Sigma’s Innovative Strategy for Winning YouTube

Being on trend is nothing new for young women. This is evident in makeup tutorials on YouTube, made by both tweenage girls in their bedrooms and older, more established “Beauty Gurus ” in their well lit, HD vanity setups.

When these videos lead to purchases in the beauty product market, ladies attribute those purchases to each other in a variety of ways. The video tag “YouTube made me do it” has even emerged, tracking this cycle of influence.

Sigma, a cosmetics and brush company, has capitalized on this cycle of influence to market their products in sync with the Beauty community on YouTube. Between their affiliates program, their use of coupons, and their partnerships off YouTube with some of their affiliates, Sigma has become a standout example of a Brand’s organic use of the YouTube platform.

But What’s In It For Me? The Sigma Affiliate Program

Sigma’s success aligns with the success of the Beauty Gurus. As a brand with its audience already firmly planted on YouTube, Sigma works with Beauty Gurus to expand their reach online.

Although the brush market is not as saturated as cosmetics, there are still plenty of competitors that court this audience. And, in order to get a leg up on the competition, working with Gurus to turn Sigma into an instantly recognizable brand online has turned out to be a winning move. Offering discounted trials of new products to help spark first time buyers via their network of affiliates is something that fits right into the wheelhouse of the internet. Both the brand and the channel benefit from channel growth, and affiliates can promote the brand as little or as much as they want.

According to their affiliate handbook, Sigma gives affiliates “10% commission from the first sale generated by a new customer through their affiliate link.” Beauty enthusiasts love new products, so prioritizing first time buyers is ideal for the audiences that Beauty Gurus cater to.

Guru performance is further rewarded with store credits towards their own purchases and cash bonuses for high performers. There is even an Affiliate VIP program that offers permanent affiliate discounts. Such incentives not only get products featured in videos, but also encourage channel growth and consistent production of content. The desire for growth is where the goals of the channels tend to align with the goals of Sigma.  Ultimately, the affiliates are a means to an end – brand recognition amongst consumers to drives sales.

In order to maximize purchases, the audience has to be sizable. So, Sigma not only courts professional Gurus, but also helps up and coming Gurus grow.

Tati of GlamLifeGuru, a Guru with 200,000+ subscribers, claims in her “YouTube Made Me Do It!!!!” video that the whole YouTube Beauty community made her buy a set of Sigma Brushes. Tati heard about Sigma from other Gurus, bought products, became an affiliate, and is telling other people about Sigma brushes.

This cycle of buying, trying, and recommending because of an affiliate is apparent here.


The Great Coupon Resurgence

Sometimes, talking about an affiliate program can be awkward. Beauty Gurus stake their jobs on remaining authentic with viewers. Thus, that’s where coupons step in and help viewers feel like they too are benefiting financially as a result of the relationship between a Guru and a brand.

Every month, Sigma makes new coupon codes for a percentage off of purchases. Changing coupon codes monthly encourages gurus to make regular videos. These codes wind up in the description boxes of YouTube videos and expire at the end of each month. This coupon code tactic also makes Sigma significantly more searchable, since the text descriptions help SEO for the brand. Sigma’s coupon strategy also makes it easier for Gurus to advocate for their brand while remaining authentic and giving back to Beauty fans. People looking to buy more Sigma products know to look for the coupon codes or wait for the seasonal sales. Ultimately, YouTube makes it easy for the right customers to find the right products and make purchases.


There Is A Handbook For That?

In their Affiliate Handbook , Sigma provides some best practices for being a Sigma affiliate and devotes pages specifically for YouTube Beauty Gurus. The handbook encourages deep-linking, where links go directly to products mentioned, bypassing the potential complications of navigating the whole web site. They even suggest adding annotations for videos containing other Sigma products or including links in the description to other videos using or reviewing Sigma products. Saturation of the brand name is key to convincing first time buyers to make a purchase.

Many Gurus are also Bloggers, and Sigma provides banner ads for every sale they have, including coupon codes, product launches and everything else under the sun.

The handbook walks bloggers through posting banner ads, creating disclosures to be in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission, and ideal times to post. They suggest posting videos within a week of new product launches and seasonal sales. They guide Gurus on how to optimize sales through YouTube channels, with tactics like verbally mentioning the name of the brush and listing it in the description box as well. Sigma advises on video style, length, YouTube trends and provides outside resources for affiliates. There is a blog, and affiliates can even get one-on-one training.

Helping up-and-coming Beauty Gurus with YouTube best practices not only helps Sigma, but helps the fan’s channel as well. Providing tips for maximizing the purchasing potential of viewers is also useful for channels to use for all of their programming, regardless of content, making all videos more searchable. By working towards ubiquity via Beauty Gurus, Sigma is also placing themselves online in such a way that someone looking for content about Beauty on YouTube will encounter Sigma in a positive light.



 Sigma takes a whole world approach to working with Beauty Gurus. Not only does the brand have great tactics online, but in bringing Gurus offline (in real life, away from keyboards, or AFK), they make a more convincing case that Sigma is a brand for the Beauty community. In positioning themselves as understanding and supportive of Beauty Gurus, they in turn, as a brand, become peers. Sales at booths on special in person items adds additional pressure to buy products with immediacy.

Sigma makes a point of marketing where their customers already are, through voices their customers already trust. The Sigma booth at IMATS got a lot of YouTube vlogging publicity, which is a perk of working with YouTubers. Gurus hold meetups at the Sigma booth, thus drawing fans to the brand. In-real-life, interactions with Beauty Gurus and event based sales encourage purchases which later make it into haul videos. Gurus often get gifted products by Sigma at events, which they later make haul videos of as well. They capitalize on brand activity that occurs offline, but it is still directed towards the YouTube fan community and has a positive impact.

Passion for YouTubers, sales, and products drive fans and Gurus to the Sigma booth. In working with Beauty Gurus in their away-from-keyboard lives, Sigma makes it back online from yet another perspective. Sigma has opened up rabbit holes, online and offline with a multifaceted approach to working with internet natives. In supporting the Gurus, Sigma gets authentic amplification from the major points of entry to Beauty online.

Using ZEFR tech, we ran a search to determine the overall size and scope of Sigma brushes on YouTube. The following results cover all videos that either discuss Sigma brushes specifically, or use a Sigma affiliate link in the video description.

TOTAL VIEWS: 1,446,671,686

So What Does This Mean For Brands?

Sigma uses tactics on YouTube, online and offline, that work for them, but such tactics do not have to be unique to the Beauty community. Affiliate programs are nothing new and seem to be popping up more and more in the Beauty community on YouTube. The tactics of spreading brand messaging through a network of grassroots voices is applicable to many other brands, whether its through an already existing affiliate program, or by simply finding the most relevant fans and sending them products to try.

Coupons online can be another easily adapted tactic for a network of fans to use, especially when combined with a product review from the YouTuber or blogger. Not all brands have discount codes and coupons, but for those that already do, making them available for earned media makers to disseminate might be worth trying.

Lastly, interacting with fans offline, and helping your network of earned media makers make better content online, are both universally applicable. Part of the beauty of a brand’s involvement with fans is the ability to improve the quality of content, which in turn helps the brand reach larger audiences, all leading to a mutually beneficial productive cycle.


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