The age of the internet has completely changed the way advertisers connect with consumers, and that change has been constant. Top brands in each industry are scrambling to keep up with the latest methods of staying connected to their customer base. This change is highly visible within the beauty industry, as social media influencers, new forms of audience targeting, and even new advertising channels are at the forefront of the changing advertising world. How beauty brands leverage these evolving advertising spaces will likely determine their future success.
"The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts," said Malcolm Gladwell in his book "The Tipping Point", published back in 2000. He was describing a phenomenon known today as the influencer marketing that is keeping the beauty industry on its toes. Well-established beauty brands are now facing a loss of credibility through DTC disruption from brands like Glossier, which has grown exponentially since 2010. The key to their success lies in the strategic use of digital influencers who are true beauty experts, making them more credible than celebrities (influencers of years past), who typically promote products they’ve never used themselves.
Influencers’ expertise in beauty allows them to solve their audience’s problems by solving their own. In addition to their knowledge, they offer a more attractive package of overall lifestyle content on their social media platforms, compared to the often staged and over-photoshopped advertisements featuring someone famous and out-of-reach.
What truly differentiates influencers’ relationships with consumers is their willingness to share glimpses of their personal lives on social media. People who have been following the same influencers for years often think of them as friends, considering how much they see of their daily lives. That reinforces the idea that followers can look to influencers for a trustworthy recommendation; to either buy a product or avoid it altogether. Successful influencers value their followers by paying close attention to their comments and direct messages, creating an intimate versus transactional interaction.
Valued at $532B and projected to exceed $800B by 2025, the beauty industry continues to be an attractive vertical for brands looking to grow revenue. However, competing for advertising space in this over-saturated, highly competitive market can be a significant challenge. Dominated by power-players like L’Oréal and Unilever, advertising spend in the U.S. beauty industry alone topped $2.6B in 2019. For the hundreds (if not thousands) of brands struggling to gain market share with limited budgets, innovative audience targeting is key.
Discovering what motivates and inspires your target audience is essential to cut through the advertising clutter with both efficiency and effectiveness. Going head-on to target consumers who are in-market for beauty products can be prohibitively expensive; but by leveraging industry tools such as Google Insights Finder, you could discover that females 25 – 34 interested in beauty over-index heavily for interests such as nail art, cooking, and exercise.
Return on Emotions
Using this data, brands can select a target audience and creative strategy aimed at connecting with consumers on an emotional level while avoiding some of the direct competition with other brands. Creating this emotional connection based on a consumer’s interest helps to create what Ad Age recently referred to as ROE, or Return on Emotions. Not only does this audience represent higher efficiencies, but emotionally connected consumers have proven to be more valuable to a brand, purchasing more often and exhibiting less price sensitivity.
Establishing these emotional motivators and tangential affinities for your target consumer allows beauty brands to circumvent the overcrowded in-market beauty audience, cut through the advertising static more effectively, and build stronger, more mutually beneficial relationships with consumers, all while achieving advertising efficiencies.
The value of a clearly defined and executed customer acquisition strategy is only as impactful as a brand’s ability to capitalize. In today’s business landscape, it is just as important for brands to not only know what to say to attract and retain customers, but how and where to say it. Brands today recognize social channels as not just platforms for promotion, but also as environments where they can actually facilitate purchases.
Modern brands, many of which are digitally native, continue to disrupt the beauty industry with new ways of working. Traditionally a vertical with a staid approach to advertising, the new normal, according to a research study by L.E.K. Consulting on the growth of the digital presence within the Beauty Industry, is now “direct-to-consumer business models that leverage social media platforms to create and communicate a compelling customer experience.” This is exemplified by brands harnessing social channels like Instagram and Facebook for opportunities to communicate with, as opposed to at, their target customers. Millennial and Gen Z audiences “look for advice and recommendations from a relatable community,” and want to be involved in the ongoing conversation. The strength of a product is no longer the sole barometer for a positive customer experience; customers also value building an ongoing relationship with the brand. This is in contrast to historical advertising trends within the vertical, where brands drove the conversation, providing information on a large scale, and at their sole discretion.
It has become a through-line for modern brands to take seriously the value of building relationships with their customers. In-market consumers often “follow people, rather than brands [on social platforms],” fostering a community-like customer base, which offers the added value of organically reinforcing a brand’s reputation. Acquisition is grounded in the communities that exist within these platforms, since they’re where customers seek information (and build community ties). Examples of this include online forums like Reddit, where users with shared values convene and communicate, and Instagram, where users can engage directly with brands and communicate directly with other customers that may have a shared interest in a product or brand. Additionally, one of the most popular platforms for the vertical remains YouTube, where beauty “vloggers” have gained a significant following through product tutorials and reviews. Social channels offer myriad ways for brands and consumers alike to enter into the beauty market, and for brands to facilitate lines of communication that can appeal to customers, both potential and returning.
Compared to traditional large-scale and expensive awareness-focused media campaigns, online advertising offers beauty brands the option of being more creative with their marketing dollars while also diversifying communication styles and acquisition streams. It requires brands to be dynamic and nimble, and have the ability to pivot at a moment’s notice, depending on audience insights, technological innovation, or product updates.
Continuing to stay ahead of the digital curve will be imperative if brands wants to stay connected with their customers. New forms of native advertising, influencer marketing and audience targeting strategies are at the forefront of this transformation. These advertising methods need to be a central focus for all industries, but they are even more important for an industry like beauty, in which success relies on a younger customer base that engages in social media.