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From GCI magazine’s May 2006 issue.
One of the most interesting things about working in the field of marketing beauty products to women is how often daily life interweaves with what’s learned on the job. This is most evident when it comes to the role of women as word-of-mouth product ambassadors. Understanding the power of women listening to recommendations from girlfriends and also making their own recommendations is gaining importance for all beauty marketers.
The Most Important Question
Recent research shows that 64% of women recommend beauty brands to girlfriends on a regular basis, and 17% of women get beauty advice from their girlfriends. Yes, women talk and listen to each other. The relationship a woman forms with a brand is essential to its success because, by her very nature, she evaluates information and shares it with her peers and colleagues. All beauty marketers should work on understanding this concept and getting their beauty products into such “magical” influencers’ hands; then they can watch the word spread.
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Girlfriend-to-girlfriend (G2G) communications are exerting an increasingly powerful influence on what is purchased. One reason is that women crave a sense of belonging; today, they identify themselves less with traditional demographics than they do with peers in their workplace, neighborhoods or communities—both real and virtual—and their group of girlfriends. Women are talking, so the most important question a beauty marketer can ask is what a beauty customer tells her girlfriends about you.
Why Women Talk
There are many motivations that drive women to shop, such as meeting a specific need or for the sake of the experience and relaxation. And there are very specific reasons a woman calls up her girlfriend to tell her about the latest lipstick color, perfume or skin care product that she has discovered. Women tell each other about what products they find and love at rates much higher than expected.
In the nationwide March 2006 Pink Panel™ online research study, women shared that they recommended a beauty brand to girlfriends for the following reasons:
65%—The product is really good.
52%—The product works as it said it would.
46%—I love it and want to share my find with them.
42%—It is reasonably priced.
32%—If it works for me, it will work for them.
One of my personal girlfriend-to-girlfriend beauty sharing stories is the philosophy® pure grace fragrance. When I smelled its perfectly clean, “I just crawled under fresh white sheets on a summer’s day” scent, I was hooked. I called my friend Jane to tell her about it, right from the cosmetics counter at Nordstrom. Within one week, my friend Jennifer, who is two friends removed from Jane, called me to tell me she heard I would love this new scent by philosophy®. The magic of G2G works.
Why Measuring Matters
Companies should measure the willingness of a customer to recommend beauty products to someone else. If you can identify and track the number of real brand advocates you have, meaning those consumers who serve as evangelists, you begin to track your brand health and power. Growing your beauty brand is much more than just increasing sales dollars and getting repeat purchases from the same customer. The real win is for companies that can so delight their customers that they are willing to come back for more and also tell their girlfriends to buy the products.
In other words, these brand advocates are willing to put their reputations on the line for you. They will be the most effective part of your marketing department, and you don’t even have to pay them. They multiply their own purchases and provide referrals. They are your magical brand advocates. These women bring new customers into the company at no charge to you. Positive word-of-mouth is the ultimate beauty brand growth engine.
Blazing Word-of-Mouth Trails
The Benchmarking Company’s research shows a direct correlation between a woman’s purchasing behavior and her willingness to recommend a product to her girlfriend. On average, 63% of women who repeatedly purchase a beauty product are extremely likely to recommend that beauty brand to a girlfriend. Our research has uncovered a few beauty brands that command the highest percentage of magic brand ambassadors, meaning that customers choosing those brands had a repeat-purchase propensity that correlated directly with their willingness to recommend the product to others.
There are certainly brands that have customers who repeat purchase but who are not willing to recommend them to a friend. They are referred to as brand critics, and it’s only a matter of time before a competitor converts those customers to another product line. By asking the right questions and tracking the answers, beauty marketers can compare changes in customer purchasing and word-of-mouth behaviors.
Ask the Right Question
Many research reports are too difficult for executives to act on. Companies today do not need complex research tools. They need ongoing, reliable, timely and actionable data that allows them to track how they are doing and how to improve.
Keep your research process simple, timely and actionable. Begin by running a quick survey to establish your company’s benchmark. Keep it very easy. Ask the one important question: how likely is it that you would recommend (insert your beauty brand) to a girlfriend? You are keen to know how many customers are endorsing your brand to others versus how many are serving as brand critics. You can establish your own benchmark, giving it a great name such as Brand Ambassador Profile or Customer Voice Index. Calculate your index by simply subtracting the percentage of ambassadors from critics. This will give you a benchmark score to track.
Demonstrate a deep respect for the power of word-of-mouth in today’s beauty brand building, and you will get women talking about you.