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22 JUN. 2020

How Did Perfect Diary Become a Top Cosmetic Brand in China?

Corporate Branding, Shanghai

Founded in 2016, Perfect Diary (完美日记) is one of the most popular beauty brands amongst millennials and Gen Z consumers in China. Being an innovative disruptor in the beauty industry, the growth of this brand is almost legendary:

One year after its establishment, it debuted in Milan Fashion Week; 

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Perfect Diary collaborated with Austin Lee (Li Jiaqi) at Milan Fashion Week (source: Sina Weibo)

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Perfect Diary debuted in Milan Fashion Week in 2018 (source: Sina Weibo)

In the following year, the brand was the first to break 100M sales on Tmall during “Double 11”, China’s biggest online shopping festival each year on November 11th.

In 2019, the brand broke its own “Double 11” sales record – its gross sales within the first 28 minutes of that “Double 11” surpassed its total sales of “Double 11” of that previous year.

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In 2018, Perfect Diary reached 100M sales on “Double 11” within 2 hours and 28 minutes. 3 products became the best seller within their product category. (source: Sina Weibo)

When you take a closer look at Perfect Diary’s products, it’s neither a high-end luxurious brand with premium quality, nor the most wallet-friendly option. Meanwhile in the market, the brand is surrounded by heavy competition with many beauty products hitting the same price range.

How did Perfect Diary climb all the way up to the top? What’s the secret behind its success? In this article, we will do a taxonomy of its branding through our 4 Facets of Brand Positioning.

Truth: The Perfect Fusion by the Perfect Team

The ambition of the founding team is often the most essential motivation. The founders of Perfect Diary started the brand with a huge ambition and determination, to create the most influential Chinese beauty icon, similar as L'Oréal and Estée Lauder to the western market.

Leading brands like L'Oréal and Estée Lauder have been growing for decades to evolve, learn and adapt to the market, and eventually form strong product lines and loyal customers, they choose to leverage top-notch industry experts and agencies to build a professional R&D and brand marketing army. Firstly, because they have the means to afford the services, secondly, big brands go for the safe way to guarantee the quality of products and brand marketing performance.

For a newborn like Perfect Diary, the brand did something polar opposite—taking nearly everything in-house, except for the supply chain. Doing this undoubtedly reduced the cost in communication, increased efficiency in operation and helped the brand to expand through different channels much faster in the future.

Even though the supply chain is not owned, Perfect Diary won the game with its strong and smart product strategies. It created a perfect fusion of west and east: the brand adopted high standard packaging design from high-end western cosmetic brands, meanwhile kept formula and color options friendlier to Chinese consumers. 

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Perfect Diary 9 Shades Palette creates diverse looks for Chinese females (source: Sina Weibo)

Why? Because it knows the target consumers by heart: Millennials and Gen Z have very special preference when it comes to beauty standards and purchase habits. They’re energetic, young and they value things that are nicely designed and presented in an aesthetically pleasing way. Products with exquisite packaging can win their hearts at first glance.

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2018 Christmas Special Vintage Holiday Kit by Perfect Diary (source: Sina Weibo)

Vision: Live for Unlimited Beauty

Should beauty brands go with mainstream beauty standards or go against the norm and encourage customers to explore unlimited possibilities in beauty?

You may already guess which way Perfect Diary took. Back in April 2020, the brand upgraded its logo wordmark to two letters P and D. “P” stands for “perfection”, and “D” is not just simply for “diary” as in its brand name, but for “discovery, different, and diversity”.

The extended interpretation of the logo conveys its attitude towards beauty: always discover inspirations, dare to show off your beauty, be happy to embrace diversity, don’t hesitate to explore the next look that better suits you. Perfect Diary never plays the safe card. When every other brand is busy jumping on the KOLs bandwagon, it was the first one to leverage KOCs (Key Opinion Consumers) and grassroots on Little Red Book and WeChat, turning every customer into its brand advocate. 

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Perfect Diary collaborated with KOCs on Weibo and Little Red Book (source: Sina Weibo; Little Red Book)

The brand also took us by surprise through its creative collaboration with super IP. Following its successful partnership with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Discovery Channel, Perfect Diary collaborated with China National Geography (中国国家地理), taking the natural landscape in China as inspirations for eyeshadow palette. The brand is so bold and creative in its endeavors to break the status quo and live for unlimited beauty. 

