Perfect Diary: The Recipe for Success in China’s Cosmetic Sector

On July 28th, Chinese young actress Wen Qi was announced as the new brand ambassador of Chinese cosmetic brand Perfect Diary [1]. Born in 2003, the precocious talent has been widely praised for several tour de force performances and is widely tipped to be China’s next big star, exactly the type of person a brand with big ambitions like Perfect Diary needs to anchor itself too.

Perfect Diary invited the famous Japanese director Shunji Iwai to make a short film starring Wen Qi
In 2018, just two short years after its inception, Perfect Diary had already secured the fourth spot in double-11 cosmetic sales rankings (November 11th, marking the day of Alibaba’s e-commerce sales festival which is like Black Friday). The number 4 ranking was made even more impressive by that fact that Perfect Diary managed to surpass many big multinationals and came just behind powerhouses like Maybelline, MAC, and Estee Lauder. Just 6 months after this, Perfect Diary secured the top spot in terms of cosmetics sales during the “618”, another Chinese e-commerce promotional event, surpassing all other cosmetic companies in China’s market.

Perfect Diary was #1 cosmetics sales during “618” Online Carnival on Tmall and its lipstick, eye shadow, and BB cream are #1 in their categories respectively

A Chronology of Perfect Diary’s Ascension

Source: Press & Perfect Diary Weibo social media

New Product Strategy: Targeting Gen Z

“Our strategy is to meet the demands of the younger generation and focus on delivering products which align with international fashion trends,” the marketing VP of Perfect Diary, Christy Sun said in an interview, [2] As a youth-oriented brand, Perfect Diary product development strategy encompasses designs and colors which match Asian women’s facial characteristics and uses avant-garde art to design and create colorful and personalized products, package and advertising.

Initial Product Launch: Fantast & Explorer Series

Perfect Diary has achieved a lot of success by cooperating with cultural and artistic institutions. The first attempt was the 16-color eye shadow “Fantast” designed in collaboration with the British Museum and launched during the double-11 festival.

After that, Perfect Diary, in March of 2019, collaborated with The Discovery Channel to launch a series of 12-color eye shadows named Explorer, encompassing striking animal designs which went viral on Chinese social media. Before the product was officially available, almost 110,000 consumers paid to reserve the product. Even now, 6 months after its initial launch, monthly sales still exceed 100,000.

Perfect Diary cooperates with Discovery to launch eye shadow, composed by wild animals: the first series contained pig, tiger, wolf and crocodile, later panda and red panda were added in

Offbeat Innovation: Golden Diamond

Perfect Diary subsequently released a lipstick inspired by the Met Gala “Camp: Note on Fashion”,[3] based on the royal portraits housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Florid color and chic design characterize these lipsticks, which became the top-selling lipstick during “618” Online Shopping Carnival selling more than 810 thousand units.

Core Selling Point: Pricing and value

Although the packaging and branding of Perfect Diary cosmetics are novel and attractive, probably the most important selling point is product price. Take a lip glaze as an example, its price is lower than 50 Yuan ($7), and during special promotions, it will drop to as low as 30 Yuan ($4.3).

Furthermore, the quality is comparable to other big brands. On Weibo and Red customer review sections, most customers give Perfect Diary a positive evaluation, especially its lip and eye makeups.

During the early stages of the companies launch, a lot of investment was made to market and sell mascara, however, despite this effort, its mascara products were not successful and largely met with mixed reviews. The company quickly changed tack and started to focus on eye shadow and lip glaze, figuring out a way to improve their tinting strength — an important standard that consumers often use to judge whether a cosmetic product is worth buying — a move which ultimately proved successful and provided a springboard for the company to launch further campaigns.

To guarantee the quality, Perfect Diary also works with major international OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), such as Italy’s Intercos, Korea’s Coson and Cosmax, who also serve many multinational corporations like Lancôme.

Multichannel Marketing: 333 units sold per second

The founder of Perfect Diary, Huang Jinfeng, is the former COO of Unifon [4], a domestic facial mask brand which started on Taobao, known for its pop-up style advertisements and ubiquitous social media content. Perfect Diary is in many ways just an evolution of Unifon, with a refined marketing style, fresh product development, and stronger core offerings.

