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The Beauty of Strategy—Plan to Succeed

By: Sheri L. Koetting
Posted: November 9, 2012, from the January 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.
Infographic on MSLK's eight beauty strategy components
  • There are many challenges facing a start-up beauty brand, so having a set strategy helps mark a path for success.
  • Eight key components are critical to formulating a good strategy—market research, customer profiles, target distribution, product concept, mission and position, brand architecture, brand tone and design.
  • Adding up the information from these eight components for your brand helps cut through the retail clutter and make a meaningful connection with consumers.

Statistics provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration—based on research from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Business Dynamics Statistics; U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BED—indicate that 50% of start-up brands will not survive their first five years of business. There are many factors contributing to this failure rate, and one of them most definitely is certainly insufficient capital. To combat this, start-ups need to define a clear brand strategy for differentiating themselves in the market. This crucial element of planning is what separates the 50% of successes from the rest of the pack.

For beauty brands in particular, large expenses are ahead in product development—from formulations to the manufacturing minimums required to simply get out of the gate. Given that, the cost of creating a targeted brand strategy is relatively minimal. Yet, so often, crucial planning steps are forgotten.

Defining who you are and where you are going is hard work, especially with all the other items on your to-do list. It often requires the assistance of outsiders with fresh perspective, and those who outline the real opportunities for their brand in the marketplace are rewarded.

Here is why. A brand without a clear strategy is an empty shell. If you are not clearly defining your brand, someone else will. A well-crafted brand strategy is the backbone for bringing your unique story to life. Unless you have a clear strategy, no credible designer, marketer or sales rep will be able to craft your story into a compelling visual or message. They will merely fill your empty shell with their personal interpretations.

The following are eight components boutique marketing and design agency MSLK has found to be crucial in developing a brand strategy. The order in which you achieve them is not as important as the need to address each one.

Market Research

It is exceedingly important to know what is trending in your competitive space. Are expenditures in this category trending up or down? What are consumers looking for? What are hot topics, ingredients and areas of interest? If you already have a brand presence, how do customers perceive your existing brand? Where are the opportunities or white space in this market?

Customer Profiles

It is important to be honest about the demographic profile of the customer who will appreciate and benefit the most from your offering. Many beauty brands today define their target customers as “women ages 18–55” or “today’s modern women.” These broad swaths of the general public are not adequate customer profiles.

Your brand will always have an opportunity to capture peripheral consumers, but you will penetrate the market most effectively if you are honest about who your core, loyal customers are, and seek a more narrow target. MSLK likes to create names and personas around these profiles. This allows the creation of promotions that speak to customers on a personal level.

Target Distribution