what’s the process from that idea and where that idea comes to say, Okay, this is something that the market really needs right now.

Colette Laxton 9:29
So we are truly consumer lead. And every time you know, we’re a team now of 138 people, which kind of blows my mind, but every time you know, I’m working with one of our team, I’m like, guys, you know, everyone gets lost in their own oh my god, this is amazing. And I’m like consumer, consumer consumer, get back to the consumer. So when we first started the brand quite early on, we launched a service called Ask inky now because we’re trying to really support people with the knowledge they need to make the decisions in skincare Are we offered a free skincare service? So this skincare service is there for you day or night? If you’re like, Oh, I’m pregnant, like, Can I use my current product? Or, Oh, I’ve bought this new product? Where does it fit in my routine? So we had this service going. So we’ve had that going for at least three years now. And we’ve had over a million people ask us questions and speak to us. And then we launched a recipe builder on our website, which helps people to understand what the right products for them. And we’ve had over 5 million people interact there. Now, that’s great consumer. And it’s amazing that we are there to support them. But you know, that also gives you an incredible amount of data and insights. So yes, and I love data. Real, and it’s real data. This is not, you know, just a trend report or kind of looking at what’s going on in the market. We’ve got real people talking in their language about what they like, what they want, and what they need. So for us, when we’re going through that process of starting a new product, we start there, we start with where’s the consumer app? What are they saying? And then we as part of our kind of brand premise, we try and democratize skincare through price, which is super tricky.

Lara Schmoisman 11:12
So what I know that I always say they say this, that when you buy in cheap skincare, you need to be careful of the ingredients that you’re using. Because yeah, it’s very tricky to have skincare, because what it means is that your margins are going to be affected

Colette Laxton 11:32
Very much so they very much are. But what it means is because we’ve had to be smart in the way that we buy the products. We work with manufacturers, which is what every you know, brand founder would do. But we also work with raw material suppliers. Now, by going up the chain, you are seeing new technologies earlier, you’re seeing new ingredients and actives that are coming through. So we tend to marry all the really interesting stuff that’s going on within the industry and with the raw material suppliers marry that with the consumer insights we’re seeing. And then hopefully, that’s when you get that magic of a product that’s innovative. But guess what, it’s actually valuable for the consumer. Because there’s so many products that just launched that are cool, it’s fun, it’s innovation, it’s cool, cool, go buy it, is it really serving the consumer? Is it really filling a gap in the market? And are you really doing something that’s going to add value, that’s our kind of process to make sure that we’re really truly helping the consumer, going back to the process.

Lara Schmoisman 12:31
So you come up with this idea, you validate it with your consumer data, that is something that is really resonating with with them, then how the process so you have a KMS are in, in house, you work with third party vendors, or you source it out, how does it work the process and how long it takes you that process because creating a skincare, even one product is a lot of work.

Colette Laxton 13:00
It’s a lot of work. And there’s a lot behind the scenes, like the non sexy stuff. So we have a team in house, we have the product developers, we have the packaging team, we have a regulatory team, like things like the regulatory and making sure you’re legal and making sure you’re getting the right testing. And if you’re in multiple markets, whirlwind of registration, it’s a big, big, big process. We are at a point where we’ve kind of got it down now. So we can develop a product in in six months. But again, that’s quite unusual. And it also depends on the testing. As an example, we launched a an SPF in the US market in April. We can’t launch it until next year in Canada because of Health Canada regulate

Lara Schmoisman 13:46
Yes, yeah, you’ll have to have a product sunscreen which was approved in the US and Canada you have different approvals.

Colette Laxton 13:55
And I would say the one thing to do is not rim on the back end, the really important stuff, you can make packaging, you can make formulation. It can be fantastic. But unless you really understand the market and really understand, you know, ingredient changes that are happening, there’s a lot, there’s a lot to it, it really does take a lot it takes a lot of people as well to make sure you know we are a B Corp. So we have to be really careful with our packaging. We use PCR packaging, we need to make sure we’re not ever eating too much like there’s a lot again within the process that we need to think about to make sure we’re delivering a great product that that’s fit for purpose that kind of is legal and regulatory, but also is good for people of planet so that’s like another layer that we add to our business.

