For innovative beauty brands, the fear of being duped is very real. Haircare brand Olaplex is one of the most duped haircare brands on TikTok (the hashtag #olaplexdupe has garnered over 30.4MM views), but this week Olaplex got the last laugh when it was revealed that the latest dupe going viral on TikTok was actually the brand's incomparable No. 3 Hair Perfector.
On September 25, Olaplex pulled one over on dupe-obsessed consumers with the launch of Oladupé, a fictitious product that looked nearly identical to Olaplex's best-selling No. 3 Hair Perfector. In the weeks leading up to the launch, the brand stealthily set in motion an unboxing campaign by sending bottles of Oladupé No. 160 (a cheeky nod to Olaplex's 160 patents) to over 700 influencers in both the professional and consumer haircare communities, including Lelani Green, Yesly Dimate, Shae Alexis, and even celebrity "duper" Taylor Madison.
The campaign resulted in over 400 posts from creators and the broader community and 21.9MM views of the hashtag #Oladupe. Eager customers were driven to oladupe.com, where the first 160 people to register were sent a free bottle of Oladupé (which was actually a bottle of Olaplex No. 3). On Friday, September 29, Olaplex revealed that Oladupé was the real thing—disguised as a dupe.
“Driven by our reach on social media and the unique relationship we have with our community, we felt compelled to actively insert ourselves into the conversation that was happening around dupes after data pointed to Olaplex being the most duped haircare brand on TikTok,” Charlotte Watson, Chief Marketing Officer at Olaplex, tells BeautyMatter exclusively. “Using social listening tools, we identified how often we were being duped and launched Oladupé to show consumers that the only brand that could actually dupe Olaplex, is Olaplex itself.”
Following the reveal, the influencers and professionals who received the fictitious product later admitted to being in on the joke, explaining that Oladupé No. 160 was actually Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector all along. The marketing stunt generated $1.1MM in global earned media value (EMV), according to a representative from the brand.
Olaplex's No. 3 Hair Perfector put the brand on the map when it launched in 2014. Powered by the brand’s patented Olaplex Bond Building Technology, this pre-shampoo treatment is proven to relink broken bonds deep within the hair to repair and strengthen hair from the inside out. The launch of Olaplex single-handedly created the haircare industry’s bond-building category, which has seen a rapid expansion over the last few years. Despite the growing popularity of bond-building haircare products, with its one-of-a-kind technology with over 160+ patents, Olaplex's bond-building formula may be imitated, but it can’t be replicated.
“Olaplex is the real deal, a brand that is truly ‘undupable,’ and the foundation of this is our underlying technology, which is peerless in the industry,” said JuE Wong, Chief Executive Officer of Olaplex. “Our commitment to offering products grounded in solid technology assures unmatched quality and results, making Olaplex a brand that retains its uniqueness.”
“This campaign tapped into the cultural zeitgeist, meeting consumers where they are and playfully educating them on the one-of-a-kind and proven repair and strengthening benefits of our bond-building technology, which cannot be copied or duped.”
Olaplex partnered with Movers+Shakers to bring this industry-first campaign to life. The agency claims an impressive 250+ billion views across its social campaigns and counts e.l.f. Cosmetics, Target, Hasbro, and Netflix as past clients. According to Watson, Movers+Shakers “wrote the playbook on how to connect brands to culture.”
“When we came to them with this insight around dupes and the goal of taking back the narrative and strengthening our position as the original in bond-building technology, it was the perfect brief and fit,” Wong says.
Challenging economic conditions and a trend cycle that’s moving faster than ever before (thanks to TikTok) created the perfect storm in which Gen Z's dupe obsession was born. Dupe videos instantly go viral, whether the dupe is an exact copy of the duped product or not. While masstige and drugstore beauty brands benefit from the dupe craze, prestige brands must rely on their patents and one-of-a-kind formulations and hope that dupe-loving consumers are wise enough to know that some products can’t be easily replicated.
“Dupe culture is prevalent with consumers now, in particular with Gen Z and millennials,” says Watson. “We’re seeing them pulled between wanting to treat themselves vs. the thrill of the find—or the fake in this case.”
To really drive home the message that consumers should be wary of dupes, Olaplex's CEO JuE Wong even created a deep fake of herself to reveal this campaign and show just how easy it is to be duped. Dupe culture may be alive and well on TikTok, but with this campaign, Olaplex has shown consumers that dupes can’t always be trusted.
“While imitation is the highest form of flattery, we wanted to have fun with the fact that the Olaplex brand can be imitated but never replicated,” says Watson. “Olaplex is the real deal, a brand that is truly ‘undupable,’ and the foundation of this is our underlying technology, which is peerless in the industry.”
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