Clarisonic Cracks Big-Time With $100M Sales, Riding Rave Reviews From Lady Gaga, Oprah

3/30/11Follow @xconomy

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significantly bigger than Sonicare. About 98 percent of women in the U.S. still clean their faces the old-fashioned way—manually, with a washcloth. The task is to sell some greater percentage of them on a luxury product—which sells at prices of $149 to $225. It may cost a lot, but you don’t have to look very hard online to find women raving about how smooth and clean it makes their skin feel. This, after all, is a culture where people find it very important to have skin that looks and feels young.

“Once people use it, they are our best advocates. Word of mouth is our best friend,” Gallagher says.

Quite a bit has happened since I last wrote about Clarisonic back in September 2009. The company was riding high on a string of celebrity pronouncements. Without Clarisonic writing checks, Oprah, Courtney Cox, Cameron Diaz, Tyra Banks, and Justin Timberlake all said publicly they are fans of Clarisonic. Word spread fast through social media, and a few key YouTube clips.

Since then, the company’s profile has only gotten higher. Lady Gaga, the pop star with an uncanny ability to grab and maintain a hold on the spotlight, specially ordered a Clarisonic for herself and one for her mother, Gallagher says. Some old Hollywood actors whose names you might recognize—guys like Dustin Hoffman and Colin Firth—are also Clarisonic fans, Gallagher says.

Part of the secret of the Clarisonic is that while it’s a serious tool with lots of science and engineering inside, the company has carefully avoided making any specific claims about its ability to improve any medical condition, like say, acne or psoriasis. Clarisonic’s marketing copy talks about how it “revolutionizes skin care” with technology that uses “300 sonic movements per second to gently, yet thoroughly remove six times more makeup and two times more dirt and oil than cleansing with your hands alone.” Get past the technology description, and here comes the punch line on Clarisonic’s website: “Cleaner skin is the first step toward healthier skin. And healthier skin is smoother, more radiant and more beautiful.”

There’s a fine line Clarisonic has to walk here if it wants to stay on the good side of medical regulators with its marketing. If Clarisonic ever wanted to go the route of making medical claims, it would have become a medical device in the eyes of the FDA, and therefore, subject to long, expensive clinical trials to prove its safety and effectiveness.

Fortunately for Clarisonic and its investors, regulatory risk has never part of the equation. It’s been more about execution and marketing risk. And the company has definitely cleared some of the early hurdles to adoption of its product.

The company started on its current path by introducing the Clarisonic to highly influential skin professionals—dermatologists and spas like Gene Juarez. Clarisonic then branched out into luxury retail stores—Nordstrom, Sephora, Saks Fifth Avenue. Over the last year and a half, Clarisonic has spread into other prestige retail outlets, like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales, Gallagher says.

The product has benefitted from the cachet that comes … Next Page »

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