'Not easy to build a brand in this sector': Typology builds mark with consumer-adapted cosmetics

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Typology has a range of skin care products made using minimal ingredients - all certified vegan (Image: Typology)
Typology has a range of skin care products made using minimal ingredients - all certified vegan (Image: Typology)

Related tags: Indie beauty, Skin care, vegan, genderless beauty, transparency

French direct-to-consumer cosmetics startup Typology is only 18 months old but growing up fast in a hyper-competitive cosmetics scene it has vowed to ‘demystify’ with minimalist ingredient lists and a matching genderless aesthetic.

COVID-19 disrupted its launch into the UK earlier this year but a digital campaign promoting ranges like ‘PRIMAIRE’ and ‘TEN’ got noticed among the style mags and influencers and British sales had quickly reached 20% of revenues for the Paris-based firm. Belgium and the US are other focus markets outside France.

Building a beauty brand in a 'competitive' space

Former Made.com chief and Typology founder Ning Li told CosmeticsDesign-Europe supply chain transparency and direct consumer connection was primary to everything the company did – from its enviro actions to ‘genderless’ cosmetics.

“The personal care and cosmetics industry is competitive, it is not easy to build a brand in this sector,” ​Ning said. “If the norm is to be strong and eye-catching, using bold colours and ‘millennial/Gen Z friendly’ emojis in order to attract the attention of consumers, we felt it was more important to create a beautiful visual language that could stand the test of time.” 

Typology targeted key journalists and influencers and advertised on various online and social platforms, he said, along with the Metro subway system in Paris to build brand awareness. 

“All these elements contributed to building Typology's notoriety and making word-of-mouth work,” ​Ning said. “Today, organic traffic represents between 80% and 90% of revenues. Our consumers and our community are our best ambassadors. We do not necessarily target a specific category of consumers. Our products are genderless.”

Transparency: ‘The way we design our products must change’

Traditional cosmetics industry practices too frequently ignored real consumer concerns, Ning emphasised, often with devastating environmental consequences.

“Transparency in communication is essential for us,” ​he said. “It allows us to rebuild lost trust between skincare brands and the consumer.

“Inclusivity is more than ever at the heart of consumer expectations. Unfortunately, the industry has too often neglected this aspect. A formulation that respects both humans and nature is more important than ever. The global pandemic is just one more signal that our consumption habits and the way we design our products must change. It has accelerated consumption changes and seen consumers turning to digital and ethical brands.” 

Ning said Typology’s offerings which include serums, face creams, botanical oils, facial soaps, hair care and perfumes, were arrived at with frequent and vigorous consumer input.

“It's up to brands to adapt to what consumers are looking for. They set the rules. The transparency that we provide in our formulas and communication messaging is in response to a growing demand for a direct link with consumer brands.”

Keeping it simple, staying engaged

Along with its minimalist aesthetic, Typology’s ethos is built on ingredient simplification – its website included a lengthy blacklist of ingredients it won’t use for instance.

“One of the brand's hero products is the 9-ingredient moisturiser, this minimalist product sits in the TEN range, a range that always has a maximum of 10 ingredients,”​ Ning said. “The industry standard for moisturisers is to design formulas containing an average of 20 to 30 ingredients non-essential for the purpose of the product.”

On the environmental front the firm has a pending B-Corp label and engaged in a  ‘Black For Good’ campaign on the recent Black Friday that saw 80 brands donating profits, ​and of which 70% were competitors, Ning noted.

“Typology donated its profits to Eden Reforestation Projects and planted more than 100,000 trees,” ​Ning said. “We plan to renew the operation this year with an international dimension. The more brands with committed values, the more we will all be tempted to push the limits.”

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