We are Wild recreation skincare is a perfect example of an Indie beauty brand that got the brand story fundamentals right, and success with raving fans and retailers is a testament to that!
We are Wild is the first all-solid skincare system designed for everyday recreation. “Because active skin demands solid performance.”
Sally Kim, the founder, is one of the smartest founders and marketers out there. Within 30 seconds of seeing “We are Wild” online, I decided to dig deep to uncover how she created such a coherent and powerful brand story, something all Indie beauty founders could learn from.
Q1. I am very curious as to how did the idea for “We are Wild” come about?
Did it come in pieces or you had it all perfectly aligned at the onset-meaning beauty brand for the outdoor lifestyle, solid skincare, price point, beyond wrinkles and flawless skin, ease of consideration and convenience, beauty neophytes? What came first: the product or identifying an unmet skincare need for outdoor consumers who would have minimal involvement in the product? How did you go about finding this unmet need and how is your understanding of your target consumer so refined?
Sally: The idea came to me all at once when I was an expat living in Seoul, South Korea for 5 years. I’m originally from Portland, Oregon and lived a very active, recreation filled lifestyle that included a lot of outdoor activities and travel. I was always confused by all the beauty and skincare products in the market and felt that there wasn’t anything that fit or addressed my active lifestyle.
Since Korea is a leader in beauty and skincare innovation/R&D, I found myself immersed in the category and was always on the hunt for something that was new and innovative. That’s where I came across solid cleansing sticks and thought this is brilliant! I’m always having issues with my products leaking or putting everything into mini-size bottles so I thought wouldn’t it be great if all my skincare came like this. So the idea really started from an unmet need and then finding a product solution based on my own needs.
I also wanted to test the concept and being a market researcher by trade, found that globally 89% of consumers are confused by skincare products. When we first conducted research, most of the people we talked to could not mention specific products or brands they used, let alone know where to buy. We did store audits across outdoor and beauty retailers and found that at outdoor retailers like REI, self-care or even skincare sections were non-existent, except for some sunscreen and soap; at beauty retailers, it was all about 10 steps serums, oils, creams, masks, etc which made everything more confusing.
I thought we had a great opportunity to innovate, create, and disrupt not only the beauty/skincare category but also the outdoor/fitness/recreation space as well.
Sally: Our brand positioning is as follows: For the active enthusiasts who find joy in living a recreation filled life, We are Wild makes skincare designed for everyday recreation by making it natural, fun, and easy. Because active skin deserves solid performance.
We target the active enthusiasts – those that have purchased some skincare product in the past year, engage in weekly recreation activities and enjoy travel.
Initially, we were actively going after people who were confused by skincare/beauty and not currently using any products. However, we found that even the most die-hard beauty fans really enjoyed our products including some celebrities, celebrity makeup artists, influencers, beauty bloggers. Our products have either replaced some of their current products or have created new occasions (i.e. travel, gym, on-the-go, etc).
Sally: It was extremely important for us to establish brand legitimacy and validation in Portland. This was very important to us since a major part of the brand value was about living and celebrating an active lifestyle that’s so embodied by people living in Portland.
The biggest benefit of launching in Portland first was testing that our products actually made sense and were relevant to our consumer target. Once we launched with Poler Outdoor and found that their customers loved our products, it was a big win for us in terms of validating our proof of concept.
Sally: We are 100 percent self-funded and have not taken any outside investment. Since it’s a super small team there is definitely more we can be doing with social media, but we find that a brand like We are Wild is better expressed living out our brand values IRL.
This means a big part of our marketing strategy is to be where our consumers play and experience recreation joy through grassroots events and sponsorships of recreation groups, athletes, ambassadors, etc.
Our social media strategy may seem a bit counter-intuitive. We use social media more for brand discovery and going deep with our followers. All of our reviews and posts are not paid or sponsored. We never solicit reviews either. We’ve received content and reviews from real people legitimately liking our products and brands. Our social growth has been slower but much more organic and intimate as we have a huge repeat purchase and retention rate. I would say we grabbed the attention of retailers through our products and unique positioning but also via old fashion hustling, emailing, calling.
We’ve also earned a lot of organic press just from editors, celebrities, makeup artists, etc discovering us and believing in our mission and products.
Sally: Our focus is to attract the right customers and followers. We too think there’s still a huge opportunity to gain traction and buzz. Social media is really one method, and quite honestly, we’re not obsessed with gaining a huge follower count or engaging in questionable growth strategies as we know there are many ways to attract follower counts if that’s what you’re after.
We want to attract the right and best people that will fall in love with our brand, be inspired by our mission and say a nice word or two about us to their friends. Doing this the right way takes time and we’re all about doing the right thing.
Sally: We priced our products based on comparable competitive products. We found that the outdoor lifestyle consumer is not price-sensitive and willing to spend on products/brands they believe in.
The majority are beauty neophytes and do need some education and awareness building. But the interesting fact about this segment is that they know they need something for their skin but don’t know exactly what and have not found the right product.
We want to make the discovery for them much easier and that’s a major part of our on-going strategy. How can we become more accessible and present for these people.
Sally: Our goal is to really help facilitate a recreation filled life by not only making products that are natural, fun easy but also accessible and easy to find. That’s why we say Yes and partner with every retailer that’s interested big or small. Walmart was a big part of that goal.
We did receive some backlash and complaints about partnering with Walmart especially from some prestige retailers that were interested in our brand. However, saying no to the world’s largest retailer and not making your products available to the hundreds of millions of customers that shop at Walmart would be a disservice to our current and future customers.
Furthermore, Walmart has been a great partner. They’re also becoming a major player in the premium and natural beauty space and committed to showcasing brands like us. We were featured in Walmart’s “Here for Every Beauty” campaign last month.
Sally: a. Remember that it’s all about timing. When a retailer said no to us, I took that no as a not now, maybe later. Always look for the right timing to present and represent your brand. Don’t take no as a rejection.
b. You’re not alone. I think too often founders take entrepreneurial struggles very personally and often feel isolated and alone. Remember that every brand and founder has had similar struggles and obstacles. Seek advice, network, meet new friends, talk to your team, seek out other founders, and most importantly ask for help.
c. Stay true to your values. Don’t compromise. We were approached by a distributor in China and although the opportunity would have been potentially huge, we would have had to conduct animal testing on our products in order to sell there. Being cruelty-free is one of our core brand values, so we said no.
We are Wild elicits high loyalty and repeat business from its outdoor enthusiast consumer, the brand tribe.
The brand just launched online at Urban Outfitters with a new offering, Solid Block Active Cannabis Sunscreen, along with the Solid Clean Probiotic Cleanser, Solid Water Probiotic Toner and Solid Oil Nourishing Stick.
I wish Sally and We are Wild all the best. Watch out for this brand as it is for sure going places!
Please share your thoughts on We are Wild’s brand story by commenting below!
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ROHIT BANOTA, FOUNDER of STORYSAVES, has created, transformed and grown dozens of health and beauty brands across North America using Brand Story, Tribe, and Innovation.
He has over 15 years of marketing and business experience growing consumer packaged brands including startups and MNCs like P&G Beauty and Grooming and AB InBev.