With global revenue over $571 billion US dollars and trending upwards, health & beauty has proven to be a resilient and dynamic sector.
Able to reshape itself around expanding innovations, shifting consumer demands, and intensifying competition, it takes a keen eye and expert knowledge to navigate this ever-evolving industry.
In an exclusive interview, MacGregor Black’s global health & beauty specialist, Kriisti Atherton, sits down with Jennifer Carlsson, the beauty brand expert and Founder of market research business, Mintoiro to delve into her journey, her expertise, and what makes her such a sought-after figure in the industry.
Kriisti Atherton: So, Jennifer, for those who haven’t come across your profile yet, can you introduce yourself and tell us what makes you the ‘Beauty Brand Expert’?
Jennifer: Oh wow, where do I start?
Well, my name is Jennifer Carlsson, I’m a 30-year-old beauty brand strategy consultant, data analyst and designer from Stockholm.
I’m also the founder of my own professional services business, Mintoiro, and I launched the Beauty Design Awards in 2020.
At Mintoiro, I work closely with independently owned beauty brands to help them get loved by the people that care, and take market share from big corporations…
At the moment, I spend most of my time doing competitive market research, which I love, and it also helps be inform the consulting work I do.
I guess a lot of people might also know me from LinkedIn. Every month I post updated lists of the ‘Top 100 Brands Trending on Instagram’ across skincare, makeup, haircare, and fragrance. Those I’ve been posting for a few years now.
What makes me the beauty brand expert? Hmm, since I’m constantly doing research, I’d say I probably know more about beauty brands than anyone else. I’m not claiming to know more about the industry than anyone else, of course, but on brands specifically, I know what I’m talking about.
I always say that I’m an information sponge. I want to know everything about everything, I want to understand every aspect of the beauty industry and exactly how everything works.
I’m always talking to people in all parts of the industry’s value chain, and I learn so much from those conversations. But when I think of what really makes me an expert, I think of a quote that one of my mentors, Errol Gerson used to say… ‘the main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing’. You’ve got to do one thing well and focus on one thing at a time, because if you’re trying to do two different things at 50/50, you’re never really doing anything at 100, and how could you gain that expertise? Beauty is my main thing and I’m always giving it 100.
Kriisti Atherton: So why is Beauty in particular an industry you’re so passionate about?
Jennifer: I mean, I’ve always been into fashion and makeup. I really love the industry; I love the people I get to chat with, and coming from a design background, the creativity in the beauty industry just speaks to me.
In my early 20’s, I used to be a fashion blogger. My main focus was cute Japanese street styles and I was quite well known in that scene.
When I initially started my own business, I decided I was going to do design, so when the time came to launch Mintoiro, it just made sense to design for Beauty Brands. For my first year in business I was mainly doing brand identity and packaging design for cosmetics brands.
Kriisti Atherton: You mentioned earlier that you spend a lot of your time compiling market research for your clients. Can you talk us through your process?
Jennifer: There’s lots of different parts that go into it.
I’m constantly adding more to my database, most of which is gathered through manual data entry. This is time consuming but really beneficial because, coupled with my eidetic memory, it gives me a good overview of everything that’s in my database. The only exception to this is social media metrics, I update this every month, but I use a scraping tool to gather that data and automatically import it to my database.
For my ‘Top 100 Trending Brands’ lists, the way I rank companies is completely data driven and based on followers, engagement, and growth over time. This is important because it’s not interesting to look at what brands have the most followers; I try to capture which brands are steadily growing whilst maintaining an engaged audience.
I also look at the products that brands are launching, their ethics, certifications, which markets they’re in, their target audience and who owns the brand. I have so much fun doing the research, some people find it boring, but I just love it.
Each report can take several months to complete, and when it’s done, it’s really exciting to be able to see all the patterns emerging in the industry.
I’ve recently finished a report on emerging colour trends for beauty brands, which was grounded in tons of data analysis, but presented it in a really visual way. I looked at the latest colour trends in beauty product packaging, and as part of the research, I tagged the exact colour shades of over 16,000 products from over 3,500 different beauty brands. I then split the 35 trend colours I identified into 7 different colour moods.
I also tagged the colours of around 4,000 runways looks from the 2023 Spring and 2023 Fall collections, as well as looking interior design, sneakers and other adjacent industries, as you tend to see a lot of overlapping trends across different industries.
It takes so much time to do this research. Straight up, it just takes so much time. I don’t have a secret thing that gathers it all super quickly for me, I’m doing data entry pretty much all the time. But I really enjoy doing the market research side of things, so the time it takes isn’t a problem for me.
Kriisti Atherton: Your audience is really engaged with your content, including myself and a number of my clients. But from your perspective, why do you think it is that so many brands choose to work with you in particular?
Jennifer: I’m very interested and engaged in the beauty industry specifically.
When I’m researching, I look at brands from a holistic perspective because you can’t get a full picture of what’s actually going on in the industry from just looking at quantitative data.
I talk to all kinds of people in the industry, I look at visual aesthetics and I also try on a ton of products from a range of different brands, which gives me another type of data to add to my holistic view of the industry. Fortunately, lots of brands send me their products to try, even some that I wouldn’t typically be able to buy myself because they don’t usually ship to my location.
