Science-backed hair brand K18 splashed onto the scene in 2020, and has made waves in the haircare industry ever since. The brand is expected to surpass $100 million in net sales this year—and, according to WWD, is considering its own sale. Frankly, we’re not surprised. Here’s why:
Founded by husband and wife entrepreneurs Suveen Sahib and Britta Cox (who also founded popular hair towel brand Aquis), K18 has been killing it on social media ever since its launch. Professional hairstylists and consumers alike were quickly wowed by the brand’s biomimetic efficacy, with K18’s hero product, the molecular repair hair mask, even winning an Allure Best of Beauty Award in 2022 for its ability to “magically” rebuild keratin bonds in chemically damaged hair. Creators have taken to social media en masse to sing K18’s praises. But what does the data say?
Within one year of its launch, K18 ranked among 2021’s top 10 haircare brands by Earned Media Value (EMV) in the U.S. at No. 7, then jumped up to No. 4 in 2022. So far this year (January to July 2023), the brand has clinched the leaderboard crown, sitting at the coveted No. 1 spot in haircare with $84.2M EMV—a 149% year-over-year surge. K18’s rapid trajectory has helped the brand distance itself from the competition: K18’s 2023 total thus far is outperforming the No. 2-ranked brand by nearly $20M EMV, and is more than DOUBLE the No. 4 brand.
As if this highlight reel needed even more stats, K18 ranks No. 1 in both Estimated Impressions (1.2B) and Total Engagements (59.5M), reflecting 263% and 267% YoY growths, respectively. What’s more, the brand’s creator community has expanded 136% YoY, and its post volume has increased 44%.
While there’s certainly no shortage of organic love for the brand online (only 1% of the brand’s EMV total came from sponsored content), K18 has also historically taken a proactive approach to activating content creators online. For example, to celebrate its launch in Sephora circa December 2021, K18 invited creators to participate in its #K18HairFlip challenge for the chance to win a $1000 Sephora shopping spree and a K18 salon service. The hashtag accrued 11.2 billion views on TikTok alone, and powered $24.9M EMV across social platforms in December 2021.
Additionally, in January 2023, the brand drove content creation around its evergreen #K18Results campaign, with brand partner and TikTok-darling Alix Earle (@alixearle) even bringing followers to the salon to watch her hair transformation. Viewed more than 13 billion times on TikTok, #K18Results has generated $45.3M EMV so far this year as the brand’s top hashtag.
We expect K18’s star power will only continue to rise. In fact, just last month, the brand debuted its first national TV commercial with a new celebrity ambassador: Sofia Richie Grainge. Will this social domination spell success IRL? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. In fact, around this same time in 2021, fellow haircare favorite Olaplex filed for an IPO after consistently ranking as a top haircare brand in our EMV rankings. We’ll let you connect the dots.
Suffice it to say that if (or when) a sale of K18 goes through, we’ll be the first to raise a glass—and flip our hair.
For a deeper dive into the marketing strategies behind K18’s standout success, tune into our Chief Strategy Officer Conor Begley’s podcast episode with K18’s SVP of Global Marketing Michelle Miller!