Hana Lee founded Melixir in 2017 to develop healthy, sustainable skincare products that are plant-based without any toxic chemicals. The company had successfully launched in South Korea, and by 2019 was available in the United States as well through the company's own website and through the Urban Outfitters online store. Hana and her team were planning to expand their activities in the United States, and they identified the Bay Area as their first foothold with US consumers. Hana had participated in YCombinator in her past role at Memebox and so was already familiar with customers in that region. How would they strategize their event to drive brand awareness?
Planning a Vegan Beauty Party
Melixir planned a vegan beauty party where they would make bathbombs together with attendees and showcase their products. They were considering different strategies to create the invite list to the party. It could be an invite-only event or open to the public. They could focus on influencers within cosmetics, lifestyle, and vegan industries, or bring in regular customer to try their products. The company had secured a location with a residential decor rather than commercial space, and they would be able to fit between fifty to eighty people.
Although Hana was quite confident that their product would be the right fit for the United States, she wanted to generate actual evidence rather than go on instinct along, so she wanted to use this event as a testing ground to for their messaging and product mix to pre-validate a larger rollout with more resources the coming year.
The company has two intertwined goals. First, as with any company, Melixir wants to grow their revenue and profitability. Second, Melixir wants to do so by driving change into the cosmetics market by promoting good health for their customers, reducing the environmental impact of the materials and packaging, and eliminating animal cruelty. So this event would provide an opportunity to validate these offerings in the US market, even if only with a small initial audience.
The Invite Strategy
Conventional thinking would be to focus one thing at a time, and to separate all goals into distinct activities. For example, influencer engagement should be a distinct activity from customer engagement, and while it is true that Melixir had a clear definition of how to engage consumers differently from influencers, they wanted to run a small and efficient event that would achieve multiple business goals. So the company settled on a mixed event where they would invite influencers to be about 10-20% of the attendees, and these would receive a direct invitation from Melixir, while general registration was also opened on the company's website to also have customers attend.
Doing so enabled both to investigate the differences between consumers in the US market and the Korean market while also engaging and onboarding social media influencers to be a part of the Melixir brand experience.
To set up the party, Melixir opened multiple channels to reach out to attendees. Influencers were identified and vetted by the Melixir team on social media networks to asses for brand fit and follower demographics. They made a short list and sent them personalized messages to their personal inbox asking them to attend, and providing personal, concierge-like communication to bring them into the party. For existing and potential customers, Melixir ran a digital marketing campaign using a mix of a landing page for registrations and social media posts to drive traffic.
As a result, they were able to fill the event to capacity, and on Oct 2, 2019, Melixir completed their first Vegan Beauty Party in the United States.
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We had a super exciting and greate vegan beauty party last Saturday!🎉✨✨ We made vegan bath bombs and enjoyed a lovely time at Melixir space🙆 It was great sharing more about the vegan and clean beauty community in San Francisco.❤️ A big thanks to all! Thank you so much!
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The event was a definite success, and as a result, the team extended their stay in the United States from an initially-planned 3 weeks to a full four months to begin making preparation to invest in a local forward office for direct marketing to consumers as well as wholesale distribution to retailers.
In this 4-month period, Melixir was able to run a self-directed market entry into the United States, without a need for external sponsorships, investors or partners, and this placed the company in a uniquely valuable position where they retained full autonomy in their messaging, branding, and market positioning for the US market. A position that they would be able to build on.
Vegan Lifestyle and Impact
When Hana first launched Melixir, their key audience were the vegan consumers who wanted natural products, free from toxins and free from animal suffering. A vegan lifestyle is not just to avoiding consuming animals in your food, but also making sure that animals aren't used in the other products that you use, including cosmetics, fashion, and accessories.
This was a very important factor for Melixir when launching the brand, and while the initial focus is to serve consumers with products to achieve a vegan lifestyle, there is a growing awareness in the general public that business and products should be more sustainable. Beyond just veganism, the company is striving to reduce waste in their packaging, develop more formulations that help to relieve common skin conditions, and engage with stakeholders on water conservation and general health in the population.
COVID19 Update and Next Steps
As the COVID19 epidemic spread to the United States in early 2020, the company found a need to adjust their strategy. They temporarily scaled back having a direct presence in the United States, and instead are focusing on the Korean market with their core team, and working with retailers through their wholesale channel to reach global markets.
Hana and her team will continue to develop their products according to their impact pillars to ensure good health for their customers, reduction in animal cruelty, and avoiding waste and excessive carbon emissions.
These steps will help the company change the cosmetics industry to be healthy and wholesome for consumers, with non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and functional materials that promote good skin health. .
Regarding waste, Melixir is already using plastic made out of sugar cane that reduces 72% of emissions during production compared to packaging that is made out of traditional plastic, and the company continues to seek out partners and ecosystem stakeholders that can help create a healthy, sustainable lifestyle for all.