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In the May 2006 “Marketing Matters” column, I wrote about understanding the power of G2G, focusing on women-to-women recommendations and how they’re gaining in importance for beauty marketers worldwide. The Benchmarking Company’s research showed that 64% of women recommended beauty brands to girlfriends on a regular basis, and 17% received beauty advice from their girlfriends. Thus far, 2007 research indicates that those numbers remain stable and reveals more about the reasons why women value G2G beauty brand recommendations and which avenues they’re using most to get the word out.
Recommendations that women give to one another are a key component of their individual definitions of brand loyalty. According to The Benchmarking Company’s 2007 Pink Report, Survival of the Prettiest: Face and Body Skin Care, “recommending a beauty brand to others” ranks in the top five definitions of what it means to be brand loyal. (See Figure 1) A woman’s passion for sharing her life experiences is emerging as a powerful force in shaping beauty product opinions and buying habits, and the global forum of the Internet is one means of broadcasting their strong voices.
Sister Helping Sister—The Internet as Unbiased and Trustworthy
A decade ago, if you were to tell a beauty brand marketer that blogs, social networks, message boards, and Internet retailing and beauty specialty sites were going to become important channels for women to gather, discuss and heed advice from one another on beauty purchases, you would have been met with a great deal of skepticism.
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Today, findings from the 2007 Pink Report: Beauty and the Blog report:
- More than 27% of women have posted a comment about a beauty brand on a message board, social networking site or blog.
- 67% of women who participate in these sites are more likely to buy a beauty product if they read a good comment or review about it from their fellow consumers.
- When they participate in a blog or join a social networking site, 34% look to those sites for trusted advice when it comes to beauty buying.
- 50% of women ages 18–29 trust blogs, message boards and social networking sites as a main source for beauty advice.
- 54% of women feel they’ve made smarter buying decisions since they started visiting blogs, message boards and social networking sites.
- 59% of women feel they get unbiased information on consumer-oriented blogs and message boards that they can’t find anywhere else.
Video sharing Web sites are proving to be an important G2G medium as well. On any given day, YouTube or Google Video will air everyday women in roles as “beauty mavens,” with videos showing their fellow females tips and tricks for applying makeup for certain looks or special occasions. While many of these online divas create these homemade videos themselves, they are no less effective in passing on beauty tips (and brands they love) as a means to help other women.
Build on Emotion—G2G is Also About the Company
Women are just as enthusiastic about gathering to discuss beauty products as the socially responsible corporations that make them. A recent YouTube search listed 54 individual Avon “Walk for the Cure” videos, where women chronicled their walk adventures for others to see. Many proud and teary moments proclaiming “we made it!” at the finish line make for lasting and positive impressions of that beauty brand and its cause.
Dove has also successfully tapped into the creative, philanthropic and emotional minds of women with its Campaign for Real Beauty. The company’s Web site includes numerous G2G communications tools—including an open (and not company-directed) blog, a place for women to upload and share essays and stories relative to beauty and the campaign, and a place for women to donate to the Dove Self- Esteem Fund as a way to help younger women with their feelings about beauty issues.
Make it Personal—G2G Events that Work
In addition to using every aspect of the Internet to help women to meet and discuss beauty issues with others, successful beauty marketers are also creating and promoting in-person events that turn a regular retail experience into a social event among girlfriends.
The G2G experience needn’t be quite so elaborate—it just needs to get women talking about the brand and feeling a part of the social beauty fabric. Many ideas that work are simple, such as incorporating a beauty “club” for your brand where women can continue to talk to each other about the products and receive more personalized marketing messages at the same time. Olay is one example of a club that works for this purpose online.
Similarly, luxury apothecaries and spas often have clublike status for frequent patrons, who are invited to events where they can meet and mingle for exclusive on-site parties, sessions with renowned makeup artists or intimate settings for group spa services.
Beauty brands that effectively use G2G communication tools are becoming brand favorites. Brands like Olay, Bath & Body Works and Dove lead the pack as beauty brands that both lead in brand conversion (converting one-time triers to faithful buyers) and as brands recommended most. Survival of the Prettiest: Face and Body Skin Care indicates Bath & Body Works has the highest recommendation rating at 13% of women recommending it to a friend, followed by Olay with 10%, Avon with 9% and Dove with 8%.
Get a G2G Group Perspective
In addition to traditional online surveying, focus groups and other market research methods, The Benchmarking Company has increasingly embraced G2G communications as an important part of its clients’ research arsenal. Girlfriend groups are a casual, more intimate focus group type of research conducted in a woman’s home where questions are asked and beauty products are sampled among her and her friends. Mimicking true female shopping patterns and the important role that friends and family play in beauty purchasing decisions, this type of research can provide a valuable baseline of understanding of women’s beauty buying patterns, brands they love and recommend, and why.