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Inside the Technicolor Trend Mind of Mintoiro's Jennifer Carlsson

Published February 18, 2024
Published February 18, 2024
Jennifer Carlsson

When it comes to brand strategy and market research, Jennifer Carlsson stands in a league of her own—and not just because of her colorful visual brand identity. The web landing page of her firm Mintoiro greets the visitor with an adorable hamster grooming itself. Dig underneath the playful, pastel-hued exterior and you will find an incredibly inquisitive mind.

Whether it’s her own personal style or her business’s branding, Carlsson’s dare-to-be-different attitude has helped her carve out a niche for equal-minded business collaborators. “When I was starting with this, I thought maybe I should look more corporate, but the way I see it is that presenting in the way that I do can act as a filter, so that people who aren't my kind of people are not going to seek me out, and the people who want to work with me are those who get it, who appreciate that,” she notes.

Her interest in beauty flourished in her early '20s; she gained a following on Tumblr through daily outfit posts and blogging about fashion, with an emphasis on alternative styles, including Japanese street fashion. “I've always been interested in beauty and fashion, and I've always also been a creative. I studied traditional animation and keep picking up new creative hobbies. I've always been obsessed with packaging. When it came to the point where I decided I'm actually starting my business, it just made sense to do cosmetics,” she explains.

She started off working on brand identity and packaging design, but through the extensive research databases she was compiling to complete said tasks, Carlsson decided to refocus her efforts on the latter operations, making it a bigger focus of her company.

Aside from setting up Mintoiro in October 2020, Carlsson also founded the annual Beauty Design Awards that same year: a free-to-enter competition with the only requirement being that brands are cruelty-free. “The goal of it is for me to find the most cool, interesting, new product that our industry has to offer,” she states. 

On the consulting side, her clients include Beauty Kin and Beauty Bakerie. Glaze-ish was an early client and stands out as a particular success story. “She [founder April Mayfield] had been in business for half a year, and I did a complete rebrand. She was so so happy about it; right after she launched the rebrand, she started getting picked up by retail and her sales increased exponentially, so that  was really exciting,” Carlsson enthuses.

Her beauty industry reports range from social media rankings to brand archetypes, all with a meticulous eye for detail. Case in point: her 109- page-long Top Fragrance Brands Trending on Instagram 2023 report studied 326 brands across 31 countries; the Selfcare & Chill Beauty Brand Archetype Report 2023 gathers insights from 104 brands, with product pricing data across 20 categories. For her Color Trend Forecast, she tagged more than 90 shades across 16,000 beauty products, resulting in a selection of 35 trend colors and seven color moods. She also explored several thousand runway looks from the latest fashion collections, as well as interior design. She has added over 20,000 brands to her database, continuously tracking and updating social media numbers like followers' engagement rates and uploads with a web scraper tool, uploading the data to the platform, updating roughly 5,000 brands for Instagram and several thousand for TikTok on a monthly basis. Her Top Skincare Brands Trending on Instagram 2023 report contains 679 brands.

While the vast sea of data out there is endless, how does one not get lost in its waves? Carlsson has discovered her own meticulous working process. “A lot of companies that do data buy huge data sets from different types of companies; a lot of quantitative data, not a lot of qualitative. Generally, most of the work I do is like doing manual data entry. It's me finding brands and entering all of the information into a database,” she says. These data points include country of origin, product category, year of founding, the founder, even 10 different columns to tag the style of the brand’s logo design.

Carlsson views her ADHD and autism as core aspects to her unique and in-depth research approach. “A lot of my way of doing research comes from me wanting to know everything about everything, which I think is a very neurodivergent kind of thing. I'm going to collect all the information; I'm going to find all the things and try to complete the set,” she explains.

Speaking on the organizational process that makes it all possible, she notes, “It is so interesting that it pushes me to learn new skills to be able to do that data analysis better. I want to be a source of knowledge and information, especially for independent brands.” Part of that accessibility is reflected in her pricing: $30 for monthly TikTok trending lists, $270 for Brand Archetype Reports, $470 for annual trending Instagram reports, $770 for a yearly Color Trend Forecast.

Aside from the sheer muscle power and time it takes to compile all of these publicly available data points, Carlsson notes that “another differentiation is that most companies doing industry reports look at the corporations, and a big reason for that is because those are the companies that the data is available to purchase from. But especially now with how much the independent part of the industry is growing, there's a big piece missing.” Putting in the hours of her own research on indie brands gives her an edge over her competitors. 

