Why This Beauty Brand Is Creating a Free Incubator for YouTubers

Annie Leibovitz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Eva Mendes, Mario Testino—these are just some of the celebrities you might see at a photo shoot in Smashbox Studios on any given day. Now, Smashbox Cosmetics, the beauty brand born out of the studio, is adding famous YouTubers’ names to that list.

Thanks to its new Made at Smashbox program, Smashbox Cosmetics is giving these digital influencers access to the best lighting, camera equipment, and production crews in the industry—and all they have to do is credit Smashbox for using their space. There’s no product placement involved. No gratuitous company plugs.

Considering that YouTubers are used to filming out of their own home with their own equipment, gaining access to a high-quality production studio is a big deal.

To find to right YouTubers, Smashbox is partnering with Collective Digital Studio to source up-and-coming talent and book creators. To company’s stable of YouTubers includes famous channels like Epic Meal Time, Rhett & Link, and Explosm Entertainment.

“They are our partners across the entire spectrum,” says Ginny Chien, Executive Director in Global Consumer Marketing at Smashbox Cosmetics. “They shoot the talent while they’re here and they edit the videos. They’re essentially an extension of our team.”

The first video to come out of the project features Cassey Ho, who created the YouTube channel blogilates.

The result was the powerful short below, in which Cassey “Photoshops” herself to calls address body shaming on the Internet. After it was uploaded in April, the content quickly went viral, accruing over 6 million views.

Seven more videos have been produced since Ho’s, which can all be viewed in the #MADEATSMASHBOX YouTube playlist or at the Made at Smashbox website.

So, why open the doors of the legendary Smashbox Studios to these creators at no cost?

“The obvious point—and I’m starting to realize maybe it’s not that obvious—is the ridiculous reach of these influencers,” Chien says. “Some of these people have three million subscribers on YouTube and more than one million followers on Instagram. You sneak the brand in on one of their social platforms and engagement is immediately through the roof. It’s so much more than we could do on our own brand-controlled platforms.”

Chien cited an eMarketer study that found that advertisers earned an average of $6.85 for every $1 they spent on influencer marketing in 2014. Variety also found that YouTubers are more popular and influential among teens than mainstream celebrities.

And while Smashbox is eager about their influencer strategy, they also want to be careful not to repeat the mistakes that often plague such partnerships.

“This is all about creating organic relationships with these influencers,” Chien says. “There’s a very standard way of working with influencers as a beauty brand, which is, ‘Here’s $10,000 or $20,000. Please do one video for us, two Instagram posts, and three tweets about this product.’ What we wanted to do is break from that because it doesn’t feel authentic.”

Unlike most beauty brands, Made at Smashbox doesn’t require creators to use Smashbox Cosmetics products in their videos. They do, however, provide creators with the requisite goodie bag—a customized leather train case that has been customized to their skin tone and product interests.

“They can use any other brand that they want in their video, and we’re not going to stop them because that’s really how consumers shop today anyway,” Chien says. “They’re not exclusively one brand. They shop multiple brands, and we want to make sure we’re being authentic to these influencers’ fanbases.”

YouTuber PatrickStarrr, for example, made an “April Favorites” video featuring 14 choice beauty products of the month, two of which are under the Smashbox Cosmetics brand. And YouTuber hairodynamic created a “Day in the Life” video, only part of which was filmed at Smashbox Studios.

As far as a call-out to the brand goes, the only requirement is that YouTubers include a paragraph provided by Smashbox in the video caption. The language says that the video was “MADE AT SMASHBOX,” and includes a description of the program.

So far, it looks like this strategy is paying off. Smashbox Cosmetics’ Instagram follower base has grown by 30 percent since the launch of Made at Smashbox in mid-April. Made at Smashbox’s influencers have also generated over 7.5 million engagements, including video views, comments, and likes across social platforms. And the #MadeatSmashbox hashtag has a reach of 10 million with over 21 million impressions.

“We just wanted an organic way to tell our studio story with them. We are the only makeup brand born out of a photo studio, and I don’t think a lot of people realize that,” Chien says. “The best we can do is seed that information organically, and hopefully it will differentiate us from all of the makeup brands.”

Image by Deb Wenof

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