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Beauty brand how to go viral or do word of mouth marketing?


“How to go viral? It’s the ultimate hyper-growth question that every beauty founder dreams of. Going viral is the pinnacle of word of mouth marketing.
However, many so-called “viral” sensations are not organic but artificially inflated through tactics like seeding with millions of emails or paid support, such as digital ads. It’s essential to recognize the darker side of social media influence, where likes, views, and followers can be bought and sold.
This article will delve deep into viral and word of mouth marketing for beauty brands. We’ll cover the following topics:


1. Chances of Going Viral 

2. Word of Mouth Marketing-The Alternative to Viral Marketing

3. Viral Marketing vs. Word of Mouth Marketing

     3.1 Speed of Spread: Overnight vs. Takes Time

     3.2 Deliberate vs. Unpredictable: Strategy, Campaigns & Fuel

     3.3 Single Channel or Initiative vs. Multiple Touchpoints for Speed of Spread & Network Effects

     3.4 Unsustainable by Itself – Sustainable Solution: Which is Better for Long-Term Success?

4. How to go Viral Maths

     4.1 Opt-In Rate

     4.2 Viral Coefficient

5. Steps to Create & Fuel Word of Mouth

      5.1 Core-community & conversation catalyst for word of mouth

      5.2 Channels & Initiatives for word of mouth

       a. Seed communities & groups

       b. Find & leverage ambassadors

       c. Create win-win partnerships with non-conflict beauty brands

       d. Emotionally resonant rewards program

       e. Brand community

       f. Channel partnerships

       g. Newsletter

 6. Summary


In 2014, Duncan J. Watts, a sociologist at Microsoft Research and the author of “Everything is Obvious How Common Sense Fails Us,” shared his thoughts on the topic at USC’s Annenberg Center. According to Watts, creating social epidemics through engineering is nothing but a fantasy that we all aspire to achieve, yet we lack any evidence to support it.

The chances of going viral are one in a million, according to another 2016 Stanford study.


You can create buzz & advocacy with strategic word of mouth marketing initiatives around your brand. According to a survey done in 2018 by Convince & Convert on US consumers, 83% of them claimed that a recommendation from a friend or a family member influences their purchasing decisions.


Viral marketing or word of mouth marketing for beauty brands

But what exactly is the difference between viral marketing and word of mouth marketing, and which approach is right for you? 

3.1 Speed of Spread: Overnight vs. Takes Time

One of the primary differences between viral and word of mouth marketing is the speed of spread. Viral marketing is characterized by its ability to spread rapidly and achieve overnight success. On the other hand, buzz marketing takes time to build and relies on sustained efforts to generate interest over a more extended period.

3.2 Deliberate vs. Unpredictable: Strategy, Campaigns & Fuel

Another critical difference is the level of predictability. Viral marketing is often unpredictable and relies on a bit of luck or timing to take off. In contrast, word of mouth marketing is often more deliberate and involves the use of carefully crafted strategies and campaigns to generate interest.

3.3 Single Channel or Initiative vs. Multiple Touchpoints for Speed of Spread & Network Effects

Another difference between viral and word of mouth marketing is the channels used to spread the message. Viral marketing often relies on a single channel or initiative, such as a social media post or a viral video, to spread the message. Word of mouth marketing, on the other hand, often uses multiple touchpoints and networks to spread the message quickly and effectively.

3.4 Unsustainable by Itself – Sustainable Solution: Which is Better for Long-Term Success?

While both viral and word of mouth marketing have the potential to generate significant attention and drive sales, it’s important to note that viral marketing may be unsustainable by itself and may require ongoing efforts to maintain momentum or might need work on conversions & loyalty. Word of mouth marketing, on the other hand, aims to create a sustainable solution that can continue to generate awareness, interest, conversions, and advocacy over time.


To go viral,

Viral Coefficient>=1/Opt-in Rate

4.1 Opt-in rate=

No. of people (aware of your brand) who refer/Total no. of people aware of your brand

4. 2 Viral Coeff.=

No. of people referred by those who opt-in

If the Opt-in rate =1, every aware person refers, so the viral coefficient>=1

-Problem with opt-in rate: Not every aware person refers

-Therefore, viral coefficient>=1/opt-in rate


-If one in five aware people refer, then opt-in rate =1/5

-So, the viral coefficient>=5 new people,

Everyone who does refer should refer at least 5 new people for your brand to go viral.