Lara Schmoisman 14:38
Absolutely. And okay you have the product now you have this new product so and you have different markets so the you launch them in all the markets at the same time, or you take them in different because it’s different kinds of marketing or different kinds of lounging you need to do depends of the territory

Colette Laxton 14:58
I would say with The INKEY List, we were very, very lucky that we were an overnight success, which came with, obviously, its huge benefits. And we were very lucky. But it meant we probably scaled a little bit too quickly. And we launched into 30, over 30 markets in 18 months. And what I learned very quickly is, that’s not a good thing. Because you physically can’t service those markets, you know, you really need to treat each market individually. And at the inky list, you know, we try to make ingredients simple and educate the consumer. But the way you educate a consumer is very different in different markets. And the way they like to be communicated and spoken to, is completely different. So from a product launch perspective, in general, we try to do a global launch, mainly because it’s bang for your buck, right? If you especially on mediums like tick tock that is global. And if you’re talking about your product and hitting those big channels, it does have a global perspective. And if you work with particular influencers, they have a global reach. However, it’s really tough. Like right now I’m on a tour of the US, we launched a new tripeptide plumping lip balm last week. So I’m on a tour of the US, well, North America. So I’ve been in three different places in four days. But at the same time, I’ve got to get back because we’re launching in Paris, and Germany wants us to go over and then to go and see Scandinavia. So there’s only one of you. And actually, it’s really difficult to serve all of those markets and give them the love that they require when you launch a product. Because it’s a lot of work.

Lara Schmoisman 16:40
I’m fascinated by what you just mentioned about creating content for each one of the markets because you can get lost in translation so easily. I always say that. I mean, for me, I had to learn English in this country. But it’s not not only learn English is about learning, the mod, the saints, the expressions, how you communicate. And at the beginning, I remember I was trying to translate sayings from Spanish to English, and they didn’t make sense at all.

Colette Laxton 17:14
Yeah, no, no, that is absolutely right. And, you know, even, you know, we’re a UK brand. And for me, you know, North America, to the UK, you know, feels culturally quite similar. It is not. And some of the things we say in the UK, you know, our US team are laughing their heads off. They’re like, Guys, you can’t say that. And we’re like, oh, Does that not mean the same thing? So yeah, being very aware of your marketing, and localization language. Yeah.

Lara Schmoisman 17:45
Oh, my goodness, the banks, that we have the internet, and now we have a lot of geolocation and you are able to adapt those campaigns to the country.

Colette Laxton 17:55
But do you know what it is a lot of work if you want to do it properly. So as an example, Germany’s a massive market for us. And what we were doing is we were localizing content. So we were doing German content and making sure that we were really hitting the point. And then we were sending them to a UK website. And you’re using them because they were they were loving, you know, oh, okay, interesting. Sounds really. And then you get on to like a UK lead website. And it just, they, we just lost them. Because they’re like, Well, this is not for me, you know, even if they can understanding, you know, English, you know, I’m a German I want to be spoken to in German. So

Lara Schmoisman 18:30
Yeah, you really to understand the culture

Colette Laxton 18:34
100% So yeah, so being in 30 plus countries, we are on a huge learning journey that is for sure.

Lara Schmoisman 18:41
So you work with someone local, or you try to do everything in house for those languages as well.

Colette Laxton 18:47
A bit of both. So when we launched into North America, it’s such a beast, week physically couldn’t do it from the UK ourselves. So we have set up a completely specific North American team. So these guys localize everything, they make sure that it’s fit for purpose for the US market that’s wholly important as business and support is is huge. And we need to make sure that we land it right. In other markets, we might you know, use a partner in an agency or a partner in market and then also where we’ve got the in house expertise, you know, some of our brand team or Italian and you know, we try and draw on that because it’s expensive, right as

Lara Schmoisman 19:27
the example that some products are very successful in one market and they’re not in another market,

Colette Laxton 19:35
A hundred percent. So back to the caffeine. I created a product that you love. It’s so funny, because when we launched in the US so in the UK, so hyaluronic acid is our number one best selling products like globally so everybody is very clear. That a fantastic formula. And it does the job like if you do one thing better with your skin use hyaluronic acid, that’s my leg Tip of the day, but When we launched in the US the caffeine eye cream went bonkers. We were like, This is so interesting because in the UK, it wasn’t that big. And yet our southeast Asian market is a completely different subset of products that do really well. So really focusing on like antioxidants, vitamin C, q 10. Those products work really well in the Southeast Asian market. It’s fascinating to buy market, the different products and the different levels of skincare like Nordics are the most advanced skincare market ever. I couldn’t believe it, when we went to visit them. They were like miles ahead of where we are, they really all take care of their skin. They all go to dermatologists at a young age, it was fascinating.

