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I hadn’t heard of Wunderbrow until a co-worker asked me about it last year. She’d learned about it from her mom, who raved about the product. These days, you can’t scroll through Facebook without a Wunderbrow ad popping up and confronting you about your scraggly eyebrows. This didn’t happen by accident, or even, as many entrepreneurs like to say, “organically.” Wunderbrow knew exactly what it was doing.
In case you have somehow managed to avoid the social media onslaught, Wunderbrow is an eyebrow product that comes in a tube like lip gloss. You paint it on with a skinny brush, and it fills in sparse spots with color. It also adds what the brand calls “hair-like fibers” to plump brows up and make them look a little more natural. The company claims the color can last up to three days (though this is a contentious point among users) until you scrub it off with an oil cleanser or waterproof makeup remover.
In 2016, Wunderbrow was the seventh best-selling beauty product on Amazon — and it was the best-selling makeup item on the platform overall. We’re now a quarter of the way through 2017, and Amazon confirms that Wunderbrow is still currently a top ten beauty bestseller. It even has its own Dash Button, the little bluetooth-enabled button device that people buy in order to reorder things like Tide from Amazon immediately. This is no small feat for a new brand no one had heard of, in a category that every beauty company is trying to rule at the moment.
According to a November 2016 L2 report, makeup in the brow category has “experienced double-digit percentage growth in North America and Europe over the past three years.” Brands like Benefit and Anastasia Beverly Hills rule as far as sales and search go on Sephora and Ulta, but L2 calls Wunderbrow the “heir apparent.”
Unlike Anastasia Beverly Hills, whose founder, Anastasia Soare, toiled away doing brows for years before launching a brow pencil and subsequently scoring the Kardashians as clients, there is nothing at all sentimental about Wunderbrow’s brand origin story. Wunderbrow exists because its founders are data- and advertising-savvy.
Wunderbrow is part of a larger company called Wunder2 Cosmetics, which in turn is owned by parent company KF Beauty. Michael Malinsky, 35, founded the London-based KF Beauty in late 2013 with his partner, Jon Davidman. Both came from tech and marketing backgrounds, not beauty. They originally sold a hair product called KeraFiber that claimed to thicken hair, but Malinsky said he was keeping his “eyes out for the next interesting and right product.”
In 2015, Malinsky visited a lab in New Jersey staffed with cosmetic scientists who had formerly worked at LVMH, Coty, and Estée Lauder. “They have been making unique products that are just a little bit off center in terms of technology, and they stand a little bit to the side of the absolute mass market area in the cosmetics space,” Malinsky says.
Malinsky and his partners had already seen that brows were a hot category at the time and noted that it was growing without a “clear, established leader from the majors,” so the time seemed ripe to launch a brow product into that space. They discovered Wunderbrow at the Wunder2 lab, took it on first in a distribution deal, and then finally bought the company outright.
The thing about the eyebrow category that Malinsky noticed right away was that it had a potentially broad demographic of buyers — from women in their 50s and 60s, who had plucked off all their brows in the ’90s, right down to 18-year-olds who want to look like Cara Delevingne or their favorite Instagram makeup guru. But instead of branding it millennial pink and going hard on Instagram after young consumers, the way a lot of new indie beauty brands do, Wunderbrow went after the former group.
“We were able to direct more sales to the 35-to-60 age segment because that segment is a little more...” Malinsky pauses to choose his words carefully. “They more easily respond to direct advertising, whereas the younger consumer is extremely biased to word-of-mouth, recommendations, and a more native approach to discovering new products. For the purpose of our very initial growth, we were able to target the 35-plus category a little bit more.”
In August 2016, Wunderbrow was picked up by HSN, where it is still featured once a month. This is where Dianne, 61, first found it. “I saw it advertised and demonstrated on TV one evening. I got so tired of waking up in the morning and having no eyebrows, so to speak,” she writes in an email. She bought it on Amazon and then introduced it to her daughter (my co-worker, who then introduced it to me), who’s now also a fan.
