Beauty’s Emotional Intelligence


Traditional marketing demands a clear and unique selling point, a well-substantiated and quantified point of difference, and an aspirational selling point that borders both desire and humor. However, with shrinking attention spans, social media feeds and sponsored content flooding mobile phones, it is now more important than ever to emotionally connect with consumers in a split second—at the speed of scrolling.

Classic benefit-oriented or problem-solver-based product claims are best for an overall marketing strategy. Things like Maybelline’s “Superstay 10 hour Stain Gloss” and “Superstay 14 hour Lipstick” are laced with benefits that resonate with women. Similarly claims like, “Get visibly thicker and stronger hair with Dove Men+Care Thick & Strong Fortifying 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner,” target the shopper looking for a specific product.

Social media, however, is about emotional engagement. As a result, sales-based and benefit-oriented claims are less likely to resonate with social media audiences, who look for direct calls to action, an enticing prompt to click on and a story that engages them. Creating an emotional connection can fortify their loyalty over time. Here are three ways to make social media messages and communications stand out, while staying true to the product claims and keeping the brand story intact.

Use Your Voice

When trying to relay a core benefit, like the voluminous qualities of mascara or the long lasting wear of a lipstick, humor may not always work. However, when adapted to social media, anything that induces a consumer to pause their relentless scrolling or prompts a click through is fair game.

Benefit Cosmetics, with its 6 million Instagram followers and 5.8 million Facebook followers, is a pro at this. Using taglines like “Laughter is the best cosmetic,” which match its vibrant, youthful energy, Benefit Cosmetics succeeds in creating engagement without even mentioning a product. The brand balances these messages with call-to-action statements like “Tonight’s forecast: 99% chance of me buying more makeup online.”

While conventional claims would rely on benefits, these social media-adapted statements induce engagement and purchase by harping on the emotional element. Case in point: “Do you ever rub your eyes and remember you are wearing makeup and suddenly your whole life comes crashing down?” This post garnered more than 86,000 likes, showing engagement and resonance.

Choose Your Words Carefully

In the same way that claims need to communicate benefits concisely, social media messages should focus on one or two key words, often conjoined as hashtags. Lush Cosmetics, with a whopping 3.6 million followers on Instagram, has promoted several of its face products with the hashtag #SelfiePreserving.

This was supplemented by messaging that amplified product benefits, such as “These two are “Mint” to be” for a couples’ photo of them using the Magna-minty Face Mask, or more directly by statements like: “No filter, no filler. Our self-preserving face masks are expertly formulated with no synthetic preservatives required, so that your skin (and your selfies) always look their best.” The brand thus connected with the social behavior of its core consumers in a compelling way.

Urban Decay communicates in a manner that amplifies its edgy positioning to its 7.9 million Instagram and 3.5 million Facebook fans. With statements like “Sunday. Clothing Optional. #TheNakedEffect”, the brand doesn’t directly relay the benefits of its eye shadows, but clearly communicates its aspirational message.

Urban Decay’s emotional content resonates with followers, who in turn engage and purchase the brand story, in addition to the product. Case in point, the brand’s #LipstickIsMyVice hashtag has more than 30,000 posts on Instagram alone, featuring statements like: “You don’t need to explain yourself to someone who doesn’t know the difference between Naked, Brat and Trivial.”

New brands, meanwhile, can follow the example of Nars cosmetics, whose handle on Instagram and Snapchat is @NARSissist. With catchy images and an ownership on the hashtag #NARSissist, the brand’s social media presence epitomizes what its consumers look for in beauty.

Live in the Moment

Several brands have embraced real social contexts like International Women’s Day with powerful messages about their values. Another easy way to resonate with consumers is by simple messaging around everyday occurrences, like a snow day in New York. Fresh Beauty did this quite well, by showcasing how consumers could spend their snow day playing with #SugarLips lip balms.

Brands can also leverage numerous “national” days by infusing their product marketing into every social media message. For instance, earlier this year @freshbeauty posted on Instagram: “#NationalBubbleBathDay upgraded with rose petals and bubbles,” alongside a product placement of its bubble bath product. While these may not inform the consumer about the product benefits as directly as claims, these posts do create an emotional context that can boost engagement and eventually lead to purchase.

Fictional contexts can also evoke a mood or resonate with a particular emotion. Lush Cosmetics’ Prince Charming Shower Cream has generated social media posts like “fresh pomegranate juice, sweet vanilla pod infusion and fair trade organic cocoa butter leave your skin feeling soft and smelling sweet. Ready to meet your prince charming?” This leverages the claim and product benefits in a social context. Readers thus feel they are part of the brand’s story, and are inhaling the marketing talk more passively.

Loosen Up

Overall, while it is important to have a solid overarching marketing strategy that touches on all points of traditional marketing, brands can loosen up and connect more emotionally with their messaging on social media. Given that consumers are rarely disconnected from their phones and tablets, these are a beauty brand’s best opportunity to engage them.


Sourabh Sharma ([email protected]) has a keen eye for understanding consumer behavior in the digital world, which prompted him to start his digital marketing and public relations company Fig or out, focusing on beauty and fashion brands. He has 10+ years of experience in the marketing space with a background in brand management, influencer marketing, social media and management consulting, having worked for multinationals, startups and small businesses. He brings perspective to marketing through understanding of various consumer demographics and how they embrace digital platforms to make choices and influence decisions. As a fashion influencer and food critic himself, he keeps an eye out on trends in overall lifestyle, and how digital strategies evolve and impact them.

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