Lara Schmoisman 20:44
I love that because it’s something that I’m obsessed with that at least once a year you have to have your skin check. And it’s something that culturally we’re not taught to do that. And it’s like more my generation X Gen. We never did that we were exposed to the sun. So we are learning late and trying to reverse the damage, which is not that easy.

Colette Laxton 21:10
It’s really, really not I was telling someone the other day, I’ve never told anyone this Laura. I was telling a friend the other day my family had and it was funny because we didn’t have much money at all growing up. But I think having a tan was so important to us. You know we were working class people in the UK and having a tan was like a real thing. And my parents had a tanning bed that went over the top of their their bed at home and age 11 They would allow me to go on the sunbed.

Lara Schmoisman 21:42
Oh my god. I’m from Argentina and getting really really dark. Like it’s completely fashionable. I mean, I know people that they spend eight hours on the sun in when they are like 100 degrees centigrade hours or 40 degrees and not 100 Fahrenheit 40 cent in WoW hours an hour on top of that. We used to put oil on our skin so we can get fried it’s crazy.

Colette Laxton 22:15
So I’m I’m at the point where I’m reversing you know, obviously, you know being in skincare, you know, understand the right kind of products, hyper pigmentation, but I do have dark spots, because you know, so young I was so exposed to the sun. But yeah, yeah, I’ve never told anyone that story. So I’m sure my mum –

Lara Schmoisman 22:39
I’m shocked. I mean, we, culturally I think things are changing also because the global climate is changing. And that’s why education is so easy. And to me even the small education about skincare is do you wash your face every day, because there’s so many people that they don’t wash their face. So everything starts with something so simple.

Colette Laxton 23:01
And you know, we’ve launched some really innovative ingredients and inky list. We are polyglutamic acid is you know, an amazing reading or tranexamic acid. We’ve got some really cool, innovative you know, very early to market ingredients. But you know what, that is so interesting that you say that Lara because Mark and I are first thing is are you washing your face properly, because you can use all these crazy gorgeous actives and ingredients and do 10 Step routines. If you’re not taking your makeup off at night and washing your face properly. Don’t bother you know the skincare basics and for me the inky list is sole purpose is to kind of take it back to basics and say guys, let’s get the basics right let’s make sure you are cleaning your skin. Let’s make sure you’re hydrating and putting SPF on like let’s just just take it down let’s get the education so everybody’s gonna

Lara Schmoisman 23:54
I have a question for you. And I don’t know if there is right or wrong about this because it’s something that I’m quizzing myself all the time. It’s primarily should be part of makeup or is part of skincare.

Colette Laxton 24:05
Keep interesting, super interesting because I’m really seeing a lot of hybrid now and I actually really like it because I feel like the old way of go and buy your skincare here and then go and buy your makeup here feels crazy because it’s the same face and you’re doing it you don’t use primer.

Lara Schmoisman 24:22
It’s like you ruin everything you do and you’re not protecting your skin all this can also appear that you do and then you put all that makeup. You’re missing –

Colette Laxton 24:33
I feel like a feel like I need to send you our new SPF. Oh yeah so our so this is the polyglutamic SPF and the brilliance of this and the reason why we launched this is we wanted to protect the skin but also for that exact reason. You want to prime the skin because SPF goes on last before your makeup. Yes. So works to prime the skin as well as protected. Oh, so that’s that

Lara Schmoisman 25:01
There are these lessons that I’m always like I use primer because I think it’s really important, but I’m always questioning myself why primer is part of a makeup line and not skincare.

Colette Laxton 25:14
Well, you got it all in one, then I’ll send you it.

Lara Schmoisman 25:16
No, I’m told you guys just try it. I mean, he or she answer my question Colette answer my question that I’ve been asking this question for a long time. And I asked my team all the time, because I don’t have the right answer. And I think the ingredients of a primary is a lot more skincare market. Yeah, that you don’t. So what other crossovers do you see with the makeup world?

