Tower 28 Has Had A Hot Start. Here’s The Multipronged Marketing Approach That Helped It Take Off.
There were no fancy analytics or agencies when Tower 28, a clean beauty brand focused on consumers with sensitive skin, started its marketing push before launching in April last year. Founder Amy Liu and an intern scrolled through Instagram to identify primarily micro-influencers interested in skincare, dealing with eczema and passionate about makeup.
“We were just trying to figure out who was interested and cast a pretty wide net. Had we gone into it thinking our audience was only the same as Glossier’s or a different lookalike audience, I think we would have really limited ourselves,” says Liu, a panelist at the entrepreneurial education conference BeautyX Demand Generation on Tuesday in Los Angeles. “It was a pretty labor intensive at the beginning, and the KPIs [key performance indicators] I was looking at were which people posted, what kind of posts they posted and the engagement on those posts. It’s hard to attribute sales directly.”
Tower 28 sent out 200 packages in its first influencer mailing and sprinkled in a few moonshots like beauty vlogger Nicole Guerriero. Guerriero posted about the brand, causing it to gain 1,000 followers and score 150 orders overnight. Three months later, in July, Tower 28 mailed packages to 300 influencers and, in September, scheduled with its debut on Sephora’s website, the brand had a mailing to 400 influencers. Today, its influencer list is closing on 500 social media gurus and, to date, it’s spent roughly $50,000 on influencer outreach.
Tower 28 hasn’t pursued influencer marketing in a vacuum. It’s widened demand generation strategies to encompass press relations, review efforts, events, retailer interaction and digital advertising. With the exception of hiring a firm after six months in existence to handle PR, the brand has run marketing programs in-house. “I really believe in creating real relationships,” says Liu, discussing her decision not to hire an influencer agency. “It can be expensive, and it dilutes the relationship you have with an influencer. We have chosen to take a more laborious, but more authentic route. It’s also more cost-efficient.”
The macro results have been covetable. Tower 28 has nearly 20,000 Instagram followers and achieved a 1.68% engagement rate on the platform, according to Phlanx, above fellow Sephora clean beauty brand Ilia’s .72% rate, but below Aether Beauty’s 2.01% rate. According to a forecast in WWD, Tower 28’s sales are on track to hit $2 million to $3 million this year, up from $300,000 to $400,000 last year. This month, the brand rolled out to around 500 Sephora doors across United States and Canada.
“So much of what we are trying to do is build awareness and leverage the influence of other people who genuinely like our products to do that.”
To assist with establishing credibility, Tower 28 includes makeup artists in its product seeding. That inclusion has led to Jillian Dempsey using its product BeachPlease Tinted Lip + Cheek Balm in the Magic Hour shade on Emilia Clarke, and Katie Jane Hughes posting about the brand on Instagram. Tower 28 participated in Jamie Greenberg’s swag bag in May last year, too, to connect with fans of the social media-savvy makeup artist. “We saw that celebrity makeup artists really like us. If you notice something works, you keep doing it,” says Liu. “So much of what we are trying to do is build awareness and leverage the influence of other people who genuinely like our products to do that.”
On the traditional media front, the brand has scored placements in Teen Vogue, Glamour, Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, to name a few outlets. Into The Gloss recently published a review titled “This Face Mist Has Become Most Of My Skincare Routine” about Tower 28’s SOS Daily Rescue, and Sephora’s site has been cleared of it. Sales on Tower 28’s site this week have tripled, partially due to the piece and partially due to the products selling out on Sephora’s site. To capture shoppers not finishing sales on its site, the brand two weeks ago initiated spending $100 daily retargeting those with abandoned carts to increase conversions. Prior to the retargeting, Tower 28 had outlaid minimal amounts—Liu approximates $5 here and there—on boosting social media posts, but pulled away from the boosting on the advice that sporadic social media advertising didn’t effectively harness algorithms.
Not all press has been absolutely perfect. “Because my own story is one of someone who has eczema, sometimes people talk about it as a brand that is for people who have eczema only, which feels narrow in scope,” says Liu. “If you have acne and read something about this brand for people who have eczema, I don’t want you to feel it’s not for you. That’s the hard thing about using someone else’s platform to tell your story. You don’t get to control the narrative.”
To drive interest in its in-store presence, Tower 28 is kicking off a contest urging people to tag and share pictures of its products inside Sephora to win a $500 gift certificate to the retailer and $500 worth of the brand’s merchandise. Previously, it’s done giveaways and events in collaborations with brands such as ZitSticka and Sonix. Referring to an event with Sonix, Liu says, “They invited influencers and so did we. They introduced us to a different audience than the influencers that we were already working with, and we expanded our audience.”
To encourage reviews, Tower 28 sends a travel-size SOS Daily Rescue to customers that screenshot their reviews on sephora.com and direct message the screenshots to the brand. Outside of its Sephora-related activities, the brand has been involved in Supergreat, a platform doling out rewards to community members that review beauty products. Liu estimates Tower 28 has provided Supergreat 300 products in three shipments to elicit reviews through it.
“Supergreat has a younger audience, and one of my initiatives this year is to tap more into the gen Z audience,” she says, detailing Tower 28’s core customers are 18- to 34-year-old women in California, Texas, New York and the Northwest. Liu says, “In general, if you believe as I do that your products are good, putting more products out there with the intention that people will tell other people is a good idea.”
Liu’s definition of an influencer is broadening as her company expands. She mentions, for example, that Sephora sales associates should be considered influencers. She pops into Sephora stores, and hands them products to inspire them to trial and spread the word about Tower 28. In July last year while Liu was at Sephora’s headquarters in San Francisco for a meeting, she passed out popsicles and lip gloss to staff. They were passed out not exclusively to the buying team, but to employees in e-commerce and operations as well, among various departments.
“Influence has always been and will always be a real thing. That’s how people make decisions,” says Liu. “It’s just a noisier landscape where it’s more democratized. It’s not only from an expert or celebrity. You need a 360 approach, where it comes from a lot of different places.”