We are Wild recreation skincare is a perfect example of an Indie beauty brand that got the brand story fundamentals right, and success with raving fans and retailers is a testament to that!

We are Wild is the first all-solid skincare system designed for everyday recreation. “Because active skin demands solid performance.”

Sally Kim, the founder, is one of the smartest founders and marketers out there. Within 30 seconds of seeing “We are Wild” online, I decided to dig deep to uncover how she created such a coherent and powerful brand story, something all Indie beauty founders could learn from.

Q1. I am very curious as to how did the idea for “We are Wild” come about?

Did it come in pieces or you had it all perfectly aligned at the onset-meaning beauty brand for the outdoor lifestyle, solid skincare, price point, beyond wrinkles and flawless skin, ease of consideration and convenience, beauty neophytes? What came first: the product or identifying an unmet skincare need for outdoor consumers who would have minimal involvement in the product? How did you go about finding this unmet need and how is your understanding of your target consumer so refined?

Sally: The idea came to me all at once when I was an expat living in Seoul, South Korea for 5 years.  I’m originally from Portland, Oregon and lived a very active, recreation filled lifestyle that included a lot of outdoor activities and travel.  I was always confused by all the beauty and skincare products in the market and felt that there wasn’t anything that fit or addressed my active lifestyle.  

Since Korea is a leader in beauty and skincare innovation/R&D, I found myself immersed in the category and was always on the hunt for something that was new and innovative. That’s where I came across solid cleansing sticks and thought this is brilliant! I’m always having issues with my products leaking or putting everything into mini-size bottles so I thought wouldn’t it be great if all my skincare came like this. So the idea really started from an unmet need and then finding a product solution based on my own needs.  

I also wanted to test the concept and being a market researcher by trade, found that globally 89% of consumers are confused by skincare products.  When we first conducted research, most of the people we talked to could not mention specific products or brands they used, let alone know where to buy.  We did store audits across outdoor and beauty retailers and found that at outdoor retailers like REI, self-care or even skincare sections were non-existent, except for some sunscreen and soap; at beauty retailers, it was all about 10 steps serums, oils, creams, masks, etc which made everything more confusing.  

I thought we had a great opportunity to innovate, create, and disrupt not only the beauty/skincare category but also the outdoor/fitness/recreation space as well. 

Q2. Even though it is super obvious and you have done an incredible job at that, but for the benefit of our readers: What’s your brand positioning in your own words? Who do you target, what do you offer different from others, what’s the benefit to the target consumer, and why should they believe you? Also, who is the brand not for?

Sally: 
Our brand positioning is as follows:  For the active enthusiasts who find joy in living a recreation filled life, We are Wild makes skincare designed for everyday recreation by making it natural, fun, and easy.  Because active skin deserves solid performance. 

We target the active enthusiasts – those that have purchased some skincare product in the past year, engage in weekly recreation activities and enjoy travel.
Our benefit really lies in breaking from confusing multi-step skincare regimes and simplifying skincare in 3 easy steps/products. Our proof is in (1) our ingredients using natural, non-toxic superfoods rich in anti-oxidants, (2) our technology – leveraging the latest Korean beauty innovation in probiotics and fermentation, and (3) Our form – everything is solid so no spills, messes, germs, or TSA agents. We like to think the brand is for everybody. 

Initially, we were actively going after people who were confused by skincare/beauty and not currently using any products.  However, we found that even the most die-hard beauty fans really enjoyed our products including some celebrities, celebrity makeup artists, influencers, beauty bloggers. Our products have either replaced some of their current products or have created new occasions (i.e. travel, gym, on-the-go, etc). 
Q3. How important was the beachhead market of the Portland area? What was the biggest benefit of launching it in your backyard first?

Sally: 
It was extremely important for us to establish brand legitimacy and validation in Portland. This was very important to us since a major part of the brand value was about living and celebrating an active lifestyle that’s so embodied by people living in Portland.  

The biggest benefit of launching in Portland first was testing that our products actually made sense and were relevant to our consumer target. Once we launched with Poler Outdoor and found that their customers loved our products, it was a big win for us in terms of validating our proof of concept. 
Q4. Since your TG does not spend as much time on social media, and with hardly any social media following, how did you manage to 1. list with e-tailers like Walmart and Victoria Health and b. How did you create awareness for the brand for movement on these e-tailers? Was there an investment involved? What role do you think your unique brand story played in listing with and movement on these retailers?

Sally:
 We are 100 percent self-funded and have not taken any outside investment.  Since it’s a super small team there is definitely more we can be doing with social media, but we find that a brand like We are Wild is better expressed living out our brand values IRL.  

