Among luxury and personal care brands, beauty brands — a category that, for the purposes of this article encompasses cosmetics, fragrance, skin and hair care brands — have emerged as among the most digitally savvy.
This is partly because of beauty brands’ relatively long legacy of ecommerce, says Maureen Mullen, chief researcher at luxury think tank L2. Brands such as Clinique have been vending their wares online since the late ’90s, well before comparable brands in categories such as fashion, travel and jewelry, to name a few.
Although beauty brands continue to invest heavily in traditional advertising and their own websites — open any women’s magazine and you’ll see plenty of makeup ads and a fragrance sample or two — Facebook is playing an increasingly central role in their marketing, ecommerce and customer service strategies.
High-end brands such as MAC and Lancome emerged as early leaders in the space, accompanied by what Mullen describes as “truly powerful” integrated campaigns from mass brands owned by P&G (CoverGirl, Olay, Pantene) and Unilever (Dove, Tresemme, St. Ives). Their investments, says Mullen, “have made the entire industry recognize Facebook as a powerful CRM tool.”
Another thing beauty brands have done well, she says, is addressing both global and local markets through Facebook, a perpetual challenge for any global brand.
We’ve spoken to several leading beauty brands in the space and collected their thoughts and advice for you below.
1. Focus on Engagement and Community, Not Sales
Although several companies are beginning to experiment with what is being called F-commerce (a.k.a. ecommerce on Facebook), most leading fashion and beauty brands agree: At present, Facebook is a platform for engagement and community-building, not sales.
“We don’t look at the platform as a sales or promotional channel,” says Guillaume Jesel, SVP of global marketing at MAC. MAC’s Facebook Page, which boasts more than 2 million fans, is instead dedicated to sharing content that furthers its branding, entertainment, engagement and awareness efforts.
In addition to a packed content calendar, MAC takes pains to cultivate a sense of community on its Page. This means, first and foremost, responding to questions posed by fans, whether it’s a request for makeup, career advancement tips or customer service inquiries.
The Page also furthers community development by frequently spotlights fans who are the most active or have achieved the highest scores on various apps.
n one of its larger Facebook campaigns to date, the company invited fans to enter for a chance to be “transformed” by MAC’s creative team and shot for an upcoming campaign that will appear in materials in stores and online this fall — an effort that not only makes existing Facebook fans feel valuable, but will bring tangible awareness of the company’s Facebook community to everyone who visits MAC counters and its website as well.
Although MAC has refrained from adding shopping capabilities to its Facebook Page, it has leveraged Facebook to enable MAC fans to “shop together” through an on-site instant-messaging service, which can be activated by logging onto maccosmetics.com with their Facebook logins.
Hair and skincare brand Aveda, on the other hand, has begun exploring some options for F-commerce, although engagement remains the number-one goal, says Digital Community Manager Annalise Kaylor. The company is looking to launch a tab that makes product ratings and reviews immediately accessible to visitors and also offers some shopping capabilities.
Aveda will also post product usage tips and encourage fans to share tips with each other.
“The conversation moves from the brand to fans to fans and other fans,” Kaylor explains. “Instead of promoting a product from our viewpoint only, it provides fans with something useful in a truly authentic voice.”
(Cosmetics brands Bare Escentuals has been particularly successful in getting fans to talk to each other. 97% of the content on its Wall is from user posts, according to Mullen, and much of it product use suggestions from fans, below.)
Despite other companies’ decisions to launch tabs that replicate the shopping experience of their ecommerce sites on Facebook, Kaylor expects that Aveda will continue to lead customers to check out on aveda.com rather than on the Facebook Page, as the company sees no clear benefit in doing so.
Marisa Thalberg, VP of corporate digital marketing at Estee Lauder Companies Inc., agrees — she believes the best approaches will be those that complement rather replicate brands’ existing ecommerce sites on Facebook.
2. Develop a Content Calendar
As with other channels, Facebook has become a central part of the promotional calendars of many major beauty brands.
Rachel Ostrom, executive director of global marketing at Aveda, says that Aveda didn’t have a regular content calendar when its Page first launched in July 2009, but her team now plans out content one month in advance to accompany product launches and promotions at its salons. The company’s marketing team is continually monitoring the types of posts that drive the most engagement in terms of Likes, comments and shares.
She notes that the kinds of updates that perform best are those that tap into the knowledge and opinions of fans. She recalls two posts in particular: One that asked the community to name and describe their favorite salons, and another that asked users to name their 10 favorite products from 2010.
“For those types of updates, we might have upwards of 600 responses,” Ostrom says, adding that it’s important to show users that the brand is listening by synthesizing their responses in follow-up posts.