Naturally, the visual elements of her reports are also an important feature. “The report looks more like a magazine than tables of data, which is more helpful because it’s easier to get inspired. From what I’ve heard from people who buy my reports, they also appreciate that,” she says.

As for the advisory side of her business, the founder sees the biggest challenges for brands as the cost of customer acquisition and getting into large retailers. “There's always the difficulty of not knowing what you don't know. I try to be an outside party that can read the label from outside the bottle, because it's very hard to do when you're inside of it,” she adds. Her perspective on the industry is shaped by voraciously exploring all facets of the complex business landscape, speaking to manufacturers, retail buyers, investors, distributors, and brand founders in the process.

Posting her trending lists on LinkedIn for the past two years has helped her reach an audience of 25,000 followers on the platform. Instagram and TikTok are also proving to be useful marketing tools. “I only do inbound marketing, so having that platform through LinkedIn is really important. I also do blog content, but most of my website traffic still comes through my LinkedIn,” she acknowledges.

Her trend reports fall under a variety of themes: brand archetypes like “Apothecary Lab” or “Millennial Minimalist,” as well as annual color trend forecasts. The founder stresses the importance of nuance when it comes to declaring trends. “People ask me about the latest beauty trends, but the trends are different for different kinds of brand subtypes,” she explains.

"The things where people are actually interested and there's a real genuine want for the thing in question, those are the actual trends that have more longevity.”
By Jennifer Carlsson, founder, Mintoiro

Speaking on what separates a trend from a hype that fizzles out, Carlsson comments, “It really depends on where the trend is coming from. Short-lived trends come from somebody saying this is a cool thing, and we'll try to make that a thing. A lot of brands will say a product  they just released is viral on TikTok, and it's not. The things where people are actually interested and there's a real genuine want for the thing in question, those are the actual trends that have more longevity.”

And perhaps there is no “trend” that has changed how the industry approaches cosmetics quite like clean beauty, although Carlsson points out it is “a marketing term. The thing that consumers actually want from it is for brands to be honest and transparent. They want to understand what is in their products and be able to trust that those things are going to be good for them.”

Carlsson also notes a “clean beauty conundrum” when it comes to figuring out the criteria of clean beauty under which to recruit brands in her research: Is it about brands that term themselves clean, regardless of whether they live up to a certain standards, or is it about a specific standard brands uphold themselves to, even if they don’t use the moniker? 

“Clean is too vague, that's why it gets co-opted by corporations and people who don't really give a shit. They're just using it to sell stuff. There's a lot of good intentions within it from a lot of especially independent brands that do care about sustainability, ethical sourcing, and and all these other things  a lot of people assume clean beauty entails but doesn't. Honestly, from looking at my data, clean beauty brands are among the worst with greenwashing,” she says. “Clean brands in general have among the highest amount of plastic packaging even though it's at a premium price point. They still try to claim to be sustainable while using plastic packaging. I'm not a purist; I don't think that there is nobody who can use plastic packaging, I just think that brands should be honest about it not being sustainable. The easiest way to not greenwash is to stop lying about being sustainable.”

As the impact of climate change becomes more and more apparent, Carlsson believes customers will further smarten up to greenwashing claims, and there will be an impetus for more mindful over mass product launches. “Brands would be wise to move more in that direction of just being honest about who's behind the brand but also for storytelling purposes, brands sharing the process of developing new products on TikTok. Why you are making the choices you are, being more conversational about that, and also being open to getting input from from your customers,” she notes.

The concept of mindful launches also comes with the reality of figuring out who would determine what is a “useful” launch versus one that shouldn’t go to market. For the researcher, prioritizing independent brands catering to specific needs will be the way forward. 

There are also agents making strides on the sustainability front, such as Dip Premium Hair Care, which Carlsson highlights as a brand to watch. She praises Flavedo & Albedo for its fun colorful branding and completely plastic-free packaging, as well as Oquist Cosmetics for its reusable, terracotta seashell packaging—”This is what eco luxury brands should be”.

As for what the future will bring in the trend landscape, Carlsson is betting big on transparency. When it comes to her own endeavors, she just released her Trending on Instagram 2023 reports for the skincare, makeup, fragrance, and haircare categories, and is preparing to host the next iteration of Beauty Design Awards. No matter what Carlsson’s mind and in-depth research uncovers next, one thing is guaranteed: It’s going to be colorful.


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