This means a big part of our marketing strategy is to be where our consumers play and experience recreation joy through grassroots events and sponsorships of recreation groups, athletes, ambassadors, etc.

Our social media strategy may seem a bit counter-intuitive.  We use social media more for brand discovery and going deep with our followers.  All of our reviews and posts are not paid or sponsored.  We never solicit reviews either. We’ve received content and reviews from real people legitimately liking our products and brands.  Our social growth has been slower but much more organic and intimate as we have a huge repeat purchase and retention rate. I would say we grabbed the attention of retailers through our products and unique positioning but also via old fashion hustling, emailing, calling.  

We’ve also earned a lot of organic press just from editors, celebrities, makeup artists, etc discovering us and believing in our mission and products.  
Q5. I personally feel there is a lot more traction and buzz possible with your social media channels. Are you working out a storytelling strategy for social media? A brand like yours offers a perfect opportunity for user-generated content much like Patagonia even though they brand themselves as a cause brand versus a lifestyle brand like yours? Do you think pricing cost-effectively comes in the way of creating raving social media fans?

Sally:
Our focus is to attract the right customers and followers.  We too think there’s still a huge opportunity to gain traction and buzz. Social media is really one method, and quite honestly, we’re not obsessed with gaining a huge follower count or engaging in questionable growth strategies as we know there are many ways to attract follower counts if that’s what you’re after.

We want to attract the right and best people that will fall in love with our brand, be inspired by our mission and say a nice word or two about us to their friends.  Doing this the right way takes time and we’re all about doing the right thing. 
Q6. Why did you price the way you did? How price-sensitive is the outdoor lifestyle consumer and are all of them beauty neophytes?

Sally:
 We priced our products based on comparable competitive products. We found that the outdoor lifestyle consumer is not price-sensitive and willing to spend on products/brands they believe in.  

The majority are beauty neophytes and do need some education and awareness building.  But the interesting fact about this segment is that they know they need something for their skin but don’t know exactly what and have not found the right product.  

We want to make the discovery for them much easier and that’s a major part of our on-going strategy.  How can we become more accessible and present for these people. 
Q7. Where do you go from here-retailers, products, geographies, etc.? Both short-term and long-term plans? What is the ultimate goal for the brand?

Sally:
 Our goal is to really help facilitate a recreation filled life by not only making products that are natural, fun easy but also accessible and easy to find.  That’s why we say Yes and partner with every retailer that’s interested big or small. Walmart was a big part of that goal.

We did receive some backlash and complaints about partnering with Walmart especially from some prestige retailers that were interested in our brand. However, saying no to the world’s largest retailer and not making your products available to the hundreds of millions of customers that shop at Walmart would be a disservice to our current and future customers.

Furthermore, Walmart has been a great partner. They’re also becoming a major player in the premium and natural beauty space and committed to showcasing brands like us. We were featured in Walmart’s “Here for Every Beauty” campaign last month. 
Q8. What are the three pieces of advice you would like to give to both upcoming and established Indie beauty founders who are struggling to list with retailers and grow into a truly recognizable brand?

Sally:
 a
. Remember that it’s all about timing.  When a retailer said no to us, I took that no as a not now, maybe later.  Always look for the right timing to present and represent your brand. Don’t take no as a rejection. 

b. You’re not alone.
 I think too often founders take entrepreneurial struggles very personally and often feel isolated and alone.  Remember that every brand and founder has had similar struggles and obstacles.  Seek advice, network, meet new friends, talk to your team, seek out other founders, and most importantly ask for help. 

c. Stay true to your values.
 Don’t compromise.  We were approached by a distributor in China and although the opportunity would have been potentially huge, we would have had to conduct animal testing on our products in order to sell there.  Being cruelty-free is one of our core brand values, so we said no. 

Key Takeaways We are wild recreation skin care

we are wild recreation skin care brand story

We are Wild elicits high loyalty and repeat business from its outdoor enthusiast consumer, the brand tribe.

The brand just launched online at Urban Outfitters with a new offering, Solid Block Active Cannabis Sunscreen, along with the Solid Clean Probiotic Cleanser, Solid Water Probiotic Toner and Solid Oil Nourishing Stick.

I wish Sally and We are Wild all the best. Watch out for this brand as it is for sure going places!

Please share your thoughts on We are Wild’s brand story by commenting below!

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ROHIT BANOTA, FOUNDER of STORYSAVES, has created, transformed and grown dozens of health and beauty brands across North America using Brand Story, Tribe, and Innovation.

He has over 15 years of marketing and business experience growing consumer packaged brands including startups and MNCs like P&G Beauty and Grooming and AB InBev.