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Is Your Digital Marketing A Turn-on?

Sarah Chung and Tina Hedges
  • The goal of digital campaigns should be to build underlining brand/consumer relationships.
  • Only the next “newness” will engage online consumers and make it worth their time.
  • Spend digital marketing dollars wisely with programs that are cohesive and focused.

“Hi. I’m George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.”

In a truly memorable episode of the television series Seinfeld, George Costanza decides to approach every situation in the opposite way he would normally. In this vignette, he divulges the truth to a woman about his lack of economic independence—and wouldn’t you know, rather than be turned off, the woman invites him to sit down. George’s authenticity was a turn-on.

Beauty brands venturing into the digital space might take a lesson from the Costanza playbook: Be brutally authentic, act only in the true spirit of the brand and approach the channel without the business-as-usual marketing plan.

Informed marketers in today’s fluid, multidimensional marketplace recognize that beauty consumers are increasingly spending time and money online. Furthermore, online beauty shoppers are more valuable, influential and engaged than those who don’t use the online channel. Traffic to beauty-related sites has increased 94% from the first quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2009, according to a report by Google/Compete. The report also showed that online beauty shoppers are twice as likely to use six or more different brands of beauty products (20% versus 10% among non-online shoppers). In addition, 60% of online beauty shoppers spend more than $25 per month while only 40% of consumers who don’t shop online spend more than $25 per month. Furthermore, consumers who shop for beauty products online are nearly twice as likely to tell friends about the products they use.

Missed Opportunity

Although the importance of the online channel is undeniable, beauty brands, for the most part, have not figured out how to galvanize online consumers, particularly in the newer digital mediums. Time spent on social networks surpassed that of e-mail for the first time in February 2009, according to Nielsen. However, Internet beauty traffic from social networking actually declined 17% in 2009 from the previous year and represented only a third of the traffic generated by e-mail. Search engines still generated the most Internet beauty traffic at 34.83%, increasing 3% over the prior year.

Beauty brands are still limiting their marketing efforts to search and e-mail when consumers are shifting their attention and time to other online activities.

It’s clear that online is an important channel to engage consumers and generate sales. But how do brands stand out in this cluttered space and create loyal brand advocates?

Be Authentic

How have former cab driver and housewife Lauren Luke’s tutorials inspired 202,000 followers while Clinique’s makeup tutorials, featuring its experienced professionals, have a mere 315 subscribers? The assumption is that women relate to Lauren’s engaging and straightforward manner of applying makeup—she resonates in her naked authenticity, showcasing herself and her makeup skills similarly to how women actually “look” or “do” in their homes.

In social media, sometimes a pulpit makes the preacher, as evidenced by the introduction of Lauren’s own makeup line. Her believability is appealing, endowing her with the power to become an expert and a brand, for a mesmerized cyber audience.

Whether your digital marketing program is about adding an online community to an e-commerce site or creating a microsite around a new product launch, the requisite question should be: Is this inherent to the brand’s DNA?

For Juicy Couture, the authenticity rang true in allowing the brand’s velour-wrapped celebrity aficionados to post “celebrity crushes” or share photos of themselves decked in Juicy on its site. Philosophy used social media in perfect alignment with its brand values for its Mother’s Day campaign. Partnering with Bazaarvoice Stories, Philosophy asked consumers to post stories about their mothers’ life philosophy, with the winner receiving a $1,200 shopping spree with the cosmetics brand. Per Bazaarvoice, 33% of all new visitors to Philosophy’s Web site visited a Stories page. Philosophy also found that visitors coming from a Stories page spent 20% more per average order and asked for 19% more items per order. In sharing their mother’s philosophy, consumers also learned about the brand’s own mantra of “feeling well and living joyously.”

A word to the wise, many digital campaigns can spark a short-term interest, but if it doesn’t build your underlining brand relationship, it won’t drive sales.

Be Different

Consumers are fully in control of their time online and don’t plan to waste it. Therefore, any digital marketing campaign must be notable and conversation-worthy. Catching consumer’s attention online is difficult, and a follow-the-leader strategy is a surefire way to lose it.

Dove’s Real Beauty integrated media campaign is a perfect example of an unconventional approach that paid off. Instead of selling the polished, perfect, Photoshopped image of beauty, Dove went against the grain to reveal the practices of marketing, displaying the naked, stripped-down truth. The honesty was startling, and it became an Internet sensation. The message resonated with consumers, who were tired of being asked to be perfect. Like the brand itself, the purity of the message was startling in its truth, and the digital execution was a perfectly orchestrated organic offshoot to the core message.

The challenge is always to go beyond what has worked in the past. Only the next “newness” will engage online consumers and make it worth their time.

Give Them a Voice

The first rule of thumb in marketing is “always listen to your consumer,” and essentially the new wave of social media is about giving consumers a voice, as well as a place to be heard. If the consumer is in a trusted environment (a community or digital space of their choice), they are more apt to be influenced by the information they hear and act on it.

In 2008, L’Oréal partnered with New York-based SheSpeaks, an online word-of-mouth community of 100,000 women, to launch its Garnier Nutritioniste Eye Roller. L’Oréal sent Eye Rollers to 2,000 SheSpeaks members and asked them to go online to give their feedback. Not only did the participants flood the discussion boards with conversation about the product, they also generated an estimated 150,000 off-line conversations about the product within just the first four weeks. Furthermore, the participants also passed along product coupons, which resulted in an impressive 50,000 downloads of the offer.

“Women love to express their opinions and connect with others, whether it’s online or off-line,” says Aliza Freud, CEO, SheSpeaks, Inc. “When given a voice, they will reward a brand with not only their purchases but also that of their friends and other women through recommendations and pass-along of viral content.”

Sarah Chung is the CEO of Periscope Solutions, a provider of advisory services for small businesses in the areas of strategy, marketing and operations. Periscope delivers research products and consulting services designed to inform and inspire the creation of great products, services and companies.;

Tina Hedges is the co-president of TWIST new.brand.venture, a most unique end-to-end brand partner incubator that provides brands with development, marketing, sales and distribution services. The management team is renowned as “the brand experts” as seen on Bravo TV’s hit national reality series Blow Out as well as Bloomberg TV, MSNBC, Nightline—and other media outlets.

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Digital Marketing for Every Budget

$ (Moderate Budget)

If you don’t have the budget for a mass television, print or radio campaign, digital marketing should be your best friend. Develop a strong brand personality online to leave a lasting impression on the consumers who are in your sphere of influence. Grow that sphere by making them want to root for your brand and tell their friends about it.

  • Branded Facebook page: Tie it in with your Web site, blog, and make it fun.
  • Twitter following: Drive traffic to stores with insider deals.
  • YouTube: Tell your story in a three dimensional (sort of) way to create advocates.

$$ (Medium Budget) Use your digital marketing dollars wisely with programs that are cohesive and focused. You can afford to take a risk with something very cool and buzz-worthy, but you can’t afford to do nothing.

  • Facebook application: Delight consumers with a custom application that is helpful or just plain fun.
  • Word-of-mouth campaign: Build an online and off-line campaign guaranteed to drive sales and generate conversation about your new product.
  • Search engines: Make sure to be there if consumers are looking for you. $$$ (Large Budget)

If you’ve got a large budget, make it count. The challenge will be getting consumers to feel the heart beating underneath those glossy ads and unreasonably beautiful spokeswomen.

  • Video podcasts: Whether it’s a podcast or a channel on YouTube or Hulu, build relationships by giving content on an ongoing basis
  • Online communities: Use your size to your advantage by connecting your loyalists and giving them a virtual brand experience.

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