Whether for brand awareness or a particular marketing initiative, it is a challenge to achieve the above numbers.


Since one in 100K campaigns goes viral, expecting a paid or a social movement to go viral could be more dependable strategy. Plus, virality does not guarantee success though it can help immensely.

Either you go viral, or you manufacture virality. It is rare to manufacture virality, and there is luck involved.

But you can create word of mouth, and once it crosses a critical thresh hold, your brand can effectively go viral; it might not be overnight, however. 


Tribe strategy to drive word of mouth marketing for beauty brand


Instead of going viral overnight with one initiative, you can create a series of inter-connected initiatives and work on the maths of virality for each, thereby creating buzz. Over a period of time, after a certain threshold, your brand could reap similar but more effective and fundamental results for your business.

For example, In a 2018 interview with Glossy, Glossier’s President and COO, Henry Davis, stated that referrals have been a “massive driver” of growth for the brand and that word-of-mouth marketing has been one of the most effective ways of reaching new customers.

Finding a close-knit community and a relevant conversation catalyst is the core of creating word of mouth.


Find a Community

One example of a beauty brand targeting a specific community is Fenty Beauty, founded by Rihanna. It has gained popularity for its inclusive range of foundation shades that cater to a wide range of skin tones, including those often overlooked by other brands. Another brand, SheaMoisture, specializes in natural haircare products for Black women. By recognizing the unique needs and preferences of the African American community, these brands have created loyal customers and promoted diversity and inclusivity within the beauty industry.


Create a Conversation Catalyst

A central idea that is most likely to be shared by one person from the community with multiple connections: members, friends, family members, group members, and interest followers. The goal is to spread & feed the funnel back for purchase & advocacy in one step.

e.g., Dove emotionally transformed the brand and then created a master conversation catalyst: Real Beauty, with a series of derivative conversation pieces around what it means to be beautiful.

Since Dove had the coffers to spend money on advertising, it combined the power of money with a conversation catalyst and captured the market.

But, resource-constrained brands could make people their media by creating and fuelling a word of mouth campaign

You need to seed your conversation catalyst in your target community with capable tools and design and execute a collaborative experience for chosen channels.


Here are 6 different channels/initiatives you can use to create word of mouth marketing for your beauty brand. When you combine more than one of these below initiatives or channels to create buzz, it becomes a part of your tribe strategy that yields 6x profitable super fans.

Lush cosmetics charity pot for creating community and subsequent word of mouth marketing
a. Seed communities & groups

Example: Lush Cosmetics 

Community: They have built a loyal following by promoting their commitment to natural and ethical products and activism on environmental and social issues alongside organizations working on ecological and social justice issues. 

Conversation Catalyst: Annual “Charity Pot” program. Donate 100% of the proceeds from a specific product to the organizations championing causes.

Channel: Their DTC business consumers + organizations focused on eco and social causes.

Collaborative Experience: Campaigns and events such as “Charity Pot” organized & driven by Lush.

Capability: Lush uses fundraising and donation tracking tools, collaborates with grassroots organizations such as Rainforest Alliance, Animal Equality, Sea Shepherd, and 350. org., creates marketing materials such as posters, flyers, social media graphics, videos & a dedicated page on the site, and has a team dedicated to managing and promoting the program and its impact.

The program has raised over $56 million since 2007, as per its website, and donated to various organizations, which has increased Lush’s credibility and reputation as a socially responsible brand. 

Wander beauty seeding groups for word of mouth marketing for the beauty brand

Example: Wander Beauty

Community: Launched an experiential campaign called “Glow on the Go.” The campaign targeted both beauty enthusiasts and fitness enthusiasts.

Conversation Catalyst: Glow on the Go was the conversation catalyst where people could get mini makeovers fast from makeup artists.

Channel: Wander Beauty partnered with local fitness studios and gyms as well as opened pop-up shops across the USA

Collaborative Experience: The pop-up shops also included interactive experiences such as photo booths, product giveaways, and personalized skincare consultations: local fitness studios and gyms offered “sweat and glow” workout classes with their products.

Capability: Pop-up shops, Training Makeover Artists, Mini Makeovers, photobooths, product giveaways, and personalized skincare consultation tools.

