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The Seven Deadly Sins of Beauty Brand Storytelling

By: Alisa Marie Beyer
Posted: February 21, 2014, from the March 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

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When it comes to enchanting your beauty consumer, imagination and ingenuity is key, and a story that doesn’t tell a story but only seems to relay dry facts will only achieve one goal: losing her interest. And likely her loyalty. Like I mentioned, consumers love to be entertained, so entertain them. Dismiss the mundane facts that everyone states and dig deep for the story you haven’t told—or heard—yet, and then apply a healthy dose of creativity to rethinking how you share it.

Does your body cream contain a special plant infusion, or is your shampoo scented with a rare blossom? Good. Fall in love all over again with what is unique about these details and then write about it.

Sin #5: Your Story Tells Too Many Stories

Sin #5 is similar to Sin #2, offering too much information. But in this case, it’s just too many stories vying for attention. A well-crafted brand story offers consumers a clear point of difference about the brand they can rally around in an exciting, motivational and highly differentiated way. Trying to cram every detail about your brand into this story can (and will) kill even the best idea.

I know that for most beauty entrepreneurs, every detail of their brand seems crucial and important. However, when it comes to sharing this information with consumers, every detail simply can’t be a major part of the story. So, your brand is a line of skin care for mature women that also focuses on acne... and sun protection and anti-aging... and, oh yeah, basic skin care and prevention and education? That’s a tall order, and asking a lot of your consumer. With an attention span that allots about three seconds per decision while shopping, few consumers have enough time to try and make sense of so many messages. At first blush, she needs to know why this is the product for her, and that then gives you the entry point for introducing those other neat, important details of your brand that will seal the deal.

Sin #6: Your Story Lacks Emotion

Speaking of sealing the deal, one of the chief reasons beauty brands fail with consumers is they simply do not make that critical emotional connection that consumers crave. What’s one of the best ways to make this connection? That’s right, your brand story. And both inside and outside the beauty industry, the most successful brands tap into an emotional connection. Nike wasn’t banking on logic with their iconic “Just Do It” tagline—that is pure emotion driving consumers to stop whining, lace up their Nike sneakers and get going. The same can be said of L’Oréal’s “Because You’re Worth It”—every woman wants to be worth the effort to look and feel her best, and L’Oréal expertly trades on this emotion to create a connection with women.

After having written and read dozens of brand stories, I know that no matter how large or small, every brand has a glowing emotional core that needs to be celebrated. Tap into the reasons why you started the brand—the heritage or the founder’s story, your ingredients, methodology or technology, or even your place of founding—and polish that angle until it shines. Even the most scientific brand has an emotional heartbeat that can, and should, connect with consumers.

Sin #7: Your Story Wasn’t Tested

Finally, the ultimate sin is assuming you already know what your consumer likes and thinks of your beautifully crafted story. As beauty executives and brand managers, I know it’s deceptively easy to believe what we write will automatically resonate with consumers—but the truth is, until you ask her, you really don’t know. And assuming (or presuming) you do based upon anything other than cold, hard facts can be an expensive disaster waiting to happen.

The final part of the story development process is testing your brand’s written story with consumers. This gives you critical consumer insight and perspective into the very messages you want to resonate the most. It also helps you discover if you’ve committed any of the other six deadly story writing sins before you finalize these elements and make them your brand’s creed.

At the end of the day, the biggest question you need to be able to ask—and answer—about your brand story is really quite simple: Would you buy your brand based upon your story? If the answer is no, time to get out your pen and start rewriting.

A proven entrepreneur and visionary, Alisa Marie Beyer has built and sold three companies and is now the founder and creative director of both The Beauty Company (TBC) and Coastal Salt & Soul. The Beauty Company is a strategy firm that lives, works and dreams at the intersection of beauty, business and creativity. For TBC, beauty isn’t just a project, it’s a passion, and it uses an award-winning approach to create beauty and personal care products that deliver beautiful yet functional solutions carefully attuned to the realities of a particular business. Whether a new indie darling or established corporate visionary, TBC’s unique understanding of what consumers want, need and desire lets it secure both sell-in and sell-through at retail. TBC specializes in research, product and brand strategy. The company has worked with start-ups to 13 of the top 15 beauty companies globally and has a proven and award-winning track record in cosmetics, skin care, beauty devices, body care, hair care, nail care, fragrance and wellness/personal care.