Colette Laxton 25:42
Again, our new product that we’ve just launched our tripeptide plumping lip balm, this is the first time we’ve gone slightly out of categories. So we’ve gone for facial skincare. Like first debut into lip, and this was a really interesting one for me, because from a trend perspective, people are over lining their lips, they’re getting lip fillers. Now, you know, there’s a lot going on in the world of lip. But I personally don’t feel good about lip plumpers in the cosmetics space, because the whole premise of them is they stain the irritate they burn, because they’re trying to effectively get your lips to reject what you’re putting on. And then that makes them swell. I feel like that’s quite an unhealthy thing to be doing to your lip skin, which is super thin and easily easy to damage. You know, we’ve got to protect our skin barrier. So for us this was how do you take a product that is in the cosmetic space and bring it back into skincare and bring it back into looking after the lips. So the idea behind the plumping lip balm is that it’s an every day plumping product. It’s a it’s a lip balm, and it pumps over time. So you’re not damaging, it’s plumping from within. So you’re getting the same effect. But it’s a long term effect versus this thing, plump your lips out,

Lara Schmoisman 27:08
I get I cannot start I think that there’s too much going on on the lips lately. I see people that there really is one way street. People start with the lips, mostly women, and then they want more and more and more. And it’s a never ending. And absolutely, as you say is such a tender space your lips. So when I I heard about this product, I love the fact that I can do it over time. And it wouldn’t like just inflated my lips.

Colette Laxton 27:39
Yeah, exactly. So it’s about healthy. It’s about you know, at the end curious, we want to make sure that it’s about healthy skin. But we understand that people want a desired effect and people want plumper lips. So how do you do that in a really healthy way. So for me that again, kind of moves into that slightly cosmetic space, but done in a skincare way. So I think we’re going to see a lot more kind of hybrid products that allow people to kind of be within that skincare and cosmetics space at the same time.

Lara Schmoisman 28:06
Do you think that the income is will venture ever into makeup?

Colette Laxton 28:11
I get that question a lot. And never say never. We love to innovate. And my co founder is a is a scientist and you want to see the stuff we have at home and he’s working on continually It’s wild. But until we can find a reason to go into color, you know, you have to start with why you can’t just launch products, because that’s not really my product. And if we’re about education and supporting people with their skin, I can’t yet see why we would add value to the cosmetics category. So don’t want

Lara Schmoisman 28:46
Something really important here. And from the marketing standpoint, you have a very loyal customer. So if you can introduce some kind of products, you don’t want to disappoint them. You need to make, like, you need to make sure that it’s really this line is really connecting with the same audience. Otherwise, you create another brand.

Colette Laxton 29:09
Absolutely, yeah, I’ll never say never. And you know, who knows? You might in a couple of years be like yep. Now, like there’s a lot of brands and products out there. I don’t think I can add anything genuinely valuable. That’s not really out there.

Lara Schmoisman 29:23
Honestly, how do you feel about this industry, the beauty industry that a lot of people say that is oversaturated. But there is always room for one more product if you do something different.

Colette Laxton 29:35
And that’s it, you know, I have no problem with new things launching and you know, you know what I love I love where people disrupt categories and that’s what we tried to do when we launched in culus. You know, taking that insight of the Reddit and people are being confused about their skin and, you know, finding finding a way to support them. I love it when brands do really cool things and change categories. I just saw a very interesting laundry brands that just launched in the UK, and has like, very luxury fragrance they’ve gone into, like from a fragrance perspective into the laundry space, and a really cool way. And I just thought, you know what, that’s really cool because a lot of us are just using, you know, our basic laundry, I thought that’s really an interesting way to disrupt the category. But what I don’t enjoy is just like product after product brand after brand, but that have no real meaning and have no real

Lara Schmoisman 30:29
Yeah, when there is not a reason for it, or there is not any unique ingredient or something that will make them stand out from from the rest because it’s gonna be actually I feel sad when I see brands like that, because I see that it’s gonna be really difficult for them to compete, unless you have any an investor that you can put tons of money in advertising, it’s impossible to compete to make the difference is still

Colette Laxton 30:55
There’s always gaps, though, you know, even in a good example, we launched some products last year, and we’ve wanted to launch an as oleic acid for a very long time. It’s an incredible ingredient as like acid. But for me, there was still a gap in the market. Because most as the like acids on the market do the job really well of reducing redness. It’s honestly an insanely amazing ingredient. But a lot of the products that were out there didn’t layer well with skincare or makeup. So therefore if you are a person that suffers rosacea or redness, you were then having to treat it but then not be able to cover it. Now for people that have rosacea, the first thing they want to do is cover it,

Lara Schmoisman 31:35
Yeah. I love that. And you found the challenge and you want on your perfectionist. And that’s what I feel like you’re doing the difference, and you feel the gap and you fill in the gap.

