Topicals • Funner Flare Ups
CREATING A CULT BEAUTY BRAND FOR GEN Z
Topicals was founded in 2020 by Gen Z entrepreneur Olamide Olowe, the youngest black woman to raise $2m VC funding. It’s a next-generation skincare brand for young people with psoriasis, eczema and other skin conditions - aiming to transform the way we think about our skin. Inspired by our in-depth understanding of youth culture, Topicals turned to The Digital Fairy to bring their vision to life.
Our strategic phase explored the shifting narrative around skin conditions, from skin negativity and discrimination, through to skin positivity and the approaching movement towards skin neutrality. Skin discourse is still defined by insecurity: either attempting to ‘fix’ a perceived problem or subverting this dynamic (think self-confident ‘skin-warriors.’) As a result, skin conditions’ aesthetic is either cold, cruel & clinical, or preachy, activist and kind of exhausting. We asked: what if your skin was fun instead?
‘Working with The Digi Fairy has been a dream come true! I searched for over a year for an agency that could bring my vision to life and The Digi Fairy executed within weeks of engaging with them! They are my branding secret weapon.’
Our brand positioning: funner flare ups. Leaning into the brand’s anti-beauty vision, our visual identity embraced imperfection and asymmetry as an aesthetic in its own right. We turned the experience of living with a skin condition into a visual celebration: skin flare ups inspired colourful tie dye patterns and blurred outlines and spots and blemishes were transformed into embellishments: appliqué flowers, cherries, stars and stamps.
Our iconography and colour palette were heavily inspired by y2k visual culture, enabling the Topicals community to give their childhood a ‘do over’, and recreate often painful memories and experiences though a new lense of support and celebration. Interactive brand elements such as a 00s-teen-magazine style skincare quiz, an educational digital ‘skindex’ that acts as a glossary for scientific terms inspired by doctors’ medical files, and an e-comm site laid out like a scrapbook combine to make the Topicals brand world playful and fun, not clinical or cold. Topicals’ entire brand identity is deliberately designed to be DIY.
We created a pack of customisable elements that can be arranged and rearranged by the community at will via an interactive website, sticker packs, and customisable packaging. This fluidity echoes the highly personal experience of living with a skin condition and redefines ‘skin conditions’ as ‘art’: giving our audience the opportunity to creatively express themselves through the brand and personalise the way Topicals appears in their life. This identity shifts and adapts as it spans packaging, social media, branded assets and a website.
Since launch, Topicals has attained cult status amongst Gen Z, building a community of over 35k itchy gurls and spotty hotties, selling out at Sephora and Nordstrom in under 48 hours, and gaining approval from key skinfluencers. But the best feedback has been from the community itself: ‘truly a game changer', ‘literally my only highlight in this dumpster fire of a year’, ‘@topicals did the damn thang.’
...AND OUR WORK HAS BECOME A BUSINESS OF FASHION CASE STUDY FOR THE FUTURE OF DTC MARKETING
Topicals has positioned itself as a brand that engages its customers like friends. Part of this is a function of elements of the brand’s website, designed by brand and marketing firm The Digital Fairy…
“What we actually did was create a brand identity that was designed to be customised by the user,” The Digital Fairy said. An interactive website or initiatives like the Burn Book help make each customer experience with Topicals unique. The Burn Book campaign led to Topicals’ highest-ever one-day sales total in 2020, the company said.
Customers seem to be buying in, literally and figuratively. When Topicals finally released consumers from the purgatory of its waitlist and started selling its ‘Like Butter’ hydrating mask and ‘Faded’ hyperpigmentation gel, it sold out several times over on its website and on Nordstrom’s.'