Tarte Cosmetics has stirred up intense debate on TikTok after taking some of the app’s biggest beauty influencers on a luxury brand trip.
Earlier this week, Tarte flew a large group of TikTok beauty creators from eight different countries and their plus-ones to Dubai on an all-expenses-paid vacation, including Alix Earle, Meredith Duxbury, and Monet McMichael, to promote its new product, the Maracuja Juicy Glow Foundation.
The influencers and their guests appeared to fly Emirates business class and stayed at the Ritz Carlton Rad Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach in private luxury villas.
The trip appeared to be in partnership with Sephora Middle East.
As these beauty creators kept fans up to date on their lavish experience “Trippin’ with Tarte”, social media has been flooded with opinions on the brand’s decision to spend such an exorbitant amount of money amid a pending recession.
Several users have posted alleged cost breakdowns of the trip, with estimates ranging from $100K to $200K for each influencer, including their guest.
While there’s no way to truly know how much money Tarte invested (and it certainly was a lot), it’s likely the brand would have entered into contra deals with the airline, hotel, excursions, or even Visit Dubai itself, given the number of high-profile influencers in attendance.
With several creators posting villa tours as dedicated TikTok videos, it’s possible that hotel promotion was part of their deliverables.
TikTok user @homewithmel, who says she works in strategy at a beauty brand, notes that regardless of Tarte’s financial investment, some influencers on the trip likely charge around $100K per 60-second sponsored video.
After the trip’s first day, most creators in attendance had already posted between three and six videos, all of which speak highly of Tarte and feature its products and branding throughout. If Tarte’s primary goal for this trip was to increase brand awareness, the ROI is already obvious. From a financial perspective, the odds are that Tarte will end up spending less budget on this brand trip than they would for all those pieces of content from those specific influencers.
This lavish trip will probably also increase sales, as these creators will spend a week using Tarte products in their videos and will now have a strong affinity for the brand, making them more likely to recommend Tarte products in future videos.
Where some feel the brand went wrong, however, is in expecting consumers to enjoy watching this brand trip content from home.
Though influencer trips are a tried-and-tested marketing strategy for Tarte, who became known for sending YouTube’s biggest beauty creators on extravagant trips to exotic locations through the late 2010s, the pandemic changed the way consumers feel about exorbitant displays of wealth, especially when it comes to influencers and celebrities.
“If they had a good strategic planner, they would know that their target audience, Gen Z, cares way more about [supporting] causes compared to virtually attending a vacation that they can’t really afford right now,” explains @homewithmel.
This sentiment has spread across TikTok, with users calling the trip “out of touch” given the current economic situation. Others question how Tarte has enough money to facilitate this trip given their struggle to remain relevant in recent years.
Tarte’s 2022 revenue is estimated to be between $50-$100 million and the brand is owned by the multi-billion dollar Japanese conglomerate, Kosé.
Some are debating this opinion, noting that Tarte typically weaves some element of giving back into their major launches, like the brand’s 2018 #seathechange campaign which pledged to donate $25,000 to the Sea Turtle Conservancy.
Marketing, brand, and social strategist Sara McCord also countered the notion that this trip will make consumers feel more negative about the brand as they consume the content from home. Instead, she suggests that Tarte’s strategy was about tapping into these influencers as aspirational rather than relatable.
“They’re all using [Tarte] products and actually, instead of the audience feeling FOMO in a negative way, they’re going to feel it in an aspirational way,” she says. “I may not be in Dubai, but I can use Tarte and be a part of this lifestyle.”
She also mentions that Tarte “is not throwing spaghetti at the wall” and hoping it sticks. The brand has done numerous influencer trips, seen the ROI, and is using its own metrics and experience to build this marketing strategy.
With the trip in full swing, we’re sure to get more hot takes and controversial opinions as the content continues to flood our feeds.