Star Power

In 2018, hugely popular talent TV shows such as Idol Producer and Produce 101 churned out a new generation of Chinese stars. On 2018, August 23th, Zhu Zhengting, one of China’s most famous idols was announced as the brand ambassador for Perfect Diary’s new series of lip makeups Black Diamond. To make use of his star power, 1000 limited edition customized sets which included 20 lipsticks were launched on September 9th and sold out in just 3 seconds.

Perfect Diary posted the portrait of Zhu Zhengting on social media

Trickle Down Marketing…

Created on September 2017, the official account of Perfect Diary on Red was previously irrelevant with just several thousand followers and little traffic generation. Fast forward just two years and its followers today (up to September 19, 2019) number in the millions (1.71 million). Perfect Diary has established an interesting advertising and marketing structure on RED as shown in the pyramid-shaped diagram below.

Perfect Diary’s Propaganda Strategy on RED
At the top of the advertising/marketing hierarchy are KOLs (Key Opinion Leader) with almost 1 million followers, like young actors Lin Yun and Ouyang Nana. In the middle, voguish and chic influencers produce a high volume of content, test new products or demonstrate makeup techniques. Currently, even bloggers or vloggers with only a few followers on Red are likely to be invited to publish brand-related contents.

Video Platforms

Douyin known as Tik Tok outside of China, is a hugely popular short movie app. KOLs like Austin Li are hugely influential on this platform and have been utilized extremely effectively by Perfect Diary. The same is true of Bilibili (a platform similar to YouTube) where content marketing by KOLs is a hugely effective weapon in the arsenal of the marketing strategists at Perfect Diary:

After-Sales Strategy: Keep the Customers Coming Back

One of the most important ingredients in Perfect Diary’s recipe for success is their engaging after-sales services. Perfect Diary effectively leverages China’s vast social media networks and messaging apps, particularly Wechat. Perfect Diary uses a whole string of tactics to maintain its regular customers, including after-sale service, cosmetic skills teaching and a host of sales promotion events, live streaming, tutorials, offline and online social events, etc.

Wechat Group Operation

After ordering a Perfect Diary product, the customer will get a package containing the product and a red-packet card. Scan the QR code on the card, and you get connected to the Wechat Official Account in which the customer will receive regular notifications and has access to endless information about new products and sales promotion events with exclusive offers and group purchase discounts only available to the Wechat group members most often through Youzan (a Wechat shop).

The full process of how Perfect Diary attracts consumers to enter the Wechat group
It is reckoned that Perfect Diary has hundreds of Wechat groups with several million group members in total.

Different kinds of contents published by Wanzi in Wechat and Taobao groups

Wechat Official Accounts

Wechat Official Accounts are also important. Besides Perfect Diary’s Wechat Official Account, at least four more Wechat Official Accounts are held by Perfect Diary focusing on related fields, such as Perfect Choice, Fans Alliance, Cosmetic Research, and Offline Experience.

Perfect Diary also uses clever incentives to persuade people to follow its accounts. Clicking the menu at the bottom of Perfect Diary Official Account, one is greeted with the offer of “try two-tone blusher for free”. Clicking on the offer opens a new page, prompting the user to follow a Wechat Official Account named Perfect Choice.

Things don’t end there. After following, to avail of the free trial offer one still needs to send the link to an additional two people in their Wechat contacts. A cunning hook designed to force users to share the link and attract more potential customers and generate more traffic.

How does Perfect Diary induce users to follow more related Wechat Official Accounts?
It worth mentioning that Perfect Diary possesses more than one online store, as the store link from Wechat Official Account is different from the link in the Wechat group. The former is more like a Wechat official brand store, and the latter like a personal Wechat shop.Perfect Diary’s rapid ascension to cosmetic royalty in China encapsulates much of the important factors stakeholders should consider when developing market entry strategies. The product development, marketing, sales, and after-sales cycles should be both streamlined and integrated. Data should be used to design products which align with consumer preference and be adjusted dynamically based on emerging trends and data should also guide marketing and market positioning. Multichannel marketing on the wide variety of e-commerce platforms in China is also essential and recognition of the nuances of each platform and understanding of the effective strategies for each platform is vital. Understanding and using social e-commerce is vital as is harnessing digital public opinion. Leveraging the most convenient ways to communicate with Chinese consumers is crucial to ensure engagement and continued relevance. Beyond all this, it’s necessary to adopt new channels and new marketing strategies early and have the flexibility to discard what is useless and double down on high return strategies.

A short movie showing Perfect Diary’s Wechat operation strategies