Every year, Beautycon’s New York event brings tens of thousands of thrilled makeup obsessives to see their beloved Youtube influencers up close and personal. Over the past four years, Beautycon has grown from a more typical conference to this year’s full-blown festival at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, which had more than 75,000 square feet of panels, meet-ups, and art installations, and featured brands like Revlon, NYX, and L’Oreal Paris.
The event was in many ways the perfect encapsulation of what Beautycon calls the “Pivotal Generation”–that mix of young millennials and older Gen Z-ers. “It’s a really sweet spot for a very hyper-engaged consumer,” says Moj Mahdara, Beautycon’s CEO.
Beautycon the company has been able to tap into that generation through a three-tiered approach that includes subscription makeup box à la Ipsy; the Beautycon festivals that occur in multiple U.S. cities each year; and Beautycon Digital, a platform for beauty-centric video and articles. All that content generates data, which Beautycon then uses in its brand partnerships through its consulting and analytics arm, aptly named FOMO. So far, Beautycon has worked with the likes of Revlon and Nike, as it provides solutions for expansion.
“It really just came out of brands needing to take learnings from Beautycon and apply it to every other piece of their business,” Mahdara says. “At the end of the day, these larger legacy brands have to innovate and iterate. There’s only so many acquisitions they can make for $1 or $2 billion at a time. At some point they have to bring the best practices of companies like Lime Crime or Kylie Cosmetics or NYX and bring those learnings into Estée Lauder, L’Oreal, [or] P&G.”
Take the festivals for example. Last week’s Beautycon event brought 9,000 people to a makeup wonderland where Instagram was the currency for free product samples. Budding social media influencers mingled with those more established, taking pictures in front of, say, L’Oreal’s rose-covered mini-Eiffel Tower. Ticket-buyers could receive makeovers from their favorite companies and then try their luck in a casting call for a brand like Milk Makeup. They could explore Drew Barrymore’s prestige makeup company Flower Beauty and then see Barrymore herself being interviewed in the booth next door. At Beautycon, the focus is all about access and experience.
“Fans are driven by wanting to touch and feel. It’s not enough for them to just buy something,” Mahdara says. “They want to actually understand what the brand is from their messaging. They want to understand what they stand for. It’s about a two-way conversation.”
For influencers like Jessie Paege, whose YouTube following reaches more than 1.1 million subscribers, Beautycon is a chance to meet the people who support her career.
“I went as a fan a few years ago, and it was the most exciting day of my life. I’m friends with a lot of the people I met, which is funny,” Paege says. She has since worked with brands like Lime Crime, BigSexyHair, and Clean & Clear.
Another tenet of Beautycon is promoting diversity, confidence, and self-love, especially for women and LGBTQ people. The company is teaching big brands that having diverse representation in everything from foundation colors to advertising campaigns is crucial. It also furthers an idea that women have known all along: Makeup isn’t a tool for insecurity, it’s a tool for confidence.
“Being involved in the beauty space, I’ve learned that there are sides to me that I was always scared to show people,” Paege says. “It’s cool to see those sides to yourself because you never let that show. I’ve also started pursuing new hobbies, things I’d always dreamed of doing. I’ve realized that I’m capable.”