Cosmetic company KVD has had a rough couple of years. If you don’t know KVD, it used to stand for Kat von D, you know the famous tattoo artist. Miss Von D made a huge international name for herself as part of the cast of the hit reality TV show “Miami Ink”. After which she founded Kat Von D Beauty in 2008, a cosmetic company, that pretty much changed the game with its formulas, daring concepts, and color stories. Popular was the name of the game. But as they say, the higher they climb the harder they fall, and KVD fell hard. So, what happened?
Having a platform from which to launch a new brand is great. Kat Von D’s fame, with millions of followers worldwide, was certainly that platform for KVD Beauty. The challenge was to separate the two. An impossibility that soon became a problem for KVD.
The first controversy of KVD Beauty came in was in 2013, when they released a beige lipstick named “Celebutard”. Several organizations representing people with Downs Syndrome reacted and expressed frustration with the name. The backlash made Sephora pull the product from its store shelves. The second cosmetic controversy came two years later when Kat Von D named a red lipstick “Underage red”. Accusations of condoning and glamourizing statutory rape and sexual exploitation of minors followed, according to Insider. Kat Von D herself reacted strongly and defended herself in a Facebook post where she refused to apologize and pull the lipstick.
In 2016 Kat Von D’s friendship with controversial YouTuber, Jeffree Starr came to an end. Von D called out Star on social media, for bullying, using veganism to sell makeup, and not paying the artist who created the artwork for his brand. Star soon replied with his own video and so the drama was on leading to a stan war.
Kat Von D’s biggest controversy came in 2018 in an Instagram post (now deleted) where she, to the horror of many fans, announced that she wouldn’t be vaccinating her then-unborn child. The backlash was swift and harsh with many people denouncing both Kat Von D and her cosmetic brand. This scandal also reignited the rumor of Kat Von D and her husband Leafar Seyer being anti-semitic.
By now the KVD Beauty company was in dire need of rebranding to get away from its founders' shadow. This would take time and the first step was to change their brand name to KvD Vegan Beauty. A second name change would follow as the company was renamed KVD Beauty, with the three letters representing kara, veritas, decora meaning value, truth, and beauty in Latin. But this wouldn't rid the brand of its tainted reputation nor give it the product hit it so desperately needed. The solution would be the social media platform TikTok.
Almost a year after Kat Von D left the company the timing seemed perfect. KVD Beauty had cut all ties with the former founder and star, and everything was set for new launches. TikTok, the short video app, seemed to be the perfect platform to start. Their first TikTok launch was the Good Apple Skin Perfecting Hydrating Foundation. A product that thanks to its covering effect quickly went viral with influencers raving about how good the product was. So, how did KVD Beauty manage to do this?
Although TikTok was launched in 2016 many companies, especially in the cosmetic industry, have been late to the party. Still relying on Instagram and Youtube-influencers the advantages are quite obvious. At least for the ones who are quick to take advantage of it like Fenty, NYX, E.l.f, The Ordinary, and Too Faced.
As seemingly the youngest of the social media platforms, TikTok has managed to attract not only a big chunk of the digital audience but maybe even the most interesting one – Gen Z. Tech savvy and young Gen Z are the consumers of the future. That’s a nice way of saying that they have a lot of money to spend and companies a lot of money to make. And this crowd wasn’t necessarily familiar with Kat Von D or even the drama behind the company. A fresh start in other words. But to appeal to this picky target audience some requirements needed to be checked off.
First of all, Gen Z is not only a consumer happy group. They are socially aware and carefully choose to invest their coins in the right product. Environmentally friendly, fair trade and inclusive are values that are important to them so the fact that KVD Beauty came out with forty shades was spot on. This also meant that even dark-skinned influencers could promote the product to an audience that normally is excluded which on the one side meant more customers and on the other increasing goodwill towards the brand. Something that KVD Beauty hadn’t seen in many years.
Secondly, KVD Beauty foundation was right on-trend. Known for their full coverage cosmetic products the light and natural style was not something that the company had branded itself towards. Looking at the style of Kat Von D you can understand why. From a make-up heavy image, the Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Foundation Balm aimed towards the more natural skin trend where full coverage didn’t mean that your natural skin was hidden under layers of makeup. KVD Beauty hadn’t only re-branded their name but also their products, and people were liking it.
They carefully selected the TikTok influencers they wanted to review their product, both big and small, for example, Mikayla Nogueira and Claudia Oshry among others. The combination between short video, music, and the visual covering effects of the foundation followed by the influencers reaction, made for the perfect dramatization of their new product. The viral sensation was a fact with the product not only selling out in stores all over the US but the campaign also being mentioned in several media articles.
Just a year after it was seemingly canceled KVD Beauty had returned with a bang, a marketing, PR, and commercial success. And it was all thanks to TikTok.