It’s a year of renewal for Birchbox. Armed with drugstore giant Walgreens as a new minority stake investor, the nine-year-old beauty brand has been making changes to its offerings with increased prices and gender-free products. While it’s not a full makeover, it’s enough change to warrant a new marketing campaign from one of the earliest pioneers of subscription-based retail.
“This year for us has been a lot of thinking about the experience of what we’re trying to deliver in the market, how is it distinct,” says Amanda Tolleson, chief customer officer. “It’s been nine years and it’s time to challenge ourselves and say, ‘It’s been great but we can do a lot better job.’”
Indeed, once an ecommerce darling, Birchbox has had its share of growing pains. No longer unique, Birchbox’s surprise and delight subscription beauty box offering is now one of a host of similar brands also seeking to also surprise and delight. The retailer suffered a series of layoffs in recent years, and lost out on a deal involving QVC in 2018, according to reports.
The new campaign, “You-time,” touts the importance of self-care and self-confidence. A 60-second anthem spot uses the camera as a mirror and showcases a diverse set of individuals getting ready. Birchbox also created five individual spots, “Love Letters to You,” that will run with the manifesto in 30-and 15-second clips on TV and in varying lengths on social media. The brand is reallocating marketing dollars that it did not use in the beginning of the year to boost the new push, which will include Birchbox’s first ads on podcasts. The brand worked with Confidant on the campaign. Media duties were handled internally and through a consultant.
In October, Walgreens announced its stake in Birchbox as the drugstore seeks to diversify its own offerings. To that end, Birchbox closed its SoHo, New York flagship store in December and now has six shops within Walgreens stores; an additional six are planned to open later this year.
“Working with Walgreens and talking to them made sense for who we are going after and who they are,” says Tolleson, noting that the Walgreens with Birchbox shops have seen higher beauty aisle spending from consumers.
She also says that consumers have reacted positively to the price increase, Birchbox’s first in its near-decade-long existence. In March, the brand raised prices to a tiered system of $13 to $15 from $10 for a monthly box. In addition, Birchbox rebranded its men’s line to be more inclusive by being gender-free. Instead of Birchbox Men’s, the box is now called Birchbox Grooming. It’s a smart move, considering the cosmetics industry’s embrace of inclusivity. Sephora recently introduced its own push, “We Belong to Something Beautiful.”
“We don’t think we’re the most progressive company—we still have a lot of work to do in terms of inclusivity,” says Tolleson. “But this is one of those glaring things that needed to change.”