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Is This The End of Makeup Tutorials?

Amidst waning video views, content creators are posting less and less about the colour cosmetics brands that have helped them amass millions of followers.
Beauty influencer Manny MUA | Source: Instagram
  • Rachel Strugatz

NEW YORK, United States – Beauty influencers are tired of doing makeup tutorials.

Or so says Manny Gutierrez, aka Manny MUA, the beauty vlogger with nearly five million YouTube subscribers who built his career on video demonstrations of the latest beauty trends. Views of his tutorials are on the decline, he told BoF at Advertising Week in September. So are his commissions from sales through affiliate links embedded in his videos and social media posts.

But Gutierrez has a plan. He’s showing followers more “real life things” and fewer how-to’s. He said his fans want him to be “just chilling and shooting the shit with them,” rather than watching the dramatic before-and-after tutorials that made him famous. In July’s “My Crazy Gym Stories...What Happened in the Steam Room” video, Gutierrez talked about a brush with a woman who was “literally a psycho,” his front desk crush and men who exposed themselves in the steam room.

“The audience has grown with the makeup world — they’ve already watched these tutorials. They know how to create smoky eyes and natural everyday looks,” said Gutierrez, who last year launched his own cosmetics line, Lunar Beauty. “Now there’s so much makeup, there are so many things to do that it’s like, ‘I want to see something different.’”

Now there's so much makeup, there are so many things to do that it's like, 'I want to see something different.'

He’s far from alone in that sentiment. After years of splurging on colour cosmetics, consumers are abandoning the category. Makeup sales are falling at many once-hot brands, particularly in the US, where a more natural look has come back in fashion, and skin-care sales are surging.

For brands, the makeup downturn means lagging sales; for vloggers, that translates into sliding views, and fewer sales made through affiliate links. This could become problematic for the beauty vloggers on YouTube and Instagram who rely on views and pushing product to maintain booming businesses, where many make six figures or more.

“If makeup sales go down, potential affiliate [sales] go down too, it goes hand in hand. If makeup is not doing as well, affiliates aren’t doing as well,” Gutierrez said.

Data shows that influencers are posting about makeup less than they did in years prior. According to digital firm Fohr, combined organic and sponsored influencer posts for Urban Decay, It Cosmetics, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Laura Mercier and Nars in May were down by 30 percent from their peak in March 2018.

But there’s an upside: despite a decrease in overall posts, engagement about those five labels has increased by 25 percent. James Nord, founder and chief executive of Fohr, said fewer posts mean there’s less of a chance content won’t perform. Engagement is higher because followers aren’t as inundated with makeup-specific content.

However, engagement for sponsored posts has remained relatively flat.

“It’s becoming more difficult for this stuff to be effective — not because influencers aren’t effective but because brands aren’t being strategic enough,” Nord said. “Having a person hold up a moisturiser saying ‘I love this’ just doesn’t cut it anymore.”

According to Traackr, an influencer marketing platform, paid influencer mentions from 40,000 influencers across 160 brands was down 14 percent year over year for the first half of 2019. And while the decrease takes all tiers of content creators into account, those at the “VIP” level, or an audience of at least five million, had the biggest decline in mentions at 34 percent. This same group also saw the smallest lift in engagement: 3 percent versus the 33 percent lift for mid-tier content creators with 50,000 to 250,000 followers.

If makeup is not doing as well, affiliates aren't doing as well.

“It’s not just about sponsorship,” said Holly Jackson, Traackr’s lead consultant on influencer strategy. “[Influencers] are talking about makeup or makeup brands less in general.”

Collaborations are an exception, Jackson noted, especially when top tier influencers link up with social media powerhouses like Morphe to promote their products. In the first half of 2018, Jeffree Star, who has 16.1 million YouTube subscribers and 14.2 million Instagram followers, mentioned Morphe 81 times, compared to 208 times during the same period in 2019. The same goes for Bretman Rock, with 6.6 million YouTube subscribers and 13.7 million Instagram followers, who mentioned Morphe 129 times between January and June of last year and only 14 times during the first six months of 2019.

But why are makeup mentions dropping overall?

After a half-decade heyday, influencers are faced with the reality of a changing beauty consumer – one who is more concerned with nourishing their skin instead of piling on the foundation, powder and fake eyelashes.

There has been a cultural shift in attitudes toward cosmetics. The adoption of more natural, or “no-makeup makeup,” and a heightened focus on skincare — the very same reasons colour sales are down — could correlate with the dip in posts and mentions. It could even be that influencers themselves are responding to the trends and going lighter on contouring.

Gutierrez disagreed.

“I can’t attribute the lack of makeup sales to trends,” the influencer said. He called an oversaturation of the makeup market the culprit, from too many choices to the proliferation of brands having direct e-commerce sites that can “potentially take from these big stores.”

He’s referring to retailers like Ulta, which saw its stock plunged by 30 percent in August after Chief Executive Mary Dillon blamed a disappointing colour cosmetics business on brands’ focus on innovation over trends that drive repeat customers. After five years of rapid growth, Ulta warned its sales growth would slow.

“There are hundreds of thousands of tutorials out there, and the audience will watch what’s new and what’s hot and what’s poppin’ - and that’s where the views are gonna go,” said Gutierrez. “If it’s [views] not going towards tutorials, then … influencers will not create content that their audience is not watching. It’s a hard line between, ‘Do I want to create content I just love personally’ or ‘Do I also want to create content that people are gonna watch?’”

With contributions from Cheryl Wischhover


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