Picture this: you're an indie brand founder, and a manager from a global beauty giant buys your products to inspire their next launch. In another scenario, a top Amazon seller has your packaging in hand, sending it off to their manufacturer with hopes of mirroring your unique mold. Or how about this, poor-quality counterfeits are causing complaints, that you have to deal with. These challenges are all too common for emerging indie brands. With the line between inspiration and imitation being razor-thin and blurred.

In an earlier article on our blog, the advice for brands battling copycats spoke to the power of consistently innovating and reinvesting in R&D and nurturing B2B and B2C community bonds to stay a step ahead. Over time it's these community bonds that build trust indicators online (think industry awards, glowing 5-star reviews and a fiercely loyal social following) that will help discerning customers to gravitate towards original brands over sub-par copycats.

Given the persistence of this issue, it's a topic worthy of an ongoing discussion. So we've captured some additional viewpoints to share. Here are 3 ways that indie brand founders can stand their ground;

1. Invest in your tribe, it costs less than you think

While people can copy your formulas, when it comes to the genuine connection that your customers have with your brand – you can’t bottle that. When you reflect on your brand's investments; how much are you allocating towards influencer marketing and PR in comparison to community engagement?

Every indie founder might dream of a limitless budget for community initiatives and events, the reality for emerging brands is different. But there are simple approaches that can pave the way to a deep-rooted sense of connection with your tribe, that won't break the bank.

The startup brand Calling has a WhatsApp Community called ‘The Hotline’ where the community connects and reflects about all things life, health, love and skincare and tees up meetup events.

Skincare brand Mara Beauty recently hosted a wellness walk. A simple execution, yet a priceless opportunity for offline engagement. Social media burnout is driving a search for real community and authentic connection is becoming the new luxury. The ROI on simple events like this can be immeasurable.

2. Become a people magnet
It’s going to take an A-team to out-innovate, out-create to stay a step ahead of the copycats. But here’s the thing, top talent seek resume-worthy brands that don’t just look and sound the part, but have a compelling mission and brand values that they actively live out.

To Gen Z hires in particular, having a successful career means working for a brand they believe in. In the article Gen Z is entering the beauty industry by Good Light, Gen Z candidates shared that a connection with a company’s ethos and content is paramount when it comes to finding a new role.

Take it from this Gen Z TikToker herself, beauty job candidates are led by their values (in fact, don't we all). So what’s your rallying cry? And is it obvious when a prospective recruit engages with your brand’s content online?

@kristine.chao storytime of how I now work in the beauty industry ???? #fyp #beautyindustry #PR #beautymarketing #beautycareer #prtiktok #fashioninstituteoftechnology ♬ Lo-fi hip hop - NAO-K

3. Bring more of 'you' to the table

Bringing more of ‘you’ sounds deceptively simple, doesn’t it? The true spirit of a brand remains a hard code to crack. Every beauty brand has the opportunity to be truly unique when its identity is sprinkled with the founder’s signature. This is their values, their personality, their personal story, and a visual aesthetic that resonates with their own style. This unique combination creates a one-of-a-kind blueprint. Brands that craft their identity solely around what’s trending or adopt a brand identity designed to mirror current consumer preferences fail to leverage this.

Makeup brand Isamaya was founded by leading Brittish makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench who has challenged conventions and pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in her craft. Her beauty brand is no different. Stated as ‘stretching the limitations of beauty’ in keeping with her creative spirit, everything about the brand is unconventional - and the brand's packaging speaks for itself.

The level of intimacy you have with your customers in the early phases of growth is something that multinationals simply can't replicate. We've consistently seen how a brand's social engagement surges when their founder shows up in their content. While every founder might not resonate with the idea of being the face of their brand on social, there's a sweet spot that can be achieved when it comes to showing up that can be impactful. It can be one of the most powerful ways to build brand loyalty.

In an industry riddled with replication, at Beautiful Sparks we help brands define what makes them one-of-a-kind and how to amplify their brand values across their content, campaigns and community building initiatives.

You’re welcome to book a free brand assessment, to explore custom strategies for how to fortify your brand as you scale and grow.


Author: Effie Asafu-Adjaye
Effie Asafu-Adjaye is the Founder of Beautiful Sparks. Beautiful Sparks helps beauty and fashion businesses get more fanatics in love with their brands, by refining their brand strategy, messaging, branding, content storytelling, and community-building strategy. Read more about Effie here. Linkedin | Youtube