EXCLUSIVE: Benefit Bets on Skin Care

Benefit is eyeing a new category for expansion.

The LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned makeup brand is getting into the skin care game. It is launching seven products: a cleanser, a toning foam, a cleansing oil, two masks, a moisturizer and a face wand, priced $20 to $44. The products will be entering the brand’s full distribution in the coming weeks.

Though the market opportunity is large, Benefit is homing in on its specialty. The products are an expansion of the Porefessional franchise, a cult-favorite primer and brand hero that minimizes pore appearance.

“We are incredibly strong in brows, and we felt we needed another category to drive our growth,” said Christie Fleischer, the brand’s chief executive officer. “We knew we had equity and credibility in pores, and when we listened to our consumers, we heard loud and clear that they care about their pores. Our research shows that 20 percent notice their pore size between ages 15 and 20, and they are clearly saying this is a fragmented market and didn’t know where to go.”

Benefit also has a robust services business, including 3,200 brow bars and has performed more than 5 million services to date. When speaking with the brand’s beauty experts — between 5,000 and 6,000 — Fleischer said they speak as much about skin as they do flagship brow services.

“We are the number-one brow brand worldwide, and having a second category to fuel growth is critical for us,” she continued. “We believe that, in the early years, 15 percent of our business can come through pores. In the short term, it will contribute a significant amount to our growth.”

From a marketing perspective, it will take Benefit’s whimsical approach to messaging and color across touchpoints. “The top-line thing we learned from research is that pores are an overall more negative space. People think their pores are bad, but we’re more positioned as a feel-good brand,” said Toto Haba, senior vice president of marketing and communications. “It made us rethink this idea of pore positivity, and that’s what our whole campaign is around.”

In addition to a slew of pop-ups occurring across the globe, the brand “invested heavily in things like an educational content hub on our site, and educating our field team. These were the key pillars of our go-to-market strategy,” Haba continued.

A rendering of Benefit’s Porefessional pop-up.

Given the popularity of the Porefessional pillar, Haba contended the skin care expansion “is going to be a super easy sell” for brand devotees. “We see a huge opportunity with our core market. Rather than looking at it from a demographic or a geographic standpoint, more psychographically speaking for those interested in pores are, it’s such a scattered field. You’re hunting skin care, you’re hunting makeup. Having a one-stop shop is something we’re going to be leaning heavily into.”

Haba didn’t rule out that Benefit’s services menu might include skin services, such as facials. “I wouldn’t take it off the table,” he said. “When you think about being the one-stop shop for pore solutions, think of all the different ways people try to treat their pores. It’s not just through skin care, it’s through makeup, it’s through services and devices.”

He acknowledged that launching into skin care is a typically challenging move for makeup brands, but is prepared to circumvent the usual obstacles. “What trips up a lot of makeup brands is how to communicate the efficacy of skin care products when makeup is so visible,” he said. “You have to do clinical studies to look at the evolution of your skin over time, which we did…in addition, sampling is so much more important.”

Education will also be key, as Benefit looks to immerse its thousands-strong network of aestheticians in daylong trainings.

To that end, the products went through almost 300 different formulas and took roughly four years to perfect. “We develop from a place of consumer need,” said Kate Helfrich, senior vice president of product and service innovation. “For example, we didn’t set out to create a toner. But through our research, we identified that a toner format would be one of the most essential formats to deliver on refining the look of pores. We didn’t care where we landed with the assortment, we cared that we had an assortment that delivered on the concern.”

Stretching the brand’s equity into skin care, Helfrich said, wasn’t a difficult task. “What differentiates is first and foremost is that we’re going after pores. We’re not just going after skin care, and we’ve got more credibility than any other brand with pores,” she said. “As an innovator, the options are endless. Pores are everywhere.”

Helfrich also emphasized the clinical testing that went into the line, including 12-hour mattifying effects from the clay mask. “They’re super sensory, they’re interactive and gorgeous. Very Benefit, but they also work really hard and have [tested] claims.”

It’s that backing, in addition to consumer testing, that gives the brand confidence ahead of launch. “We have crossed categories before, but now, we’re very focused on owning pores as an attribute across all of those categories, and being the undisputed solution for your pore needs,” Fleischer said.

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