Heritage Beauty and the Need to Go Social

With a wealth of expert beauty knowledge transferred to the fingertips of the masses by a host of bloggers over recent years, consumers are increasingly likely to experiment with colour cosmetics. The sense of familiarity and trust attached to blogger reviews is leading audiences to feel they are taking less of a risk when purchasing outside their comfort zone. Heritage cosmetics brands, that have historically relied on their longevity and reputation as repeat-purchase clinchers need not consider themselves exempt from targeted digital marketing tactics, such as user-generated content and the more transient social platforms.

In Euromonitor’s 2015 Online Beauty Survey, almost 20% of consumers said that beauty blogs/expert reviews ranked as a top 5 influencer in their decision when they last purchased colour cosmetics. The highest response rate regarding beauty bloggers as a purchase influencer was amongst the 15-29 age group where over a quarter of the demographic deemed blog reviews an influencing factor. Similarly this was the age group who were least likely to cite previous personal experience as a motivation behind their purchase choice. The 15-29 cohort also represented those who claimed to most commonly purchase new colour cosmetics to change their make-up style and to stay up-to-date with the latest trends, and who were least likely to purchase to replace a product which had run out.

Reasons for purchasing colour cosmetics

Source: Euromonitor International Beauty Survey 2015

Form over function

The shift in purchasing mentality highlighted in the survey suggests that bloggers are leading their audiences to prioritise variety over a set beauty routine. Beauty bloggers appear to be cultivating a mind-set whereby colour cosmetics are seen as more playful and less functional. Legacy brands, which have traditionally relied upon repeat custom, may need to consider becoming less complacent and dependent on reputation.

Brand narrative vs. independent voice

Targeted and authentic experiences, as delivered by bloggers, are emerging as priorities to maintain the interest of the increasingly fickle millennial consumers. This is something heritage brands are not fully potentialising. Chanel’s presence on YouTube stems primarily from its official channel featuring generic celebrity advertorials and tutorials by catwalk models. Similarly, Elizabeth Arden’s presence on the platform is mostly built upon in-house narratives and less upon authentic blogger conversation. Interestingly however, away from YouTube but still within the realms of social media, this is all about to change for Elizabeth Arden with the recently announced launch of their ‘Liz Arden’ digital campaign. The initiative uses a fictional character ‘Liz’ to create a fresh and more personable voice, bringing its customers closer to the true essence of the brand.

Nevertheless, the exposure of heritage brands is eclipsed by the space that younger names like NYX and Anastasia Beverly Hills occupy in beauty conversation on digital media, brands which utilise, and integrate with, the audience themselves as a marketing means. Maria Hatzistefanis, founder of the luxury cosmetics brand Rodial, recently spoke of the importance of authenticity online at the WWD Digital Forum in London, which Euromonitor International partnerered with last month. The Rodial brand is now a cult favourite amongst beauty junkies and its founder believes this can in large part be attributed to the fact that the brand learnt early that “our force has to be our own voice, it cannot be forced, promotional or boring”.

Heritage print goes social

In another part of the industry, Condé Nast is showing there is space for heritage beauty in the social world. The media conglomerate recently announced the launch of its first beauty network centred on social media. #TheLookIs is aimed at engaging the millennial beauty cohort through digestible and targeted content in the form of short videos and trend round-ups, alongside some pieces co-created with brands themselves. Without losing any of its authoritative voice and exclusivity, the content will be curated by the group’s esteemed Beauty Editors, with September’s launch led by Vogue’s Beauty Director Celia Ellenberg.

Taking cues from Condé Nast by acquiring a fresh digital voice rooted in tradition, cosmetics brands held in similar high regard could avoid the negative effects of not having this key generation, which lack the brand loyalty of the baby-boomers before them, on board. As the millennials grow older and become a more significant consumer group armed with the knowledge, confidence and finances to disrupt their predecessors buying patterns, embracing digital in all its guises seems necessary for the prestige brands that have spent years resting on their laurels.