Unique stories about the brand and its employees also perform well, she says. Last summer, one of Aveda’s retail locations in California adopted a sea lion and sent information and photos over to corporate, who in turn shared it with Aveda’s entire fanbase.
“The comments were amazing, and we ended up showing a video of the sea lion’s release,” Ostrom recalls. “The stories that show how employees are engaging with the community and the environment really allow our visitors to engage on a deeper level with the brand.”
MAC keeps fans engaged by constantly changing up the form of its updates, which includes a mix of news flashes and visual content (both photos and video), apps and games. Although the form varies, the focus is always on the topics at the center of the MAC brand and community: makeup artistry and trends, pop culture and social responsibility, Jesel says, emphasizing that the content is inspired by the collections and not centered on the products themselves.
“As a brand we’ve made the decision to use Facebook as a platform to share engaging content that is inspired by a collection, not to use Facebook as a promotional outlet or vehicle to push specific products,” Jesel says, citing two features launched earlier this year to promote Mac’s Quite Cute and Surf Baby collections.
For the former, the company released a game called Cute Pinball, which attracted more than 30,000 players and an average play time of more than 12 minutes. For Surf Baby, MAC launched a tab profiling three professional surfers. Photos, video and copy were released over the course of three weeks in the form of journals.
Among the brands we surveyed, each posted between three and five times per week on average. Its important, Kaylor and Thalberg both stress, that Facebook’s geotargeting capabilities are utilized so that fans get content relevant to them. (There’s little point in announcing a new product line to one’s entire fan base if the line is only launching in the UK, for instance.)
It’s likewise important to make sure that certain targeted users are not overloaded. If a local market is receiving an unusually high volume of updates, the company will modify the schedule of its global updates and vice-versa, Kaylor says.
3. Rewards Fans With Exclusives
Several of the brands we spoke to noted that their Facebook fans tended to be their most loyal and engaged customers and, as such, make excellent recipients for rewards and sampling programs.
Aveda’s most recent sampling campaign was held in May — the company gave out 20,000 sample packs containing shampoo, conditioner and smoother. Recipients were given information and a video to watch before filling out a sample request on a Facebook tab. After the 20,000 samples were gone, fans were invited to come into nearby stores and salons to pick up their samples.
Sampling campaigns on Facebook are effective not only for increasing awareness about a product launch, but also for increasing a Page’s fanbase and getting valuable feedback. After fashion label Oscar de la Renta gave away 25,000 of a recent fragrance launch — a supply it exhausted in a mere three days — the brand’s Likes grew by 40%. Roughly 5,000 sample recipients also filled out a follow-up survey about the scent.
“Sampling as a concept is old school, but with a traditional sampling you don’t get to hear what people think,” says Erika Bearman, Oscar de la Renta’s director of communications. “I think that the ability to collect feedback on your product is an important advantage to Facebook as a marketing platform,” she adds.
4. Integrate Across Other Channels
When running any kind of Facebook campaign, it’s important to bring the rest of a brand’s marketing channels into the mix to maximize total reach, and to bridge online and offline experiences with the brand.
A multi-channel Covergirl promotion of a new “natural luxe” line of makeup proved particularly successful when it launched this January. The makeup company ran TV ads prompting viewers not to head to covergirl.com or their nearest Walgreens, but to log in at facebook.com/covergirl, where fans could sign up to be part of the “Covergirl movement,” get free samples and upload videos of themselves sampling makeup.
The commercials, which garnered 8,000 Likes on the first day of airing alone, were accompanied by Facebook ads featuring spokesmodels Taylor Swift and Queen Latifah, catapulting Covergirl into the number-two spot (in terms of Facebook Likes) among beauty brands on Facebook, says Mullen.
When Aveda launches a Facebook promotion, such as the Show Off Your Curls contest it held in February, the company sends emails to its existing customer base to drive them to a dedicated Facebook tab, and it posts promotions in-store and on aveda.com. A recent Checkin for H20 campaign earlier this summer also integrated Facebook Places and Foursquare.
Although Aveda is active on a number of other social networks, including YouTube and Twitter, it considers Facebook its “central hub.”
5. Provide Customer Service Support
Questions posted on Facebook walls are “as important as any question asked at one of our counters, and so we strive to be fully and individually responsive to these,” says Thalberg of Estee Lauder Companies Inc., whose portfolio of companies includes MAC, Clinique and Aveda.
Mary Kay, a brand that has been much applauded for the offline customer service it provides through its network of independent beauty consultants, likewise emphasizes that it’s important to provide the same level of customer service on Facebook as elsewhere.
“For Mary Kay, it’s all about creating an online experience that mimics the offline experience we’ve always had,” says Yvette Franco, VP of U.S. marketing at Mary Kay.
And that’s fitting advice for any brand on Facebook, really..