When a consumer approaches a shelf of beauty products or scrolls down to view the vast expanse of Google search results, there is invariably one common denominator: an inundation of products to choose from. And hand in hand with the deluge of products are research and scientific statements, newfangled ingredients, technological advancements and many other unique selling proposition factoids that compete to jump out and prove something to the consumer.
On a shelf, a beauty brand has minutes if not seconds to convince the customer. Unless there are point of sale brochures very near the products or a sales rep auspiciously fanatical about your brand, a beauty product relies on its packaging, or a short online product description, to persuade an on-the-spot purchase.
However, that doesn’t mean a brand can’t nurture a long-term relationship with a customer even when she is not in the act of buying. Through content marketing, a brand can convince customers of their scientific claims via a steady route to win trust over time.
What is Content Marketing?
In short, content marketing is providing prospective and existing customers with valuable information—both original and curated—to establish and build ongoing relationships to ultimately incite behavioral change. This includes consumers buying, repurchasing and acting as loyal, active brand ambassadors.
Content marketing enables brands to not only educate consumers but to befriend, empower and help them as well. And you can do this well before they’re even ready to buy.
The landscape of traditional advertising continues to shift drastically. Consumers no longer believe what they read on advertised statements, and this ever-increasing skepticism draws many to their smartphones, laptops and tablets to research beauty brand claims. Some log into their favorite forums, others reach out to their favorite beauty bloggers, and many go directly to Google or the brand page itself for further information. Consumers can now be virtually blind to banner ads, and access to knowledge spurs skepticism for many forms of paid advertising.
Ideally, when consumers look for information about a specific claim your product is making, they should find information from your brand, rather than from a competitor or one of the millions of uncited, under-researched articles available on the web. This is why it’s important to strategize a content marketing strategy prior to employing tactics so you can answer questions before they’re even asked.
Content marketing extends far beyond the corporate blog or e-magazine. Below are some innovative ways you can educate your customers of your scientific claims so they act as extensions of your product labels and build trust immediately and over time.
First, remember a few fundamental guidelines:
- Content marketing is a holistic program. One piece, whether it’s a blog or a case study, is never independent. All components must make sense together and alone, and support each other.
- A successful content marketing campaign requires deliberation and input from the whole team, with one chief content officer as the pointperson who oversees all activities.
- Content marketing includes on- and offline tactics.
- A budget and timeframe must be established before execution. Content marketing isn’t simply finding an intern to write a few blog posts per week.
- Expect manageable and realistic outcomes. Content marketing is a long-term process that requires patience, retooling and constant analysis.
Strategies for Content Marketing
Go graphic. Many beauty brands use blogs to provide basic information such as “10 Tips for Dry, Winter Skin,” makeup tutorials or company updates. This is fine, but take it one step further and create regular infographics that depict the formulation process from conception to research to mass distribution, how ingredients are chosen, and/or what processes are used to create a product. You can even depict how exactly the skin reacts when a key ingredient is topically applied. You’ll need a savvy graphic artist to achieve thi,s but these types of infographics will serve as evergreen pieces that bring customers in and back.
Provide consumers with a visually pleasing glossary. According to NewHope360, “confusion about personal care ingredients and labels has been a barrier to [natural and organic] category growth.” As more and more consumers are understanding the importance of ingredient labeling and even FDA regulations (or lack thereof), it is critical that beauty brands offer their own perspectives on why and how ingredients were chosen and what the scientifically proven benefits are. To do this, provide consumers with a colorful online glossary of ingredients to share what’s in your products. Even if your product has a single, core scientific claim that you like to emphasize, it is important to offer supporting information about other ingredients regardless of how secondary they may be.
Creatively curate sources that support your scientific claims. Websites such as Paper.li and storify.com allow anybody on the web to create their own newspapers by curating links from online sources. Collect articles that support your evidence claims and publish them all in one place for your customers to read. This gives you control of what articles your customers read about your scientific claims, and also provides convenience as they do not need to comb through thousands of potentially unreliable sources.
Partner up. There are expected partnerships within the beauty industry—a beauty brand with a subscription service, or a beauty brand with a charity. And these are great. But get some additional attention by partnering with an unexpected source: a university scientist club or a panel of chemists or dermatologists. Sponsor and host an event that focuses on scientific advancements in skin and ingredients, and show consumers you take research and validity seriously.
Create your own forum. While many multi-brand online retailers offer community Q&A sections on product pages, consumers tend to favor over-encompassing forums such as makeupalley.com to read individual reviews but to also compare and contrast. Build an online forum that connects select trained employees of your brand to discuss and field questions about the research, development and scientific aspects of products, and make sure to make the forum is accessible to employees, public, media and beyond.
Host a live Q&A. One of the standout features of Google+ is its Hangouts functionality. If possible, why not put your research & development team, formulators and other key decision-makers front and center for a Q&A? You can determine a moderator who asks live or pre-selected questions from the public who can shed some light on all the new technology and ingredients in your products. And once the Q&A is over, you can post the session on your YouTube or Vimeo page and distribute via your brand's blog and social media.
Tell a story. A new territory for most beauty brands, an e-book might seem too much of a business-to-business route to explore connections with consumers. But keep in mind beauty consumers are constantly seeking ways to improve their appearance, and gifting them with a free e-book is one way to win their trust. Start with a very simple, universally attractive topic, and write about how to achieve the perfect skin or, if you have a cosmetics brand, how to determine daily day and night routines. Incorporate your products into the e-book, explaining why your scientific claims are valid and how they are directly applicable to the tips offered within the book.
Help people find answers on Quora. As of this writing, there are questions posed such as “Are Lifeline Skincare’s efficacy claims valid?” or “How well does Sidewalk Skincare actually work?” on the Quora Q&A website. Would you rather have a random person answer those questions, or would you like your brand managers and developers to answer them? You can use Quora not only to judiciously, respectfully and honestly answer questions about other products but to pose your own questions about your key ingredients.
Get technological. Colorado-based MyChelle Dermaceuticals is taking its content marketing offline. Using a well-respected dermatological machine called Visia, MyChelle enables Whole Foods customers to assess their skin in the following eight areas: skin irregularities, wrinkles, texture, pores, UV spots, skin discolorations, vascular areas, and bacteria and oil. After the assessment takes place, the customer is given recommendations of MyChelle products, which helps to ease the selection process for customers, and the experience itself is something that encourages them to return, as well as to likely share with friends.
Backing It Up
According to a 2011 global study performed by Datamonitor, consumers are willing to pay more for products that are backed by scientific claims. However, as consumers are increasingly becoming aware of clever semantics or hyperbole in beauty ads, they will seek more answers from verified sources before they trust what’s right in front of them. Through content marketing—by owning and disseminating the information about your brand’s claims yourself—you can build trust with consumers before and after they consider making the purchase.
Sarah Ban is the principal of Ban & Associates, a boutique marketing communications consulting firm that serves beauty, health and wellness brands. Ban specializes in helping content marketing strategy development and implementation through owned media and serves as editorial director for brands who seek an in-house content officer. For more information, visit www.sarahban.com or e-mail Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.