You’ve Heard Of Tarte’s Lavish Influencer Trips. Here’s How Dip Did The Opposite.

Dip avoids traditional influencer marketing.

When it launched in 2021, the sustainable haircare brand hired two marine biologists to create content delving into environmental topics. “They were under strict instructions not to influence. I wanted them to talk about the environment more than Dip,” says founder and CEO Kate Assaraf. “They could use fun music on TikTok and do funny little vignettes. That’s about as influencer-y as it got.”

Last month, when Dip hosted a 12-day trip to Morocco, no influencers were invited. Most of the 11 attendees, including Rewash Refillery & Market owner Samantha White, Reboot Eco owner Yasemin Ugurlu, Sustainable Haus owner Janette Spiezio and Luna Locks owner NJ Fairy Hair owner Kate Fresso, were from the brand’s mom-and-pop stockists (it has about 300 total), and they were under no pressure to post about their excursion.

Unlike glitzy influencer trips from brands such as Tarte, the idea behind Dip’s trip wasn’t to make a huge splash on social. Its principal objectives were to tighten the already close relationship between Dip and the stores that carry it and help the stores convey that relationship to their customers.

From Feb. 15 to 27, Dip hosted a 12-day Morocco trip attended primarily by owners of stores that sell the sustainable haircare brand. Stops on the trip exposed attendees to artisan-made goods and highlighted sustainability.

“With any small store, the magic is when someone walks in, and they can tell them about how they went on a Dip trip,” says Assaraf. “In a digital world, it’s very cool to round out a human being. Maybe it shouldn’t be a big deal to round out a person, but right now with everything in headline form, it almost feels different. I’m trying to preserve that. It is what I feel makes the brand special.”

Often overlooked by the brands she sells at two-unit Rewash Refillery, where Dip is the No. 1 brand, White praises Dip and its trip for appreciating her and her business. “I’m not a big influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers, but I am boots on the ground in my shop every day talking to real consumers who want awesome, sustainable products,” she says. “I help them find solutions that are making an impact, and I’m proud that Dip is their choice over and over again.”

“In a digital world, it’s very cool to round out a human being.”

Dip selected Morocco for its trip because it’s a good place to showcase artisans, and the brand has a strong link to it. The father of Assaraf’s husband Jonathan, creative director at Dip, immigrated to the United States from the Moroccan city Fes. The trip began in Casablanca and wound through Fes, Chefchaouen, Ait Benhaddou, Essaouira, Marrakech and Midelt as well as the Sahara Desert and Atlas Mountains.

The itinerary was designed to stoke merchandise inspiration for store owners and highlight sustainability. Trip attendees visited a semi-nomadic family in the Atlas Mountains who integrates upcycled clothes and wooden beams into their dwelling, a factory where agave threads are spun into fabric for Moroccan Sabra or cactus silk, a tannery that depends on natural processes to produce leather, a Berber carpet cooperative where wool is spun and turned into rugs, and a women’s argan oil cooperative. For Assaraf, it was remarkable to observe the amount of argan nuts—66 pounds’ worth—it takes to yield a single liter of argan oil.

Dip founder and CEO Kate Assaraf

“The refill stores and sustainable stores are wonderful, but a lot of them are starting to suffer from sameness. You don’t really see a lot of handmade, artisan goods. You see a lot of bamboo stuff from China,” she says. “My goal is to celebrate the small stores selling Dip really well, but also give them an avenue into getting other types of sustainable goods that they don’t necessarily find off of Faire quickly.”

Attendees paid for the trip themselves, although Dip subsidized it and was careful to construct it so it could be recorded as business travel for tax purposes. It cost $1,650 to $1,950 per person, and Dip contributed $9,500 on top of the individual expenses.

“My goal is to celebrate the small stores selling Dip really well.”

To preview the trip’s destinations, Assaraf ventured to Morocco in 2022, another expense for Dip. The brand had originally slated the store owner trip for October 2023, but postponed it to Feb. 15 to 27 this year due to the devastating earthquake in Morocco in September last year. For the trip, it gifted attendees travel haircare bars, travel cases and Secret Sauce Enzyme Cleansing Spray, a body, face, hair and clothing funk corrective.

Dip focused on qualitative metrics rather than quantitative influencer marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) like social media audience, conversion rate and online sales growth to evaluate its Morocco trip. By its measures, the trip was a success.

For the trip, Dip gifted attendees travel haircare bars, travel cases and Secret Sauce Enzyme Cleansing Spray, a body, face, hair and clothing funk corrective, but they were under no obligation to post about the brand or its products.

“Now a community of people have this thing in common. We are all here to elevate small stores and the conversation around sustainability,” says Assaraf. “Sustainability in a bad economy is something we talked about a lot. What’s the future of being sustainable? Is it just trying to convince people to buy less stuff? And how do we navigate that when people are losing their jobs?”

While Assaraf craves close human connections a trip can facilitate away from constant scrolling, she realizes that’s not the main outcome many beauty brands seek from influencer trips—and she predicts standard influencer trips will continue, albeit under greater scrutiny. Tarte famously has been slammed for its extravagant influencer trips, notably a four-night trip last month involving 30 influencers at the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora.

“We are seeing layoffs around the country and a very lavish trip is not done in good taste for the general public, but if you are trying to create an aspirational avatar of who uses your brand, I think that’s a good move,” says Assaraf. “I don’t know if people paying the bills in this country see it and feel good about it, but I can see a young person idolizing and looking up to that trip.”

Dip expects to host trips like its Morocco trip in the future. For brands interested in orchestrating a similar trip, Assaraf advises they invite brand champions on it. “The people that came on the Dip trip are all super enthusiastic about the brand,” she says. “We’ve made money together, and there’s a sense of celebration of finally getting to spend time together.”