German cosmetics company Cosnova launched its flagship brand, Essence, 17 years ago. The brand’s products are aimed at customers who want to express themselves “with fun, freedom and confidence”.

The beauty business: Cosnova

Foundation, lipstick, mascara and eye shadow are among Essence’s repertoire, with up to 20 limited edition collections released per year. On the brand’s 15th anniversary, Cosnova threw a big celebration – a testament to how far the company has come.

“It was a very special moment when we turned 15 years old; knowing that we are still able to excite consumers with this brand all over the world,” says Cosnova Co-Founder and Managing Director Christina Oster-Daum.

In 2017, the cosmetics market in Europe was valued at €77.6 billion, according to Cosmetics Europe. This marked Europe as the largest cosmetics market in the world. Germany accounted for the largest market share, at €13.6 billion, followed by France, the UK, Italy and Spain.

Cosnova was founded in 2001 by Christina and her husband, Javier González. Today, the company has 500 employees worldwide and 90% of its products are manufactured in Europe.

In addition to Essence, Cosnova also has the brands Catrice and L.O.V. Catrice centres on the fact that everyone can be a make-up artist. Its products feature professional ingredients and innovative formulas.

L.O.V, on the other hand, promotes strength and self-love. It features elegant, timeless colours and encourages women to be anything they want to be with love and passion.

In order to stay on top of evolving styles, each of Cosnova’s brands launches novelties and shade updates constantly.

Over the years, one of the biggest changes the company has noticed is the shift to online retail. Previously, Cosnova had focused a lot on its bricks-and-mortar stores.

The beauty business: Cosnova

More recently, it has increased its presence online. Christina highlights that with online channels, Cosnova can release and test products faster and cheaper than in traditional stores.

Further, one product can be launched and get a lot of exposure online, rather than having to launch a whole line of products to grab customer attention in store.

While online has its advantages, Christina acknowledges that it also brings more competition. Many new products and offers are launched every day. To stand out, Cosnova has delved into the influencer trend.

One of the ways in which the company finds the best influencers is by analysing the engagement rate of certain bloggers and seeing where most of their followers come from. “If you find the perfect influencer for your campaign, it creates an image and sales drive,” Christina says.

“If you find the perfect influencer for your campaign, it creates an image and sales drive.”

“When influencers first start to talk about a product in the beauty area, they become almost professional specialists for the area they are blogging about. Of course, the next step for them is to launch their own product and brand.”

Cosnova has worked with several influencers for its products including YouTube beauty and lifestyle star, Hatice Schmidt. The Turkey-born, German-speaking influencer has 688,000 subscribers on YouTube as well as 351,000 followers on Instagram and 18,800 followers on Twitter.

Hatice’s beauty blogging prowess made her the ideal candidate for Cosnova and together, they launched the L.O.V x Hatice Schmidt collection. This includes an eyeshadow palette, bronzer and eyelashes. Christina says it sold out within three days of its launch.

The beauty business: Cosnova

The digital bandwagon

Innovation has been part of Cosnova’s business model since it was established. One of its current focuses within that realm is digital transformation. The idea of digitalisation was further strengthened at Cosnova by the appointment of Dirk Lauber as Chief Digital Officer in 2018.

“Dirk is on board to accelerate our digital presence in both our own online shops and our partners’ online shops,” Christina notes. “The best way to achieve that is to make 24/7 communication with our consumers possible.” She adds that since Dirk has been with Cosnova, it already feels as though things have changed.

“The whole concept of digitalisation was very theoretical but now Dirk has started a new team. Together with him we are updating our tools and systems to better engage with our consumers. So, we really see and feel that, with Dirk, there are many things happening. And with him and his Digital Business Unit team, a new era at Cosnova has begun. It’s not just the digital aspects that Cosnova is working on. The company recently launched Sign Tribe, an incubator brand within Cosnova.

“The Sign Tribe stands for smart beauty that is geared towards the real needs of beauty addicts and translates them into unique statement products,” Christina explains.

“It is constantly working on its mission to create intelligent beauty solutions that make a real difference. It’s not beauty trends that determine the direction; it’s interaction – listening, observing and creating unique product innovations that appeal to the spirit of modern consumers.”

“It’s not beauty trends that determine the direction; it’s interaction – listening, observing and creating unique product innovations that appeal to the spirit of modern consumers.”