Colette Laxton 31:47
So you don’t have to be first to market with an ingredient you have to be first to market with a gap that is within, you know, the consumer is still going. I really love as elec acid. But I really want to use makeup. Okay, well, let’s do something. So you can do both. So there’s still so much room to play. But do it. Yeah, do it with a real insight.

Lara Schmoisman 32:07
So they feel did you have experience that you had to retire a product from the market? Because it was something that you say that it’s why? Because it wasn’t selling because it wasn’t the right product because of evolve.

Colette Laxton 32:21
So I’ll give you two examples of products that we discontinued. As you can probably tell I’m a bit too honest, I will always tell you the real truth. I’m as transparent I always say we’re as black and white as our packs. So yeah, I’ll tell you the honest truth. So one product was snow mushroom. So we launched a snow mushroom moisturizer. Oh my goodness, favorite ever products. It’s phenomenal. Really gorgeous. And you know what I was at an influencer dinner the other night and someone said, Where’s your soy mushrooms the best product I’ve ever tried. And what was really interesting is for those beauty junkies, fanatics, they loved it. Snow mushroom has such a fantastic ingredient. But for us as a brand didn’t, didn’t work well. So people love technology and innovation from us. But this was much more of a natural, softer ingredient. And it just didn’t sell people that love it, adore it. But actually, you know, the main bread governing key customer just wasn’t interested.

Lara Schmoisman 33:17
Well, I’m like we weren’t that before. This is a business. So I the end of the day, your products need to sell otherwise. What do you do up to date?

Colette Laxton 33:25
As much as I like it, you know, that’s it. And then the other one was, we got into it. There’s a lot of kind of multi biotic sort of probiotic. stuff going going around the industry and has been for the last couple years. So we launched a product called a multi biotic moisturizer, which was pre and post biotic. We were too early. So there’s also a challenge as well about when you’re being innovative. If the markets not understanding and our job is to educate, that was a really tricky thing to educate on. So the microbiome, it’s it’s a tough one. So because we were launching and working with multiple products at that time, we weren’t able, if it was a one SKU launch, and you were all about the microbiome, and really talking about probiotics and post biotics. We’d have nailed it. And he, again, is one of our best products and some people write to us now and say please bring it back.

Lara Schmoisman 34:18
It’s fantastic that you can you really bring it back and remarkably different way.

Colette Laxton 34:23
Maybe I would, I would imagine we could. But again, it’s like we had the insight we had the ingredient. Guess what, guys, sometimes it just doesn’t work. And often I would say, you know when we launched the brand, the reason I think we’ve been you know half as successful as we have is timing is everything. Yeah, really is such an art and a science doing a brand you know, and you’re learning continually and you have to call it if it’s not working guys. It’s not working.

Lara Schmoisman 34:54
I always say it’s all about timing and it’s sometimes what you need to do. Just when you have something that you’re really passionate about, I talk to entrepreneurs all the time. And they say it’s not working. First of all, and this isn’t my next question is for you, it’s about brand awareness and how important is for your brand. But other times you’re too early in the process, or, or the audience are not ready. So what you can do is just hold on, wait a little rebrand, and relaunch it. You don’t have to. But if you really believe in your product,

Colette Laxton 35:30
No, absolutely. I think, I think timing is everything. And from a, from a marketing perspective, and I get worse, I’m exhausted the last five years of like, the marketing space, like I’ve been in marketing for 20 years now. I am exhausted because it’s changing at a pace that I just cannot keep up with. And I think COVID was a massive factor in that, you know, everybody was sat on their phones, and, you know, the the platforms, the rise of tick tock, I honestly cannot keep up with marketing at this point, in terms of the changing role. You know, we were in macro influencers, you know, you’d pay somebody a load of money, and I’d sell, sell your product. And it was a small window, where it was like, the most efficient thing you could do was pay one influencer, who had a massive following.

Lara Schmoisman 36:20
Do you think that today, you get a return of investment of working with influencers, or it’s just more or less,

Colette Laxton 36:29
I would say the influencer space is going through a really interesting change. And for me, as our brand personally, we’re a brand that has very loyal customers, and we get, you know, we’ve done some research recently that talks about peer to peer, most people finding culus from a peer to peer perspective, so that recommendation piece so for me, it’s not about the big influencers. For me, it’s about getting on the ground, you know, meeting with communities, getting them to understand the why of the of the brand. For me, that’s it’s harder work, believe me, like imagine if you could just pay one influencer still like that would be a lot less work.

