Although many may still be unfamiliar with SuperOrdinary, most consumers are aware of the beauty and wellness incubator’s best-in-class brand portfolio, which includes the likes of Farmacy, Drunk Elephant, Supergoop!, Malin+Goetz, HUM Nutrition, and OUAI. Founded by serial entrepreneur Julian Reis in 2018, SuperOrdinary defines itself as brand guardians for mostly younger, independent United States-based companies seeking to establish and scale influence and sales channels in China.
The son of a Chinese-Portuguese cook and an Australian waitress, Reis was raised with a global perspective and an entrepreneurial spirit. He began his career in the world of finance as a derivatives trader at J.P. Morgan but realized early on his desire for greater professional freedom. Fearful of becoming a small fish in a big corporate pond, Reis leveraged his eye for market-shaking trends to build and sell two successful hedge funds (including Pagoda Capital, later acquired by Tudor Capital) as well as an international oil services business (Kuiper International, later acquired by Gulf Capital). His hedge fund background, he explains, has served him well for many reasons, not the least of which is his ability to “look at the world, find the opportunity, and develop the best way to express that view.” In Reis’s case, this translated to a budding interest in the beauty market and the untapped promise of e-commerce. In 2013, he became an angel investor to cosmetics e-tailer Luxola (later sold to LVMH) and co-founded his own category-disruptor, Skin Laundry, the international dermatology business with outposts across the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Reis’s passion for discovering small patterns that lead to big change across industries was ignited once more when, in 2016, he moved from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to launch Skin Laundry internationally. He recognized the lack of disruptive beauty brands available in the China market despite the fact that, in 2018 alone, Chinese consumers accounted for one-third of the global discretionary spend, with health-conscious categories, including skincare, taking the crown. Designed to be a social commerce brand, Reis’s SuperOrdinary offers a solution that ingeniously bridges the gap between the Chinese and international beauty worlds with the go-to-market toolkit, sales engine, and marketing prowess necessary to tap the massive market opportunity that is China.
The challenge for a foreign brand entering the China market is bewildering, so much so, that it has the potential to send companies back to its local market. Reis humbly admits, “it is difficult to do what we do.” With 12 clients on its current roster and plans to expand to 20 by year’s end, the SuperOrdinary team–125 strong and all Shanghai-based–take the utmost pride in establishing brands in China in a way that aligns with every client’s global vision and spirit. No small task in a country without earned media, email marketing, and other traditional channels for brand discovery such as Facebook and Instagram, SuperOrdinary’s success is rooted in its nimble approach and unmatched understanding of Chinese social networks and awareness of what resonates best with the local audience.
When introducing a new brand in China, SuperOrdinary must effectively relaunch the brands and build it from zero to one. Teams of four to eight identify the right local consumer base for each brand and a comprehensive distribution, customer service, social, and influencer marketing strategy. This involves setting up a given client on platforms like Douyin and Little Red Book (the photo-sharing app often referred to as the “Instagram of China”) and pinpointing the right Chinese influencers (called KOLs, or key opinion leaders) from a network of 40,000 with whom they will ultimately engage. The Chinese market is fascinated by the prospect of discovery, so all storytelling efforts are oriented to promote consumer education and overall awareness of the product line, ingredients, and any other relevant brand factoids. And, what’s more, it is working. Boasting unparalleled growth and exponential revenue gains for its portfolio of beloved American beauty and wellness brands, SuperOrdinary has cemented its reputation as the leading brand incubator in one of the most notoriously-intimidating markets to infiltrate.
A mere two-years post-launch and still very much in its infancy, SuperOrdinary has proven itself to be anything but ordinary. Spouting wisdom for those who listen with a keen ear, Reis’s philosophy of “collaboration, not hierarchy; respect, not competition” is a welcome reminder at a time when the world at large calls for unity to heal. Reis built his team on this bedrock of inclusivity and SuperOrdinary continues to excel in large part due to the company-wide premium placed on integrity. “Radical honesty,” Reis expounds, “is an important entrepreneurial lesson. We spend a lot of our time talking around a subject when we should face the hard truths head-on, especially when building a company.” True in business and in life, success is best earned whilst honoring human understanding and cultural sensitivity, and SuperOrdinary, with good reason, is supremely proud of the reputation and relationships it has fostered by being super-ordinary.