• 01 09 2017

5 ways to future-proof your beauty brand

While the beauty industry continues to develop, so too does the way in which people learn about, experience and purchase products and services. With fresh, exciting brands launched every week, businesses must ensure that they’re future-proof and able to tackle both challenges and opportunities ahead, continuing to drive long-term profitability.


1. Be customer-obsessed

It has never been more important for brands to truly understand their customers and what they’re looking for. Whilst companies used to control all the information around price, product and distribution –mobile changed everything. Now, your customers are in charge. They can access information and compare products at the click of a button – so if you don’t make their lives easy, or if they find something they don’t like, they will go to a competitor without a second thought.

But understanding your customer through traditional segmentation strategies is not enough. With the continuous exchange of ideas, people are rapidly forming online communities and shaping their identities in ways that are no longer limited by physical descriptors. For brands to become customer-obsessed and truly understand what makes people tick they need to forget about demographics and embrace psychographics.

Unilever is a great example of a holding company that understands the importance of being customer-obsessed, focusing on understanding attitudes and behaviours to drive engagement. When researching responses to marketing campaigns, Unilever found that only 3% of ads showed women in leadership, professional or managerial roles, and a staggering 40% of women didn’t identify at all with those in the adverts. Its response was a global strategy focusing on making its brands, including Simple, Toni&Guy and Dove, more representative of modern life, with marketing activity creating real narratives of what women can aspire to be, removing sexist stereotypes from its advertising.  With Unilever’s personal care brands securing a €5.3bn turnover in the first half of this year, it’s a strategy that’s paying off.


2. Beautiful products, inside and out

Beauty customers are more demanding than ever and less willing to compromise. Efficacy is a given – with people seeking multifunctional, multidimensional products that make their lives easier whilst delivering a sensorial, enjoyable experience through use. Packaging has a strong part to play, striking the right balance between inspiration and information. The most successful brands will take care to ensure that their customers are enjoying an engaging experience from initial awareness and purchase right through to unboxing and using the product. These moments of surprise and delight need to continue long after the initial thrill of purchase has faded.

Milk Makeup is an example of a brand that has understood its customers and created a brand identity that carries through to product. Aimed at empowered, ambitious, entrepreneurial individuals, the brand uses a pithy tone of voice and striking packaging to communicate its ethos. Messages like “milk girls do their makeup quick” compliment the brand’s minimalist aesthetic, while the use of holographic materials and innovative formats such as eye markers and solid toners reinforce the brand’s high-tech, 100% ethical ingredients for a winning combination.


3. Embrace digital transformation

Many brands are failing to acknowledge the blurring of online and offline worlds and need to adapt the way in which they interact with customers, from creating and selling products to the way they communicate and deliver brand experience.

Wah Nails is a brand that has done this incredibly well – from a small salon in Dalston, London, the brand has always been digital-first, a strategy that has seen it secure consistent growth. Acknowledging the need to incorporate digital, customers use Whats App to communicate with the salon, or a booking bot is available as an alternative, making interactions as seamless and straightforward as possible.

A virtual reality app allows customers to ‘try on’ different colours and styles in advance, which they then send directly to their therapist ahead of their appointment, helping save time and make informed choices. By embracing digital and introducing an extra level of interaction, Wah Nails has made sure its brand stands on solid foundations for the future.


4. Help customers to tell their own story

We all know about the importance of storytelling – think the latest Miss Dior advert starring Nathalie Portman – but, rather than simply telling a story to customers, the brands leading the way are those that provide the tools for customers to tell their own story.

Indeed, product-saturated customers no longer express their status through the quantity or price of what they buy. Instead they use social channels to showcase their identity and lifestyle, with the careful curation of products being an intrinsic part of this. Relinquishing control and giving people freedom to express their association with brands is providing businesses with a powerful army of brand advocates and social influencers that extend the brand’s reach well beyond what it could achieve alone.

A brand that has understood this shift is Glossier - its accessible tone of voice and signature pink and pastel visual aesthetic throughout products, packaging and imagery, has enabled the brand to emerge as a trusted friend that is both relatable and desirable – and packs a pow on social channels. Products arrive in the mail ready to be snapped and shared using #glossier, #glossierpink and #glossiergirl hashtags, while stickers provided along with products give customers the tools to engage with and contribute to the brand narrative.


5. Create micro-moments 

It’s so important to allow customers to tell their story, with the most successful brands becoming part of carefully curated narratives. But for the conversation to continue, brands must devote attention to creating micro-moments throughout the year. It isn’t enough to merely engage with Valentine’s Day, Halloween or Christmas using appropriate hashtags – brands must be more creative, embracing a point of difference and creating a conversation. However, it’s also important to understand when to avoid getting involved, making sure that all micro-moments are relevant to the brand story – perhaps leaving #nationaltacoday to someone else.

Selfridges used #nationallipstickday to great effect by strengthening its position as beauty authority and curator, with a round-up of the top five lipsticks. However, at the other end of the scale, Mac’s attempt at engaging with customers on the same occasion unfortunately went awry, with a lipstick giveaway that resulted in stock running out and annoyed customers. The key learning? Never overpromise. Don’t be pressured into giveaways and gimmicks – sometimes getting involved in the conversation is enough.


A version of this article has been published by Cosmetics Business