Skincare brand Drunk Elephant’s founder Tiffany Masterson on the acquisition by Shiseido and much more

Drunk Elephant’s holiday collection: Shelf Respect

In a short span of time, Drunk Elephant has already gained the love of women and men around the world by offering high-quality skincare products at an affordable price. Tiffany Masterson founded the brand in 2012 when she was a stay-at-home mom with four children and was always passionate about learning the ingredients in skincare products. As time went by, she turned her interests into a profitable business, partnered with French multinational chain Sephora and was acquired by Japan’s biggest cosmetics company Shiseido in October for US$845 million.

Other than the vibrant packaging and highly rated products, there must be a story to tell. We spoke to Masterson about the recent acquisition, her tips for user-generated content in marketing and Drunk Elephant’s plans for 2020.

What helps you to define the “Suspicious Six”?
These are ingredients that don’t necessarily get along with skin – and ones that can lead to sensitisation, irritation, congestion and inflammation. The six, in my opinion, are at the root of almost every skin issue we see. When I personally eliminated these six categories of ingredients from my routine entirely, my skin changed to normal, healthy, balanced skin.  

People are obsessed with Drunk Elephant’s products and the Instagrammable packaging. Was there a lot of effort in the process of research and design?
It took a lot of effort to create the formulations. It took me a long time to get the ingredient decks down on paper, and then to submit and test them. I really wanted to create truly effective products, but more importantly, I wanted to share my philosophy of using only ingredients that are biocompatible with the body while avoiding the six ingredient categories that aren’t, but that are still widely used in almost every product on the market in some combination. The design of the packaging, on the other hand, came very easily to me. I knew I wanted white with bright pops of colour and just an overall fun, clean packaging that would look great on the countertop. I drew the logo myself, and very carefully chose the elements and details.

The founder of Drunk Elephant, Tiffany Masterson

We noticed that Drunk Elephant is very active on Instagram, especially in sharing some of the #barewithus challenges. How important do you think is user-generated content in marketing? 
I think it’s critical. For me, there’s only one thing that makes me want to buy something, go to a new restaurant, read a book, see a movie, try a new exercise class… and that is if a friend or family member tells me to. I don’t buy into advertising, but if my friend or family member recommends something, I’m in. We have the most wonderful fans on social media and they post the brightest, happiest pictures and the most inspirational stories. You can’t pay for that kind of content because it’s authentic and totally genuine. And really, why should you believe me? I’m the brand, so of course I’m going to tell you it works. UGC [user-generated content] means I don’t have to.

Do you think that Drunk Elephant’s success has a lot to do with Instagram? 
I think the fact that the products work and the subsequent word of mouth is the reason. I owe the success to the unique philosophy that, when adhered to, allows the products to deliver the intended results, which leads to people talking and sharing. I don’t think Drunk Elephant’s success is owed to Instagram, but I think Instagram is partly responsible for our incredibly fast growth… Sephora being the other awareness and growth-driver.

As one of the fastest-growing beauty brands, what’s the secret behind your success? 
The philosophy, first and foremost. The happy culture, our honesty and transparency with the consumer, our customer-centric approach, the efficacious formulations, and the word-of-mouth awareness-building that we’ve relied upon in place of traditional advertising and paid influencer campaigns.

What are the biggest beauty trends in 2019?   
CBD, “transparency” and “clean” beauty.

Recently, Drunk Elephant was acquired by Shiseido. Will there be any new launches or projects between the two companies? 
So far, it’s business as usual. We will continue operating as we were before and we have already formulated products for the next few years. I’m excited to work with Shiseido in the future, though, and don’t yet know what that will look like. It gives me access to a lot of great innovation. We will work together on our anti-bullying campaign to help spread awareness.

List a few essential products to have for good skin.
In my opinion, to have good skin, use only ingredients that are biocompatible with the skin itself, avoid the six categories of ingredients that are disruptive (the “suspicious six”) and finally, cleanse only at night in order to support and protect skin’s acid mantle, which is critical for skin health and wellness.

Drunk Bruno is the face of the brand. Are you planning to create pet-friendly products such as wipes?
Ha! I’d love to, but it’s not yet in the plans. If I launch a shampoo, you can bet it will also be appropriate for animals! 😉

What’s next for Drunk Elephant? 
New categories, an anti-bullying campaign, a push to become more sustainable in every way, more international launches and an exciting new addition to our skin category coming in January.

Who are your biggest inspirations in business and beyond?   
My biggest inspirations are my team members. They work so hard, you would never believe it. I’m so honoured and blown away. Beyond that, it’s my family… my children. I’m so proud of them.  

Who’s your #legend?
Princess Diana.

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In this Story: #style / beauty