The art of branding as an interactive beauty care experience

It is no longer enough to market beauty products behind slick advertising slogans or showy in-store promotions. Beauty and personal care companies need increasingly to engage with consumers on a new level of intimacy, developing brands around a complete interactive beauty experience.

Beauty care raises the bar on consumer connectivity

There has been a radical shift in the marketing of fast moving consumer goods in recent years as companies seek to engage with consumers on a more personable level. Today’s marketing operational environment is characterised on the one hand by the 24/7 chatter of social media sites, and on the other by an increasingly sophisticated ‘touchy-feely’ generation of consumers. In this evolving culture, the need for beauty and personal care products to connect with their customer base has never been bigger, and the stakes never higher.

The new mission is to create an interactive beauty care experience, using both real and virtual platforms. Initiatives range from in-store nail art services and mobile phone make-up apps to standalone beauty pampering boutiques. The UK department store chain John Lewis, for example, is set to open spa boutiques in two outlets this year, leveraging a range of premium brands such as Clarins, Liz Earle and Jessica. And Filthy Gorgeous was launched in two UK Debenhams outlets at the end of last year, offering an extensive selection of beauty pampering services. Tesco, the UK’s leading grocer, is also getting in on the act, piloting beauty care salons at a selection of outlets around London and Manchester.

These types of in-store beauty care ventures are set to become a more pervasive feature of the modern retail landscape over the next five years, not only in developed markets but in key emerging markets too. Middle-class consumers in China and Brazil, for example, have been identified as having a big appetite for away-from-home personal care pampering. The nub of the concept is not about selling beauty care brands per se. It is about creating a feelgood and aspirational beauty care experience, in which brands are showcased at the top of their game. It is a huge challenge for the marketing side of the industry because beauty and personal care brands are engaging with consumers on a more intimate and emotional level than ever before.

Fusing the real with the virtual

Beauty and personal care companies will need to be innovative in the way they fuse real and virtual marketing platforms. The more innovative they are, the greater their point of differentiation from competitors. Mobile phone apps are becoming increasingly important because they open up a myriad of creative opportunities for companies. L’Oréal, for example, released an ‘Instant Beauty’ app which allows consumers to scan the barcodes of brands and get reviews, tips on using the products, ingredients, videos of people wearing the brand and general make-up advice. All of this information is compatible with social media sites too. Once again, the emphasis is on creating an interactive beauty care experience, this time through leveraging the power of the mobile internet.

Beauty and personal care companies have barely scratched the surface in terms of the creative potential of virtual and real-time platforms and over the course of this year we are certain to see the bar raised higher in both forums. If this is one of the most challenging eras for beauty and personal care marketing, it is also one of the most exciting because opportunity to flex creativity and flair has never been richer.

The sweet spot of all new activity is in the deepening of relationships with consumers. These consumers are more accessible than ever before, but that also makes them harder to entice because competition for their attention is intense. They are tech-savvy, but not nerdy, meaning that they use technology to drive a better quality of life. Indeed, they are demanding and sophisticated in their consumption choices, not least in first-tier emerging markets such as China, Brazil, Russia and Mexico.

The consumer, in short, is hugely powerful. It is an empowerment fuelled by the latest dot com boom and encapsulated by social media websites. The difficulty factor for companies and brands is how to get consumers on side, indeed how to befriend them. From in-store beauty pampering to handheld mobile make-up studios, the new endgame is to connect emotionally with consumers and create a complete beauty care experience around the branding. This is set to become a highly competitive arena for beauty and personal care and potentially a pivotal tipping point for the industry’s marketing departments.