Lara Schmoisman 37:10
I personally think the influencer has gone through a really tough time, but because I think it’s an industry that grows too fast and everyone wants to be an influencer. And there’s some that are just selling so many things so many products that is hard to believe that they will love all these products. So I personally believe a lot more than content creators and people that they give honest opinions about the invalid opinions, I prefer something that a regular customer giving me opinion that of a product than an influencer

Colette Laxton 37:44
100% I would say it there’s a there’s I’d love to know and I’m sure somebody be very rich if I could could work out the way you spend your money. So read product reviews, like reviews are such like for me more than ever now.

Lara Schmoisman 38:01
Reviews are so important, so important in this marketplace, but also you need to learn to know that for example, you are of course you are the to see you’re probably marketplaces you are in retail. And every place that you go means that you have more work for you and for your brand awareness because you need to find what your customer is for those outlets. And okay, so maybe the people from that you buy and Amazon, they’re hanging up now, Amazon, so you need to create content for Amazon. It’s the same for the people that you want in your website to buy in your website, you need to do email marketing, SMS marketing, you need to go to social media to create funnels. So it’s a lot of work. So you think think. And so as a brand today, see if you had to do it again, do you think that you will try to accomplish exactly the same that you did? Like 90 markets? No, what were 30 markets in 19 months, or you think your space it out? Or you say? Because I can imagine that that was a huge investment. Also, that was scary.

Colette Laxton 39:11
Very scary, very, very scary. And I think there was a lot of luck. You know, a lot of hard work, but there’s a lot of luck there. If I did it again, in 2023. I do it very differently. I think we were again, the COVID was was an interesting time and actually allowed us to accelerate the brand very, very fast because people were on their phones and you were able to kind of really drive that connection and education with them. If I was to do it now in 2023 I would focus on two three key markets and drive them hard. I think if I’m talking about if a brand is launching now, don’t go too fast and really own that market.

Lara Schmoisman 39:54
They’re thinking you would have gone retail immediately or you will try really to drive hard sells indeed. To see the to see on marketplaces, maybe?

Colette Laxton 40:04
It’s actually no, it’s a really tough one. So I’m from a retail background. So I kind of understand the way that retail works. So it kind of made sense for us to drive retail versus the DTC is. There’s the pros and cons, right? Retail is tough, it’s expensive, and they can spit you out as quickly as they scoop you up. However, what detailers have is presence. So what you effectively get is a lot of support and brand awareness through them. Whereas if you’re DPC only, it’s quite hard to, to really push through, because it’s just you and your little website, and how are you getting the word out there? So unless you have incredible marketers that can really, really drive that machine and can kind of acquire customers cheaply and efficiently? It’s tough for me, I would say it would be tough to drive around. So there’s no right answer. I would say try to maybe find smaller retailers that maybe will like take you under their wing and look after you. So you’re not kind of exposed to the big retailer. But they’re also coaching you along that journey of the door, like a step by step.

Lara Schmoisman 41:17
I’m not trying to grow. Because it’s, it’s not only risky. I mean, there are a lot of small brands that you don’t have they don’t have the budget to go into big retailers.

Colette Laxton 41:31
No, we didn’t. We didn’t. But we said yes. And found a way. So when when the when the big boys came knocking and they said, you know, we want to stalk you. We were like, Yeah, cool. You fantastic. We’re there. We took the PIO and then we went, right, we need more investment. I wouldn’t recommend that that was quite distressed,

Lara Schmoisman 41:50
And also some very different time. Very different time in the world right now. The requirements from retail have changed since then. Oh, yes.

Colette Laxton 42:02
So the better probably the better. I think we were probably a little too risk risk takers.

Lara Schmoisman 42:10
Well, you did well, though. Thank you. Well, congratulations to all the success I love your products. Keep going keep letting us know about new products. I can’t wait to try the new sunscreen and primer. And thank you so much for being here and for being so oversharing like me, I love people that are oversharing dangerous. Yes, we are. Thank you so much, Lara. This was really fun. Thank you. And to you guys. I’ll see you next week with more Coffee Number Five.

Find everything you need at Laraschmoisman.com or in the Episode Notes right below. Don’t forget to subscribe. We’re so good to have you here today. See you next time. Catch you on the flip side. What I love about beauty industries is that there is always room to grow. I love to learn more about innovation possibilities of investment and partnerships across the industries. If you want to learn more, join me at Beauty Connect these November 6 to eighth in Los Angeles.

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