Established in 2016, Perfect Diary (完美日记) became a beauty disruptor and one of China’s shining success stories in a relatively brief amount of time. The young brand targets millennial and Gen-Z consumers who have higher disposable incomes and are known for their enthusiasm for advanced skin-care routines.
The success of the brand wasn’t built through big marketing campaigns, but through a savvy digital marketing strategy that increased brand awareness and generated high engagement, traffic, and conversions. With only 40 physical stores, which are mostly used to drive consumers to e-commerce portals, Perfect Diary maintains momentum primarily through its digital footprint. Currently, it has a powerful presence on Little Red Book, Bilibili, Weibo, WeChat, Tmall, and Douyin.
The company’s most recent digital campaign featured China’s very own top beauty influencer Li Jiaqi and his puppy “Never.” The ads were promoting an animal-themed eye palette, and they generated instant hype among young netizens. This is not the first time the indie beauty brand achieved its marketing goals with KOL or influencer partnerships — or increased brand awareness and traffic with brilliant content. In the past, it partnered with the British Museum and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art to launch beauty products.
According to Daxue Consulting, during Alibaba’s 2018 11.11 shopping festival, the eyeshadow palette Perfect Diary produced in partnership with the British Museum sold one makeup set every 11.5 seconds. Furthermore, during the same shopping festival, Perfect Dairy became the top Chinese makeup brand by achieving a 141 million (1 billion RMB) turnover in 13 minutes.
Taking into account that the Chinese brand has become a veritable hype machine by building on its relationships with consumers and generating excitement with each new product launch, it’s not surprising that Perfect Diary came in 6th on the Hurun Greater China Unicorn Index 2019 Q3 list of most dynamic businesses with a valuation at 985 million (7 billion RMB).
In the digital age, it has become easier to build brand value and communicate with buyers through a variety of online marketing communication methods. From podcasts to blog posts, there are many effective ways to communicate a company’s message. However, with multiple communication methods and social media channels that each aggressively target the same audience, it’s hard to capture the interest of today’s modern, hyper-connected consumer. Only brands that generate prime, quality content can truly engage with audiences.
Perfect Diary is a master of digital storytelling and content marketing. It uses its social media content to communicate product releases, behind-the-scenes footage, and partnerships with celebrities and KOLs, while also responding to product and ingredient inquiries. This highly-targeted approach boosts its social marketing performance enormously.
For example, the 16-color eyeshadow compact the brand jointly designed with the British Museum became a hot discussion topic with beauty product fans and cultural creatives, according to Christy Sun, the vice president of marketing for Perfect Diary.
In a 2018 interview with CGTN, Ms. Sun stated, "According to the latest FAST rankings released by Alibaba Group's B2C platform Tmall.com, Perfect Diary leads the cosmetics industry in terms of member engagement. The average views of the headline posts published by the company on its WeChat account surpassed 100,000. This extraordinary engagement that is head and shoulders ahead of our domestic and foreign rivals ensures the brand's connection with its fans."
According to Marketing to China, total retail skincare product sales in China reached 36.87 billion (255 billion RMB) in 2018. Euromonitor International expects sales of beauty and personal care products in the Asia-Pacific region to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7 percent between 2018 and 2023, while China alone is forecasted to grow at 9 percent.
Considering the potential of this market, it’s no surprise that there’s intense competition between global and domestic brands inside China. International names still dominate the market, but indie beauty brands like Perfect Diary have been gaining momentum — and digital marketing has enabled this change.
Celebrity endorsements and partnerships with local idols are still influencing the buying decisions of younger consumers. So Perfect Diary collaborated with Zhu Zhengting, the lead singer of the Chinese band NEX7, by making him the ambassador for the brand’s lipstick collections, thereby improving fan engagement and generating buzz.
For the 11.11 shopping extravaganza, Perfect Diary also partnered with China’s “Lipstick King” — the livestreamer Li Jiaqi — to launch the brand's “small pink diamond” lipsticks.
Not all brands can leverage the power of their communities and transform their followers into real brand cheerleaders. In the US, Apple is doing an excellent job utilizing the power of its loyal brand followers, and in China, Hermès and Louis Vuitton have created their own engaged communities. But rarely has a beauty brand, particularly an indie Chinese one, created a fervor like Perfect Diary has.
The power of the close-knit Perfect Diary community has transformed this young beauty brand into a national phenomenon, and Perfect Diary knew how to monetize this affection. By creating unique products that resonate with consumers, Perfect Diary has increased brand awareness and taken ownership of the experiences, memories, and influences that beauty fans associate with using cosmetics. This has built engagement and advocacy while boosting sales.
China is experiencing a natural consumer upgrade to local brands because of evolving consumer sophistication, a rise in nationalism, and improved domestic products. Therefore, Global beauty brands can no longer ignore this phenomenon or expect to maintain their leadership positions just because they have a longstanding presence in the country or are market leaders in the West.
Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, and Lancôme are still commanding the market, but the case of Perfect Diary shows how indie domestic players and newcomers can become smashing successes. In the end, Perfect Diary was the top-ranked makeup brand through sales at last year’s 618 shopping extravaganza and Alibaba Singles Day — not a European beauty company. So if a domestic brand can win this accomplishment in only four years, more local players will start commanding the market soon enough.