On the 26th and 27th of May, launch parties were held in a few of the African countries Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and Skin launched in, including South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Zambia. However, many social media users called the launch a fail, as social media was not abuzz with news of the launch. Rather, complaints about the poor launch planning gained far more traction.
The official launch party in Nigeria, dubbed “Fenty Club” had over 200 people in attendance, including mostly actors, reality TV stars and a sprinkle of beauty influencers and creators. There was an array of products showcased and makeup artists on duty for people to sample the products. The crowds were similar in other countries, however, Hector Espinal, Fenty Beauty’s lead makeup artist represented the brand at the South Africa launch. Also, some selected guests were reportedly given gift packages with Fenty products in Kenya.
The major part of the launches that invoked complaints was the invite list, which several beauty gurus and makeup artistes were left out of. “I didn’t even see up to 10 actual professional makeup artists or beauty influencers,” one Twitter said in reference to the Nigeria launch party.
Nigerians and Kenyans have been very vocal about their disappointment at those in attendance. Miss Stacy Michuki, Miss Universe Kenya 2019, took to her Instagram to express her thoughts. "Wait, so this was a beauty launch and we did not have beauty gurus like Muthoni Njoba, Eman Sallal, and Steve Koby just to mention a few. And so many other amazing upcoming MUA (Make-up artists) in attendance?? Hmmm!"
Twitter user, @Onapepo_a, a beauty influencer with a sizeable following even predicted a possible failure in the market. “This launch could have been 10000 times better sha. It was really mid. And if fenty beauty doesn’t make profit in Nigeria, they’d pack up in two years and call us bad market.” That was just one tweet out of a long thread that lambasted Fenty’s poor launch in detail. Twitter users from Zambia, and Kenya echoed many of the thoughts expressed in the thread.
Though it was Fenty’s launch parties, a few understood that part of the blame should be ascribed to the PR agencies who handled them. They should have done their homework and included the right people who would actually create buzz around the product in the local markets.
“I honestly don’t entirely blame Fenty , but they could’ve done their homework too. If the agencie [sic] handling their PR actually paid attention to inclusivity , by Friday which was the day after the party the whole essenza mall would’ve been PACKED ! That’s the result of influencer marketing !!!” tweeted @Golibe_, a Nigerian beauty creator. She, along with a number of other beauty creators, had attended the Fenty Masterclass that same day. She expressed her shock at how they weren’t given gift bags of Fenty products at the end of the class.
Twitter user @ulxma alleged that the PR agency which handled the launch in Nigeria was now trying to do damage control. “The PR agency that organised the flopped Fenty Beauty launch in Nigeria is sending mails to MUAs & beauty influencers that they did NOT invite to the event to say that they have a customised package for them and that they’d like them to use it to create content for FREE.”
As for Zimbabwe, it was more about the low effort put in styling by attendees, which they believed was not a good representation of the country. However, they were also concerned about the invite list which looked like it mostly comprised older people who could not possibly know much about makeup. Some even said they had mistaken the event for a political event based on the pictures in circulation.
Whatever the case may be, the Fenty brand may need to revisit their launch strategy to ensure a successful market entry.