Overall, the “Glow on the Go” campaign successfully generated word of mouth around Wander Beauty’s products and built a community of loyal customers. By creating a personalized and interactive experience for its customers, Wander Beauty was able to connect with its audience meaningfully and build excitement around its brand.

Lime Crime Ambassador program creates word of mouth marketing for the beauty brand
b. Find & leverage ambassadors

Example: Lime Crime

A makeup brand known for its bold colors, launched an ambassador program called “Makeup for Unicorns” to celebrate individuality and diversity.

Community: The campaign targeted Lime Crime customers who embodied the brand’s values and message. The brand asked for submissions on looks & then Lime Crime selected a diverse group of 100 customers to become brand ambassadors.

Conversation Catalyst: The “Makeup for Unicorns” campaign was the conversation catalyst. Customers were encouraged to share their unique makeup looks using Lime Crime products and share their personal stories of how the brand had helped them express their individuality.

Channel: Lime Crime’s ambassador program focused on more than just social media. The brand also featured its ambassadors on its website and email marketing campaigns, allowing it to connect with customers on multiple platforms and build a community beyond social media.

Collaborative Experience: Personalised gift boxes, feature on-site & social with their stories

Capability: Attracting the right fit ambassadors, creating custom gift boxes for them, and showcasing stories in compelling and novel content and format.

Overall, the “Makeup for Unicorns” campaign successfully found brand ambassadors who reflected the brand’s values and message and created an inclusive and diverse community of Lime Crime fans. By featuring real customers as brand ambassadors, Lime Crime created an authentic and relatable brand image that resonated with its audience.

Huda and Kayali love partnership for word of mouth marketing
c. Create win-win partnerships with non-conflict beauty brands

Example: Huda Beauty and Kayali

Community: Fans of Huda Beauty and KAYALI, as well as potential customers who are interested in both makeup and fragrance products.

Conversation Catalyst:  The limited edition gift set that includes a Huda Beauty eyeshadow palette and a KAYALI fragrance, which provides a unique and exclusive collaboration experience for customers.

Collaboration Experience: Huda Beauty and KAYALI partnered to create a limited edition gift set that combines their respective expertise in makeup and fragrance. The collaboration allowed customers to discover and experience the best of both brands in one exclusive package.

Channel: The collaboration was promoted on both brands’ social media pages and websites, as well as in select retailers where the gift set was available for purchase.

Capability: Both Huda Beauty and KAYALI brought their unique capabilities and tools to the collaboration, with Huda Beauty providing the eyeshadow palette and KAYALI providing the fragrance. The partnership also allowed both brands to leverage each other’s networks and expertise in marketing, product development, and distribution.

The Huda Beauty and KAYALI partnership created a unique and exclusive collaboration experience for fans and potential customers. The collaboration allowed both brands to reach a wider audience and introduce their products to new customers, potentially increasing their sales and brand awareness.

Charlotte Tilbury Vault is a loyalty program that creates word of mouth for the beauty brand
d. Create an emotionally resonant rewards program

Example: Charlotte Tilbury’s Beauty Universe

Community: The loyalty program allows customers to become part of an exclusive group known as “Charlotte’s Stars”, fostering a sense of community among those who share a love for Charlotte Tilbury’s brand.

Conversation Catalyst: The “Magic Vault” – a mysterious, exclusive benefit of the loyalty program that generates buzz and intrigue among Charlotte Tilbury’s target audience.

Collaboration Experience: You can unlock the “Magic Vault” by completing three orders totaling GBP 49 or more.

Channel: CT promotes loyalty program through various marketing channels, including Charlotte Tilbury’s website and social media accounts.

Capability: Selecting best-selling products from an assortment of lipsticks and eye shadow palettes, for example, for the Magic Vault surprises: that genuinely delight their fans.

The loyalty program allows Charlotte Tilbury to leverage their strengths in creating magical and exclusive products while also providing growth opportunities through increased sales and customer loyalty. The program also allows for acquiring knowledge and insights about customers’ preferences and purchasing behavior.

Glow Recipe Boss Babes community for word of mouth marketing

e. Create brand community

Example: Glow Recipe

Community: Glow Recipe’s brand community values motivation, confidence, and empowerment. They have created a meaningful relationship with their customers by going beyond promoting their products and offering a space for celebration and empowerment.

