Mobile ads push customers from shopping to buying
In a commoditized category filled with choices, brands attempted to differentiate and adjust to changing consumer expectations. They responded to need states, and states of mind, and attempted to align with customer values. To help women feel and look their best, brands promised to help bolster health and inner beauty.
The number of facial foundation SKUs increased, for example, not only to aggrandize shelf space, but to match a wider variety of skin tones. Brands created more personalized products that communicated respect for diversity and attempted to be both aspirational and accessible.
Changing styles affected personal care regimes. Subcategories such as active beauty expanded to meet the needs of time-constrained women who might shampoo less and look for quick, practical solutions, such as dry shampoos, sweatproof makeup, and makeup and shampoos that feature pollution protection.
Brands experienced disruption from new niche brands. Innovation in cosmetics typically originated in the US, and in fragrance, from Europe. Particularly in skin care, brands faced innovative startups from Asia, based on its cultural notion that beauty radiates from inside.
These pressures, along with currency fluctuations, resulted in an increase of only 1 percent in the value of the BrandZ™ Personal Care Top 15, a modest improvement from a year ago when the value remained unchanged, and down slightly from 2015, when the category increased 2 percent.
Ticking all the boxes
Brands attempted to tick all the right boxes: value, innovation, technology, performance, and social media. Faced with short consumer attention spans and consideration windows, brands tried to reach the consumer at the exact right moment to trigger a sale, increasingly on mobile.
Couponing and price promotion pressured margins. To generate loyalty, brands used technology and data to understand and respond to the customer. Mobile and changing shopping habits also influenced how personal care brands went to market.
L’Oréal Paris and Lancôme, for example, developed ways for consumers to short-circuit the shopping journey and purchase directly from the mobile ad. Brands personalized at scale by sending consumers messages based on their behaviors, attitudes, or demography, including ethnicity and life needs, which, for example, could be a working mom pressed for time or someone in middle age concerned about aging skin.
In a shift to become more consumer-centric, L’Oréal Paris teamed with five online beauty bloggers in the UK to form the L’Oréal Paris Beauty Squad, which was intended to connect with consumers in more ways than possible with an individual spokeswoman. The squad was expected to both influence consumers and the brand. At the Golden Globe Awards, L’Oréal Paris celebrated the diversity of beauty with the launch of its True Match range of 33 skin care variations
After years reacting to Dollar Shave Club, the online subscription razor blade brand, Gillette reverted to its brand heritage in ads that stressed its leadership in men’s grooming, an implicit value-added message. The brand reduced prices on some of its shaving products and developed products linked to a growing demographic group, the aging consumer. Meanwhile, Unilever purchased Dollar Shave Club, a five-year-old startup, in a transaction that followed by 11 years P&G’s acquisition of Gillette.
Brands also explored different ways to present their products, especially because the proliferation of products made it difficult to break through. Rather than focus on an individual product, Olay clustered its eye-care products and combined its marketing resources to sell the brand, rather than individual products.
Similarly, Pantene Pro-V did an effective job of taking a stand and communicating the idea that “Strong is Beautiful,” with a campaign that included martial artist Ronda Rousey. The spots, celebrating diversity, also featured Selena Gomez, Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, and several women of African descent treating their hair as an expression of personal identity.
Dove, which opened the category to a more inclusive view of beauty over a decade ago, promoted deodorant using irreverence to take a stand aligned with the values of its customer. A campaign called “Alt Facts” parodied US politics, listing several “alt facts” about Dove deodorant, such as its ability to increase the user’s IQ or strengthen her WiFi signal.
Disrupting a crowded category
Garnier, the international haircare and skincare brand, introduced Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water for makeup removal. Lancôme, a classic brand generally preferred by an older audience, introduced its Juicy Shaker lip oil to appeal to younger women, not their mothers.
Despite crowding in the personal care category, there was room for disruptor brands because consumers were sometimes purposefully brand-promiscuous. Shiseido benefited from the inclination to look for something different, to be less brand-loyal, to try new things. The Japanese brand also reflects the influence from Asia on product ingredients and beauty regimes. Both Lancôme and Shiseido rose 10 percent, leading the BrandZÔ Personal Care Top 15.
Disruptor brands typically moved more nimbly than major brands because they sold through fewer channels—sometimes only online—while for the multinational brands, adding a new SKU could require removing an existing one. Some disruptor brands went beyond the functional message. The makeup brand “Too Faced” disrupted the mascara category by ignoring the usual benefits—longer lashes, more volume, and all-day wear.
Instead, the brand emphasized the emotional benefits of the lashes—how they can add fun to the wearer’s life and open opportunities to be flirtatious. The product is called “Better than Sex.” Estée Lauder purchased Too Faced at the end of 2016. Estée Lauder is investing in brands as part of its “Leading Beauty Forward” initiative.
Brand-Building Action Points
1. Think mobile first
Brands that think mobile first are more likely to succeed. Consumers, especially young people, are constantly connected by smartphone or tablet. Content needs to be specifically for mobile and enable the consumer to transact anytime.
2. Build the brand
Don’t underestimate the power of branding. Create a proposition that resonates. In this time of brand proliferation and price shopping, it is critical to create a distinct proposition and deliver it in creative, relevant ways.
3. Make loyalty the default
Sharpen activation. Use data and technology to communicate the right message at the right time. Understand the replenishment cycle, and contact consumers with incentives to come back at the time of need. Have the consumer default to the brand and replenish when the toothpaste tube is squeezed to the end.