Daily Insights

China’s Answer to Glossier: Digital Disruptor Perfect Diary

By: Liz Flora | Jan 08, 2020

It’s a digitally native, cult indie beauty label that’s reached unicorn status and is backed by top VC firms including Sequoia Capital, thanks in large part to massive buzz on social media and popularity with Gen Z. 

No, we’re not talking about Glossier, but rather Chinese digital beauty disruptor Perfect Diary (完美日记). Since its 2016 launch, the young brand has generated significant buzz and sales in China. It was one of the top 10 best-selling beauty brands on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Tmall for both the 11.11 and 6.18 shopping festivals last year, joining a limited list of names exceeding 100 million RMB (14 million USD) in sales at each event. 

As the brand has rapidly taken off, its Guangzhou-based parent company Yatsen reached unicorn status in September 2019 after closing a round of funding by Hillhouse Capital and Sequoia Capital China.

Profiled in Gartner’s new China: KOCs Insight Report, the rise of Perfect Diary in China certainly has similarities to Glossier’s ascent in the US, but there are also significant differences due to China’s unique digital ecosystem.

While Glossier relies on US apps like Instagram, Perfect Diary generates hype on China’s social platforms including Chinese social shopping app RED. The beauty label invests heavily in engaging users on RED through sampling and hashtag campaigns, offline event promotions and aggressive reposting of users’ content on its own account. It creates colorful, photogenic products with social sharing in mind, especially its unique collaborations like the art-focused collections it launched with New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and London’s British Museum.

Perfect Diary’s products rank among the top 10 in RED’s semi-annual beauty awards in several categories, including lipstick, lip gloss, eyeliner, and eyeshadow palettes. The brand is also featured prominently in a central display in RED’s physical store in Shanghai, REDHOME.

The beauty label is also heavily active on WeChat, where it takes a unique approach to engaging with KOCs (key opinion consumers). In addition to a typical official brand account on WeChat promoted via QR codes on product packaging, Perfect Diary operates a network of 500-person WeChat groups that users are invited to join via the brand’s official account. Perfect Diary directs users to “friend” a virtual brand-created influencer named “Little Miss Perfect” (小完子), who manages and posts in the groups along with other virtual brand mascots like “Little Miss Beautiful” (小美子). The brand uses these accounts to answer questions and update group members on new products and links to campaigns including livestreams, giveaways, and Mini Programs.  

Perfect Diary’s ample funding also allows it to invest in more typical China marketing practices, like the tried-and-true method of working with young male pop idols to drive social engagement and e-commerce sales. The brand has enlisted Zhu Zhengting of top idol group Nine Percent for social media promotions in partnership with Tmall, linking from its Weibo posts featuring him to to the brand’s Tmall store. It’s also investing in a physical store presence and opened a “concept experience store” in Chengdu in September. 

The ascent of Perfect Diary demonstrates that the disruptive force of digitally savvy indie beauty brands is a global phenomenon. Established giants must continuously invest in innovation to remain ahead of the curve and keep up with the new platforms and content formats that are resonating with young consumers, particularly Gen Z.