The Inkey List Founders’ Five Lessons for Building a Brand

In just five years, skin care company The Inkey List has sold more than 70 million products, has had more than 10 million direct consumer interactions and has collected more than one billion data points.

During that time, Mark Curry and Colette Laxton, cofounders of The Inkey List, have also learned a lot about the industry and building a brand. And those learnings, they said, can be distilled into five key lessons.

Lesson one is to be clear on a brand’s “why” and stamp it into every aspect of the business. This lesson, said Curry, is something that companies across industries have to think about at the very start of building a brand as the “why” defines the reason for a brand to exist.

For The Inkey List, the “why” is spreading the beauty of knowledge to the world. “Whether that’s through our philanthropy efforts of driving systemic change in education, the education we drive inside and outside of our packaging, or the one-on-one direct consumer interactions we are having with our customers, the possibilities are endless in spreading the beauty of knowledge to the world,” said Laxton. “We believe that our ‘why’ can endure over time and can also evolve with the ever-changing consumer.”

Moreover, sharing a brand’s “why” is a form of storytelling that engages consumers. And, she said, if a company is doing something that doesn’t align with its “why,” they probably shouldn’t be doing it.

The Inkey List

Colette Laxton, cofounder of The Inkey List.

Lesson two is that insight drives everything. From its start, The Inkey List has been answering consumer questions and connecting them to skin care. These interactions have culminated in a huge data stack for the company. The data from more than two million consumer chats has been paired with business analytics and around 50 additional applications (including social media) to organize all of the brand’s insights in one place.

Curry said that data collection now “governs everything” from protecting the customer journey and optimizing communication to determining best timing for product launches.  “We’re in an ever-increasing data-centric world and we’re building businesses and flying the plane at the same time, so make sure that whether it’s in digital or physical, you’re capturing as much of that insight as possible.”

Lesson three is the imperative of innovation. The Inkey List has worked to think differently about the way it innovates and communicates which includes product innovation. Laxton pointed to its plumping skin care products as an example, where the team predicted the demand for these products through its data learning before working with scientists to find an effective formula in a timely manner.

To that end, Laxton said, “the world will not wait.” And so, lesson number four is to not wait for perfect. Agility and speed, she said, have allowed The Inky List to scale “beyond recognition.”

“Perfect doesn’t exist,” said Curry. “And if you get something perfect, the world has probably moved on.”

The cofounders closed with a final lesson which stressed the imperative of sustainable practices to build a better future. Notably, The Inkey List is a certified B Corp.

“If you’re building a business now, put [sustainability] in everything you do,” said Curry. “We want to create legacy brands so build now for that future.”

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