The beauty business: Cosnova

The first product launched under the Sign Tribe brand is the Remove and Chill nail polish remover. It was developed in response to the strong odour of traditional nail polish remover.

“Remove and Chill unites care, efficiency and an especially pleasant, fresh scent for the first time,” Christina says.

“The idea stems from a very clear need: many women feel limited in their passion for nail polish because of the smell of nail polish remover.”

To further broaden its reach in the digital realm, Cosnova unveiled a prototype of the L.O.V Voice Activated Beauty Shop – a smart mirror – in 2018. The voice assistant provides recommendations on products, application techniques and product formulations.

And the mirror is hands-free, with videos able to be played and paused via voice command. When the video is paused, it dims to create a mirror effect so customers can apply the suggested make-up.

The difference

Javier believes Cosnova’s business model sets it apart from others in the beauty industry. The company puts more focus on its products and spends less on advertising.

Furthermore, as a family business, it has a strong commitment to its employees, a high level of trust and authenticity, and flexibility in operations. Christina agrees, adding that the company’s culture emphasises high performance and being people focused.

“It means that we are very ambitious,” she says. “We want to offer the best possible products and services for our consumers, and we want to be better than our competitors. On the other hand, we have an equally strong focus on our people.”

The company also values transparency when it handles operations. When it embarks on a new campaign, idea or initiative, management decides which team is the best one to work on it. They find out if they need someone from PR, sales or the corporate social responsibility team to be on the case.

“We are really flexible,” Christina says. “This is something that’s very special. It makes us quick because we can evaluate who the best people are to contribute and bring their experience to a project.”

At the end of the day, the company believes in having the best possible products for its customers. “From the beginning, we had our consumers at the centre of our thinking,” Christina says.

“The most important question for us is, ‘how can we offer the best solutions for what our customers are looking for’. And the base is that we always offer the best product quality at the best possible price.”

On top of affordability, Cosnova also looks for novelty to attract customers. “We know that customers always want to have new innovations, products and communication tools,” Christina says, mentioning the EssenceTV YouTube channel, where Cosnova announces product launches and information to its consumers.

“We also have influencers on our EssenceTV Channel to show our news, for example. And, of course, we offer a lot of content through different channels where we are in contact with our consumers. We always try new things. We believe that if we hear what our consumers really need, we can ensure we are at the forefront of the things that are important to them.”

The beauty business: Cosnova

Going green, going global

The global beauty industry is putting a greater emphasis on sustainability along with consumer trends. Christina indicates trends such as reducing the impact of plastic pollution through thoughtful packaging strategies or using refined formulations of their products.

She adds that there have been a lot of ‘clean beauty’, vegan and natural products released, highlighting the changing attitude of what consumers want to use on their skin.

“There are other industries that have a much bigger impact on our ecology than beauty,” Christina says. “But the beauty industry is also starting to realise that everybody has to do their part to be more sustainable. It will be one of the big changes in the next few years.”

Cosnova doesn’t just market in Europe. It has a base in the US and also recently entered the Brazilian market. “Our sales in Brazil are already very positive,” Christina says.

The company is also in discussion with several retail partners and by the end of the year it expects further positive development across distribution lines.

Over the next few years, Cosnova will focus on new concepts and innovations, all with its consumers in mind. Christina says the company will “always deliver the best and most relevant consumer experience for all our brands”. “Long -term we want to become the global number one in colour cosmetics by volume.”

Timeline of key events in Cosnova's History

  • 2001 Cosnova is founded as Cosma
  • 2002 Essence is launched in Germany
  • 2004 Catrice brand is launched; Cosma changes its name to Cosnova and moves headquarters to Sulzbach
  • 2008 Cosnova develops its first subsidiary outside Sulzbach – Cosnova Inc in New York
  • 2009 100 million Essence and Catrice products are sold worldwide
  • 2011 The company celebrates its 10th anniversary and reports a turnover of more than €150 million
  • 2012 Cosnova reaches a turnover of €212.1 million and enters 10 new markets
  • 2013 Essence is named Europe’s bestselling brand in the decorative cosmetics segment
  • 2014 The company hits a turnover of €279.3 million
  • 2015 The company achieves €316.6 million in turnover
  • 2016 L.O.V is launched
  • 2017 Cosnova Italia is launched in Milan
  • 2018 Cosnova Brazil is launched in Sao Paulo, Cosnova France is launched in Paris and Cosnova creates a digital unit

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