Conversation Catalyst: Glow Recipe’s “Boss Babes” interview series is an inspiring conversation catalyst. This series features successful female entrepreneurs, aligning with Glow Recipe’s motivation, confidence, and empowerment values.

Collaboration Experience: The series celebrates and empowers women, providing a unique collaboration experience for Glow Recipe and the featured female entrepreneurs. By showcasing these women, Glow Recipe creates a sense of community among its customers and empowers them to pursue their dreams and goals.

Channel: The series is available on Glow Recipe’s website and social media channels, making it easily accessible to their community.

Capability: To execute the”Boss Babes” series effectively, Glow Recipe uses social media, video production, email marketing, community management, and collaborative project management tools. These tools help share content consistently, track engagement and collaborate with featured entrepreneurs.

Glow Recipe’s “Boss Babes” interview series empowers women and fosters a sense of community by featuring successful female entrepreneurs.

Beekman 1802 partnership with hotels created word of mouth marketing for the skincare brand
f. Channel partnerships

Example: Beekman 1802

Community: Beekman 1802’s goat milk-based skincare brand, founded by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, established its community by partnering with hotels in New York City.

Conversation Catalyst: The hotels that partnered with Beekman 1802 pitched the farm as an added attraction to their guests. The farm, which had a little goat farm in upstate New York, offered goat milk soap products/samples to their guests.

Collaboration Experience: Guests who visited the farm bought hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of products and took pictures with goats, sharing their experiences on social media and with friends. They also brought back coupons to offer their friends and recommended a trip to the farm while planning their next trip, starting a chain of buzz.

Channel: Social media and word-of-mouth marketing were the main channels to spread the word about the farm and its products.

Capability: The goat farm and its unique offerings were the primary capabilities that allowed Beekman 1802 to engage its community and create word of mouth.

Beekman 1802’s partnership with hotels in New York City created a buzz for their goat milk-based skincare brand beyond sales to the hotels’ guests, who became loyal advocates.

Into the gloss created word of mouth for glossier beauty brand
g: Newsletter

Example: Glossier

Community: Into The Gloss, a beauty blog, played a crucial role in generating early interest and fostering a dedicated fanbase for Glossier even before the brand was officially launched.

Conversation Catalyst: The blog’s emphasis on authentic product reviews and exclusive interviews with notable beauty experts and insiders helped to establish Glossier’s credibility and generate excitement around the forthcoming launch.

Collaboration Experience: The collaboration between Into The Gloss and Glossier allowed the brand to leverage the blog’s existing community and credibility to create buzz and generate interest in the brand’s launch.

Channel: Through the blog’s website and social media channels, Glossier was able to reach a wider audience and establish a dedicated fanbase.

Capability: Authentic product reviews and exclusive interviews with notable beauty experts and insiders became a valuable tool.

Into The Gloss helped Glossier generate early interest and credibility through authentic reviews and interviews; collaboration and leveraging the blog’s community and social media channels allowed for a wider reach and dedicated fanbase.


Every beauty brand wants to do viral marketing, but going viral is a rarity, unpredictable, and often seeded with an insane amount of money and effort.

To go viral, your opt-in rate: people opting into promoting your brand/campaign should ideally be 1; otherwise, the viral coefficient, the number of people buzzed by one person who opts in>=1/opt-in rate.

The above is a challenging task in one stroke or campaign.

Instead, you can focus on buzz or word of mouth marketing for your beauty brand. Word of mouth is slower and requires a multi-channel and initiatives approach but a much more predictable and sustainable solution versus expecting to go viral.

To create word of mouth marketing, your beauty brand needs to identify a community and a conversation catalyst for the same and then leverage multiple initiatives to achieve buzz for conversions, loyalty, and advocacy.

Some of the initiatives include

-Brand Community
-Brand Partnerships
-Emotionally Transformed Rewards Program
-Brand Ambassador Program
-Seeding Groups
-Channel Partnerships

In addition to identifying a group with a suitable conversation catalyst, your beauty brand needs to create a collaborative experience with capability tools to execute the program.

Have you considered an alternative to super-expensive advertisements but one that is pure fundamental and converts the bottom of the funnel for sales, loyalty, and advocacy while driving word of mouth for your beauty brand?

Apply here for a discovery call to see how your beauty brand can benefit from creating word of mouth marketing with a tribe strategy! Apply now(you might win a scholarship)

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