The saying goes, “There is no such thing as bad press,” but as the CEO and founder of a small beauty company, I beg to differ. It turns out that if your name inadvertently gets connected to the Kardashians, you might be in for some real trouble.
Case in point. I invented a small beauty product called fullips. It is a small self-suction tool designed to give temporary fullness and a better lip line to women and men wanting fuller lips, but without the need for invasive procedures or injections.
I started using this method to plump my lips 10 years ago when I turned 50. For years, I have been able to enjoy fuller lips and feel more youthful in my appearance. I thought other women might find this helpful too, so I filed for a patent in 2009 and began setting up a company to sell the product. Things were going quite smoothly and people were having fun with my new little beauty tool.
With the success of the product, we decided it was important for our company to give back too! We set up a campaign called “Kissing Cancer Goodbye”, donating fullips to breast cancer survivors who were not candidates for hormone replacement (lack of hormones can cause lip thinning). And additionally donating to various other charities that asked for fullips for their fundraisers.
Things could not have been better! My little product was gaining positive attention, supporting American manufacturing, providing jobs for family and friends, supporting local businesses and vendors, and supporting charities.
Then, out of the blue, we got hit with an unexpected sucker punch that knocked us on our butts… Kylie Jenner.
So, what does Kylie Jenner have to do with my company? Unfortunately, a lot. This is how the story unfolds…Kylie Jenner gets lip injections, but says she doesn’t and the internet decides to track down what else she must be doing. So someone out there decides she must be using my product. She wasn’t.
Then, some idiot decides to create a “Kylie Jenner Challenge”, and people start using shot glasses and plastic caps, sucking as hard and as long as they can to see just how big and how much damage they can do to their lips and faces. Not surprisingly, many of these people injure themselves. They go on to post their grotesque pictures and seem shockingly proud over what they have done to themselves. One disgusting picture after the next gets posted online.
The media decides this is all somehow connected to my company and the stories and pictures of this horrible challenge go viral. The media suggests that I started my company to capitalize on the Kylie Jenner Challenge, I did not. My patent was filed in 2009, 6 years before Kylie’s lips were even a thing. Nevertheless, people start assuming we are somehow connected to all of this and that our product can do to people’s lips what a shot glass can. The negative press does to our sales what a shot glass does to someone’s lips… it demolishes them.
At the same time, it doesn’t take China long to ship out hundreds of thousands of counterfeits of my product all over the world, capitalizing on the attention. Slowly, the Kylie Jenner Challenge makes its way to the UK and then the rest of the Europe, and we watch as our international sales take a nose dive as well.
Now, the market is flooded with cheap and likely harmful (just Google the dangers of Chinese plastic) fakes, while we work here to mend our broken reputation. The media ignores the fact that our product comes with clear instructions to use GENTLE suction for a FEW seconds at a time. They also ignore the fact that, in reality, our product is the safe alternative to the stupid do-it-yourself methods behind the Kylie Jenner Challenge, or that our product was positively reviewed and tested on the “The Doctors” long before Kylie Jenner’s lips were an obsession. Or that a person using fullips can actually achieve a nice, temporary natural fullness without pain or bruising.
Despite the positive reviews we received from several doctors, including doctors who opined on national television that our product is safe and a viable alternative to injections, we cannot seem to get out from under the dark shadow cast by the Kylie Jenner Challenge — a social frenzy that had nothing to do with us! Sadly, it seems that every time we mention our product to someone new, the common response is, “Oh, yeah! You mean that whole Kylie Jenner Challenge?!” Instead of getting to tell people about our fun little beauty tool that has helped thousands around the world, we now have to spend that time trying to distinguish and disassociate ourselves from that nonsense.
Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story. Enter Amazon and eBay. Just as we are starting to get back on our feet, the counterfeits take over our sales right here in the USA on Amazon, eBay and other large e-commerce sites. Try as we might, it is a very difficult process to get counterfeits removed from Amazon or eBay, and when they finally do come down, they go right back up because of the policies (or lack thereof) that these websites have implemented.
So, there you have it, a small company, minding its own business, happily plumping the lips of people for years, only to be sucker punched by a misguided association with the Kardashians. If someone out there can please tell me how to keep up with the Kardashians, I’d appreciate it.