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Perfect Diary x China National Geography Palette (source: Sina Weibo)

Universe: A Close-Knit Beauty Community

Perfect Diary is the king of leveraging the power of social media. The brand started with the same strategy as other D2C brands, generating buzz and raising awareness on China’s dominant public social media platforms such as Little Red Book and Weibo, as well as implementing dedicated KOL strategies. Apart from that, Perfect Diary takes a different approach by working with KOCs. While an increasing number of KOL accounts have been found to adopt dubious commercial practice, KOCs, on the contrary, are considered more relatable and trustworthy by everyday shoppers, although KOCs accounts may only have hundreds of followers.

While it’s acing the game in fan economy and traffic economy on public social platforms, Perfect Diary took a step further by leveraging private traffic on WeChat, China’s No.1 messaging app. With the creation of its virtual influencer Xiao Wanzi (小完子), Perfect Diary successfully engaged customers on a one-on-one basis via WeChat.

Yes, you hear it right, not another average official WeChat account on your chat list, but a one-on-one chat with account named after their virtual influencer Xiao Wanzi. Perfect Diary’s employees are the operators behind hundreds of Xiao Wanzi accounts. 

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Xiao Wanzi account in your WeChat as your personal contact (source: Xiao Wanzi WeChat account)

While providing one-on-one customer service, Xiao Wanzi adds customers into group chat and strategically shares information on new arrivals, sales and promotions. Every piece of copy shared by Xiao Wanzi is deliberately crafted, recommending different makeup combos to consumers at different makeup skill levels. Taking advantage of private traffic has greatly enhanced customer relationships and improved sales conversions. 

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Xiao Wanzi shares coupons with consumers via WeChat, and shares promotional posts on WeChat Moments (source: Xiao Wanzi WeChat Account)

Following its online success, Perfect Diary has planned to open 600 brick-and-mortar stores nationwide over the next 3 years. The key objective of these well-designed offline stores is to bring up brand NPS (Net Promoting Score) through immersive shopping experience. According to the data shared by the brand, Perfect Diary’s brick-and-mortar stores have contributed 65% of their total new customers. Next step, is to drive offline traffic to its online platforms, and eventually stimulate repurchase via WeChat.

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Perfect Diary offline store in Shanghai Wujiaochang (source: Sina Weibo)

Perfect Diary runs a smart offline campaign where customers who scanned the QR code and add Xiao Wanzi on WeChat from offline stores will get a free Perfect Diary beauty blender. This is such a brilliant way to acquire new customers with very low acquisition cost, and the most direct way to drive traffic from offline to online.

From Little Red Book, Weibo, WeChat to offline stores, Perfect Diary built a close-knit community, where its customers can have one-on-one VIP level service, make friends with people that share the same interest in beauty, get first-hand beauty insights, as well as receive exclusive sales and promotions.

Personality: The Influencer Next Door, The BA on Your Fingertips

She is neither a top beauty guru where you only see from screen, nor a salesy BA at the counter in a shopping mall. Perfect Diary is the influencer you know in person, she is in your personal contact list, she shares beauty tips and trends with you, and every day, she helps you discover more possibilities in creating your perfect look.

For makeup beginners, with Perfect Diary in your hand you’ll never feel intimidated or confused. She will become your bestie on the long beauty journey, and open the door for you to unlimited beauty.

Conclusion

Perfect Diary has successfully paved its way and disrupted China’s beauty market to become one of the most influential local beauty brands. The brand learned so fast that it was able to keep up with the everchanging market needs and engage the young generation. The brand has been actively discussing IPO with investment banks and expecting to be listed by the end of this year or mid 2021.

However, the young ones will eventually grow up. Within the next decade, will the brand launch a separate line to keep up with customers that are slowly aging out of their target? Or evolve along with them? We’re curious to see where the brand is heading next.




About Going Deeper Than The Buzz

This article is from our "Going Deeper Than The Buzz" series, where we dig into the brand buzz by using the 4 Facets of Brand Positioning.

The 4 Facets model is meant to be universal in nature and is applicable to any brand in any industry. These apparently simple dimensions serve as a guide to pierce through the noise and help elucidate the underlying ambitions and motivations of the brand while revealing a wealth of exploratory possibilities.

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