Malinsky calls Wunderbrow’s overall strategy a not-very-personal-sounding “customer acquisition program.” This means using a combination of Facebook, Instagram, and also Outbrain, which allows brands and media companies to place content all over the internet. Back in April of last year, Malinsky told Forbes that the company spent $50,000 per day just on Facebook advertising alone. Now he says Wunder2’s Facebook budget is around $2.5 million per month, or about $80,000 to $85,000 per day. “We have built a fairly technically minded and detailed program that showcases videos about the product, reviews, and articles written about the product, and we use it in a succession in a way that lets the customer almost get a 360-degree review of the brand before or while they’re making that buying decision,” says Malinsky, which explains why you might feel bombarded by Wunderbrow. “We review that on a daily and hourly basis, and we tweak it accordingly.”
Influencers like YouTuber Tati Westbrook were instrumental early on in featuring the product. Malinsky claims many are still unpaid and feature it because they love it. He then gets their permission to use their videos in all the various places Wunder2 puts advertising. Wunder2 also has 12 employees dedicated to just answering customer complaints and questions across all the various platforms. “People know immediately there’s somebody on the other side and it’s not just this blind corporation shoving another product down their throats,” Malinsky says.
For a while, Amazon and the Wunder2 site were the only places you could buy Wunderbrow. It retails for $22, which is definitely higher than average drugstore makeup prices. Malinsky thinks it’s reasonable, though. “We priced it in a way that would allow it to reach a fairly mass audience but still gave them a product that’s beyond their expectations and that actually works.” It’s almost never discounted, though you can sometimes find buy-two, get-one-free deals via the brand.
Wunderbrow went into 500 CVS stores as a trial in November of last year. Maly Bernstein, the head of the beauty team at CVS, says the store wanted to test out the price point with shoppers first. “We found that it was so successful with our customers that we’re now bringing it into 4,000 stores,” she says. (The chain owns almost 8,000 stores throughout the US.) Malinsky says the brand is also in talks with other retailers here and abroad, though he can’t reveal specifics yet.
According to the Financial Times, Wunderbrow is now profitable. It could probably have a healthy business just in people buying replenishment tubes of brow gel alone, but Malinsky is hoping to make lightning strike again and again. Wunder2 now has 18 products, and the second best-seller behind Wunderbrow is Wunderlift, a product that temporarily firms up the fine lines around your eyes. But it has a way to go before it catches Wunderbrow. Wunderbrow currently represents 75 percent of the company’s sales, though that percentage is decreasing on a monthly basis. “Not because Wunderbrow sales are slowing,” clarifies Malinsky. “But because other products’ sales are ramping up and gaining on them.”
Wunder2 now offers multiple products that claim to offer immediate benefits, which Malinsky calls “fast makeup.” Wunderkiss (lip plumping gloss), Wunderextensions (mascara), and Perfect Selfie (blurring powder) have all made appearances on my Facebook page, but Wunderbrow still seems to get much more play. (Amazon declined to comment on how other Wunder2 products are selling there.) So thus far, Wunder2 doesn’t seem to have a Wunderbrow-level hit on its hands again, but Bobbi Brown started with only a few brown lipsticks, so who knows what can happen?
Now that the initial hype has worn off and a lot of people have tried Wunderbrow, the company seems to be in maintenance mode with its existing customers. I’ve seen a lot of requests on posts for the company to offer more colors (like gray and red), and Wunderbrow reps have indicated that more shades might be forthcoming. There have also been some complaints that you can’t get all the product out of the tube because the brush isn’t long enough. Wunder2’s solution is to use the included spoolie brush to dig it out. There have also been some complaints that it’s difficult to brush on really fine “hairs,” particularly on the ends of brows, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the brand offering additional brushes to go along with the gel. But by all accounts, Wunderbrow is still doing gangbusters.
But despite Wunderbrow’s seeming ubiquity, there still are people out there who have yet to try it. “No one I know uses it,” Dianne says. So don’t expect to see a Wunderbrow-free Facebook feed any time soon.
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