I’d say I also have a really good overview of everything going on in the industry so, if you want to understand your competitors and how you can differentiate your beauty brand; I’m the person to talk to.
For the brands that may not have the budget to fund a huge research project, I also offer pre-made research reports on my website, because I want to make my research affordable for beauty brands at all different stages of their growth cycle.
Kriisti Atherton: You recently attended the Clean Beauty in London event and gave a fantastic speech on ‘The Latest Trends in Sustainable & Conscious Beauty’, what were the key trends you identified?
Jennifer: My talk at Clean Beauty in London mainly focused on brands doing sustainability the right way to show that doing better is possible. That’s something I care about deeply and I’m well-read on the subject.
I find it shocking how much greenwashing is going on in the beauty industry, particularly around the use of plastic. I’m not a purist, I’m not saying that brands can’t use any plastic, but I think they should be honest about the fact that plastic is not sustainable, right? Brands should be truthful and tell their consumers that “we choose to use plastic packaging to be able to offer our products at an affordable price point”, which could up the conversation for consumers to tell the brands “we would pay more for your products if you stop using plastic packaging”. But if consumers are being led to believe these products are already sustainable, then the brand can’t really have those conversations.
People are getting really tired of the greenwashing and sooner or later, they’re just flat out not going to accept it. For example, using biofuel or fossil fuel doesn’t make much of a difference. Turning either into plastic causes just as much pollution and people based near plastic plants are getting sick from the chemicals.
In Mississippi, there’s a stretch of land where over two hundred petrochemical production plants are based, and people call the area ‘Cancer Alley’. When you look at the whole picture like that, you start to realise the bigger issues and how necessary it is that we as an industry approach them.
Kriisti Atherton: As well as a more focused approach towards sustainability, what other trends have you noticed shaping the beauty industry?
Jennifer: Well, I’d say a lot of beauty brands are rethinking the way they approach marketing.
I’ve heard a lot of brands saying that they’re not getting as much return on their ad spending, which I think will see a lot of companies exploring alternative options. I mean, to see a good return on paid advertising, brands should really be spending at least 25K a month on it, and honestly, if a brand has that much to spend, I’d say they’re better off using it elsewhere.
My advice would be to take that money and spend it building partnerships with more influencers, I think the optics of that is way better than just throwing money at ads. Especially if you’re working with influencers that aren’t that big yet, and have a targeted beauty audience, because they produce genuine content that’s real and honest. And if you’re a brand that’s aiming for transparency, this fits well with that goal. Plus, you’re giving money back to hard-working, diverse content creators in the community.
Although, I’d say that if brands go down the influencer route, they need to do it right. I’ve heard some horror stories about beauty brands paying marginalized influencers less than their other influencers, which is just unacceptable. Aside from the fact it’s totally wrong, it’s also likely to hurt your brand’s reputation as people in the beauty industry talk to each other and these things always come out before long.
So, yeah, doing things right is super important, people don’t want to buy from brands that don’t.
Kriisti Atherton: I’ve combed through pretty much every inch of your blog by now and I’m always recommending it to others. In addition to your own, which other blogs/publications would you recommend for beauty fans to check out?
On the podcast, Akash interviews beauty founders and entrepreneurs about their business journeys. It’s extremely insightful and it’s a great podcast for people who really want to understand the industry.
Kriisti Atherton: And Jennifer, as The Beauty Brand Expert, which brands should our audience be keeping an eye on right now?
Jennifer: Oh, wow, that’s hard to say. There are loads of really great brands out there.
One brand that I mention often is Dip.
They’re a haircare brand that does shampoo and conditioner bars. I’ve tried a lot of products like this and theirs is the best on the market.
They mostly work with smaller refill stores, and they don’t spend anything on advertising, their brand is spread entirely by word-of-mouth. I think that’s so interesting. Plus, they’re really inclusive, they don’t do different bars for different hair types, they’ve made sure their product can be used by anyone, you just pick the scent you like.
Also, a Swedish brand that I’m really liking at the moment is Manasi 7. I’ve been using their products recently; they have a cheek and lip tint that I actually use for both my lips and cheeks. I also really like their branding. In Sweden, there’s a big market for minimalistic designed brands with a very specific look to them, and these guys have nailed it.
Oh, I’m also really fascinated with exploring the Indonesian beauty market at the moment. They have some really cool looking brands with great formulations. They look like luxury brands that could be sold in Sephora. A good example to check out is the brand Dew It Skin. I love their products.
Kriisti Atherton: You’ve given us some great insight into your expertise and what you’re doing as The Beauty Brand Expert right now. What’s next on the cards for you and your business?
Jennifer: My biggest focus in 2023 is creating the research reports that I sell through my website.
I find the work very satisfying and enjoyable, and creating my own reports allows for me to put all my strong sides to use.I have a few different types of reports in the pipeline and I’m excited to reveal and share them with everyone soon!
I’m also doing Beauty Design Awards for the fourth year running. The award is completely free, and brands are welcome to submit their products for consideration until the end of August. You can find more information on the website, beautydesignawards.com.
The award looks at the holistic experience of a product, so both packaging and formulation are just as important.