David Murphy talks Facebook ads, IDFA and in-housing with Leah Garcia, Founder and CEO of skin and haircare brand, Nulastin.
David Murphy: Where did the idea for Nulastin come from?
Leah Garcia: Nulastin was born out of the pursuit of performance-based and results-oriented skincare. Having spent the majority of my life exposed to the elements outdoors, I founded Nulastin in 2016 after searching for a skin care regimen that matched my lifestyle. At 28, I suffered Bell's Palsy and was told by doctors that the asymmetry and paralysis would follow me for life. With this new reality, I pursued a career as a professional mountain bike racer and gained access to cutting edge performance methodologies, including skin care.
My face started cooperating and my confidence returned. From this point on, I prioritized the study of health and vitality to find a solution that would help others, like me, on their skincare and wellness journey. The full-circle moment happened when I met a renowned microbiologist and pioneer in the field of wound healing and tissue regeneration. I was able to test his early formulations and fell in love with the results. The elastin replenishment formulas were the missing link to fully repair the visible damage I had experienced. Elastaplex is what makes Nulastin so groundbreaking, and we have brought the technology to consumers through a line of lash, brow, hair, and skin products.
DM: What’s its unique selling proposition?
LG: Nulastin is the first company to introduce real elastin replenishment personal care products direct-to-consumer. Our line of skin and hair care products incorporate the most recent discoveries in cell biology, molecular biology, and biomaterials in the form of elastin replenishment, and are locally manufactured in small batches to ensure freshness and maximum potency. The patented and clinically proven Elastaplex is the pioneering formula for eyelashes, eyebrows, hair, and skin that contains real elastin. Elastin is often referred to as the youth protein, yet the body stops producing it during puberty. By introducing a bioidentical source of elastin to skin and hair, Elastaplex successfully restores the skin’s youthful look and feel, while nurturing the cells that produce stronger, more resilient hair.
DM: You took a decision to target Gen X consumers - why?
LG: In today’s world of viral Tik-Tok beauty trends, and beauty products that value Instagram-worthy packaging over results, brands have become hyper-focused on marketing solely to audiences that are digital natives. Over time, this has created a beauty industry that excludes Generation X consumers, those of us who value quality and integrity over sparkly trends. Gen X is known as the “forgotten generation.” Yet, Generation Xers are in their peak earning years and fiercely loyal to brands that serve them well. We saw an opportunity to engage with an audience that we felt we could add value to.
DM: I know you do a lot on Facebook but do you promote on other social and digital channels?
LG: My background is in Direct Response Television. When I founded Nulastin, the first thing I did was shoot commercial-quality video. Those assets were rolled out organically along with word-of-mouth on Facebook, Talk Shop Live (live on-line shopping), and a few YouTube videos. The high production quality carried me far. Early paid-media marketing techniques were not necessarily expensive or far-reaching, but prioritized strategies that resonated with my target audience, Gen X, aka, me. Nulastin has always valued a customer experience that is genuine and personal, which is key to this group of consumers.
We have sought to better understand our customer, respond to their needs, and ensure we are driving revenue not just from new customer acquisition, but from repeat purchases. Our email marketing and subscription program continues to grow substantially and has shown indications of Lifetime Value (LTV) far outperforming industry standards. In 2021, Nulastin was at 154 per cent growth over this period in 2020 and subscriptions (recurring orders) were up 511 per cent. Subscription customers are proving to be the highest and best LTV customers, which enables us to create better scale and sustainable profit.
DM: Why do you think the Facebook ads work so well?
LG: Facebook ads are interactive and engaging. Videos, GIFs, and compelling images tell a visual story. The ad copy amplifies the benefits for those who want more information, and the headline creates urgency. It’s a beautiful way to communicate to the consumer. When you add comments to the mix, you get a story that is peer-to-ppeer and not just one-dimensional (company-to-consumer). This is probably the most powerful part of why Facebook ads work so well. Savvy viewers can spot when the comments are disingenuous or canned, which is what sets Nulastin apart. We literally answer each thread with a personal note, because at the end of the day, we care about the people engaging.
Couple this ability to generate compelling ads with a personal touch with the fact that GenX has a historically high presence on Facebook, and leveraging this platform to speak to our target audience just makes good business sense.
DM: What does the creative look like?
LG: Our creative assets directly reflect our mission by highlighting the real impact of our product on real people. Our before-and-after photos speak for themselves and deeply resonate with our target audience. If you are a happy customer of Nulastin, you will probably be in one of our creatives! We feature a lot of User Generated Content (UGC), which is about as authentic as it gets. These customers are not paid for their testimonials and the assets are shot on a mobile phone without professional videography.
When UGC is blended with high production value video and photography, the result is a balance of visually appealing ads that are not so slick that people can’t relate. We aim for inspiration.
Nulastin also has an upcoming rebrand that will launch this spring. We shot our first linear TV commercial called Generational Beauty. The theme speaks directly to GenX. Our rebrand features the same great products in even more elegant and elevated packaging. We see this moment as a love letter to our value proposition, as we hone in even deeper on the impact that elastin replenishment has on our skin and hair and reinforce the category of elastin in the cosmetic market.
DM: Has Apple’s introduction of App Tracking Transparency affected you? If so, how have you coped?
LG: IOS14 has had a profound impact on our business. Year over year, our CPMs (Cost Per Thousand Impressions) have increased 52 per cent, CPCs (Cost Per Click) went up 49 per cent and CPP (Cost Per Purchase) soared 56 per cent.
User permission has been a wake-up call for those of us who have relied heavily on Facebook and Instagram. Even though we have aimed to nurture our customers in a variety of platforms, the reality is, GenX customers are heavily engaged on Facebook. There are several direct and indirect actions we are taking to cope, correct and/or offset this reality; however, these steps will not remedy increased costs overnight.
To expand on our initiatives, we moved away from digital media agencies and hired our own team internally. This gives us better control of our brand direction and voice. Most agencies take a percentage of revenue from sales or media spend. This scenario creates questionable motivation and oftentimes poor performance. An agency, for example, may spend more (to get paid more), and ignore guardrails for Key Performance Metrics. Posting ads to win a sale and not for the betterment of the customer is a dangerous game and negatively impacts repeat purchase. My goal is to rise above the noise and make an impact with honest and ethical messaging, continuing to focus on a more loyal customer base with a healthier and higher lifetime value.
DM: What about the pandemic? Was it business as usual? If not, what changed, and how do things look now?
LG: The pandemic was good for personal care and online shopping. For the first time ever, women took to ordering hair-color DIY kits instead of going to a hairdresser. We were doing our own nails, grooming our eyebrows, and staring at our faces a lot on videoconference calls. Nulastin is a FaceCare collection for skin, lashes, brows, and hair, so what we were selling was what people were needing – or at least, wanting. The “lipstick” effect was a real thing for us, when cash-strapped consumers turn to small indulgences and want a natural solution that lasts.
DM: And what are your future plans for the company?
LG: I’ve always been a firm believer that if you don’t know where you are going, you’ll never know how to get there. The company has 1-5 year plans outlined for growth and revenue goals, including B2B and international expansion. We have several boutiques onboarded who sell our product, and we are open to furthering the brick-and-mortar opportunity if it makes sense. Product development is ongoing and we have some exciting opportunities ahead of us on that front. Our daily mantra is, ‘what can we do to make other people’s lives better.’