The skin care brand Facetheory was started up in 2015 in Sheffield by Jamie Shuker – a founder with absolutely no beauty industry experience whatsoever.
Over the past eight years, it has amassed a cult following and is starting to expand. In early summer, it hired a Chief Marketing Officer, Marc Gallagher, who was previously Chief Brand and Digital Officer at ELEMIS, who was excited to join a beauty brand with a completely different value proposition.
“As an ‘industry outsider’, Jamie built this brand based on highly functional formulas without a lot of traditional marketing,” explained Gallagher, when asked why he has chosen to work with Facetheory.
“The initial thought process behind the brand was to create beauty products that didn’t harm the Earth,” he said. “A lot of brands claim to be clean, but they still have some silicones or microplastics in the products, or are a petroleum-based product.”
“We have a very significant list of things that we just won't formulate with that other clean brands would,” he continued. “We also only package in amber glass, sourced locally, and aluminium tubes, reducing plastic to a bare minimum where it's absolutely necessary, such as a cap.”
Facetheory also has its own in-house R&D in Sheffield, which means it has full traceability throughout the entire development process.
However, with such strict values, formulating products and choosing packaging materials is no easy task for the team.
“I've been rejecting formulas a lot lately,” Gallagher shared. “I’ve worked at brands where texture and sensorial nature is so core to the experience that when you remove a silicone or dimethicone from a base of a moisturiser you no longer get that beautiful slip. So, you have to work harder to find that texture without using any kind of petroleum-based product.”
Growth, expansion and NPD plans
Facetheory was created as a direct-to-consumer brand and has always been highly focused on ‘demand capture’. According to Gallagher, the brand monitored what was bothering people in terms of skincare issues and what they were actively searching for on search engines.
“If you type ‘glycolic acid’ into Google, we will show up on your shopping feed,” he explained.
He said that by analysing consumer search terms over the past eight years, the brand has discovered plenty about the skin concerns many people are struggling with.
Recently, its focus has been on finding new ways to solve age-old skin problems and it has seen a lot of success with azelaic acid as an underused ingredient that people really want. “We've formulated some amazing serums with it to resolve texture and acne issues, such as scarring,” he said.
One of Gallagher’s tasks in the role is to launch the brand into new markets. As a New Yorker himself, he was excited to launch into the US market as he believes there is a lot of opportunity for the brand.
He shared that Facetheory had also just signed deals with German, Italian and Spanish retailers and that the brand is just about to launch into Sephora in both Australia and New Zealand in mid-September.
As Facetheory is not your ‘average’ skin care brand, it has sometimes taken less traditional retail routes. For example, Gallagher said that the products are sold in Zalando and that he was keen to “make a much more meaningful business there”.
For Gallagher, having a ‘more educated’ customer means not needing to take the traditional beauty retail routes to succeed. “The fact that they’re searching for glycolic acid tells me that our customer is more familiar with skin concerns and is seeking a specific solution to a problem. So, we can go after other types of distribution that other brands might not consider,” he said.
Although Facetheory has a direct-to-consumer history, going forward it is aiming to get more people into brick-and-mortar stores where they can touch and feel the product.
“I really want to drive that sensory experience in store and so leveraging partners like Sephora is going to give us a really great platform to get customers in who just want to experience the brand,” he said.
In terms of NPD, which falls under Gallagher’s remit, he said the brand is currently innovating in the vitamin A space: “Expect to see some new and very powerful multi-functional vitamin A products out next year,” he revealed.
He also said it’s revamping textures and adding more functional benefits to its collection of base foundations that are already on the market.
In general, Facetheory is making a big shift to ensure its skin care products are both efficacious and enjoyable to put on. And as it does everything in-house, it can put a product out into the market much quicker than others can.
New social media marketing strategy
Another strong point for Facetheory is its loyal customer following who love to share their results. “We've had some really amazing before and afters, unprompted by us,” he said. “These are people who have tried our products and had such good results that that they want to share it online.”
He continued: “Despite my years spent in the beauty industry, I've not come across a brand where people are so willing to provide that level of results sharing because they're just so happy.”
He noted that half of Facetheory’s customers are over the age of 35 and at least 30% of them are men. He also said because the brand attracts consumers who are more educated on knowledge of ingredients, often community members are building the routines for the brand.
“We have a lot of influencers in the community who share their experiences and will say: ‘use this cleanser with this moisturiser, or with this serum,” he said.
Thanks to this, up until now the brand hadn’t needed to spend much of its budget on marketing, but Gallagher acknowledged that “you have to put some money behind those stories in order to really amplify them.”
He also believes that potential customers want to see more behind-the-scenes action for the brand and revealed that he had planned to update the TikTok strategy based on this. And that finding environmentally friendly partners was also high on the priority list.
“We are really keen to develop relationships with key partners and influencers who are likeminded, given that we are PETA-approved and vegan- and B Corp-certified,” he said.