By facing up to some hard industry truths and focussing on uncovering and communicating authentic USPs to audiences, we believe beauty brands will be able to connect in deeper, more meaningful ways.
Our extensive work in the beauty, health & wellness sector has taught us that the industry has its fair share of deeply entrenched challenges for brands to overcome. There are some hard truths to be faced up to - but in doing so, brands will be able to connect with their customers on a deeper level in order to thrive in an evolving landscape.
In an industry worth over £420 billion and counting, it’s no surprise that beauty brands are struggling to cut through and stand out - it’s one of the most saturated markets out there. A quick browse on Lookfantastic reveals a staggering 660 different brands and 22,000 products offered to online customers, each with similar messaging and promised results. With the level of competition between brands skyrocketing both in the UK and globally, beauty consumers are facing choice overload.
On top of this, new brands are constantly entering the market, many of which are smaller, more agile players often driven by a strong purpose and with niche offers. For bigger beauty brands, this means it’s even harder to be distinctive whilst meeting the needs of the many. Customers are not only being influenced by brands directly - they’re also engaging with different platforms, editors, experts, celebrities and peers. That's a lot of noise that brands have to be heard over.
USPs (unique selling points) have the power to force a clearing in a crowded beauty market. Having worked with a range of beauty & wellness brands, we’ve been surprised at how many have been ineffectively communicating their USPs to customers.
Beauty brands are not digging deep enough into the essence of what they do, how they do it and who they do it for in order to reveal and articulate what sets them apart. This means that their communications with customers are not authentic - instead, they’ve been developed through assumptions of what brands think the mass market wants to hear. Strong USPs should be revealed and clearly articulated, rather than replicated and repeated based on what others are saying.
First, brands need to consider their purpose - the core reason why they exist beyond simply making money. By defining a purpose, brands can shape a single, cohesive theme for all communications to align with. For example, Shiseido have innovation at the heart of their brand - this provides the parameters and opportunities for how they articulate what's unique about them. It’s all about saying less and saying it well.
At D&P, we help brands look inwards at how their company operates - covering sourcing, manufacturing, distribution and selling - in order to reveal and articulate what makes them different. We encourage the brands we work with to engage with their employees at each stage of their product process, from science to selling. It often results in surprising discoveries about the level of staff knowledge and passion - and most importantly, what makes their company DNA different to any other. Communicating these nuances as authentic USPs ensures a brand stays true to who they are.
As well as looking inwards, brands need to leverage their understanding of human needs in order to communicate effectively, whether in a space as broad a skincare or as specific as CBD-infused lip balm. Today’s consumer is smart and seeking deeper knowledge of brands when making purchasing decisions. Brands should look at how they respond to target the needs of their audience, and what information about themselves it will reveal.
Do your customers know what your USPs are? Are you telling your story loud and clear enough for them to hear? You may need to reassess whether you are being distinctive, honest and relevant to your audience or if you could be working harder to tell your story.
Beauty and wellness live very much in a customer-driven world, where people's choices are influenced by Instagram feeds, recommendations from family & friends and product reviews. UGC (user generated content) is often a trusted source of truth and knowledge for many consumers and the collective mindset is a huge driver of market trends. In fact, beauty UGC has the highest impact on conversion rate (turning clicks into sales) compared to any other industry.
The digital world feeds a beauty-hungry consumer who is seeking comprehensive information at the touch of a screen, resulting in a highly educated audience - sometimes more so than the people selling the product, particularly in multi-brand retail. This audience is choosing brands which meet their intellectual curiosity, unafraid of words like ‘parabens’, ‘microbiomes’, ‘sulfate’ or ‘hypoallergenic’. Brands are being investigated beyond their label - particularly those who use terms like ‘natural’, ‘organic’ or ‘cruelty-free’ in their marketing - to ensure they practice what they preach.
Information travels rapidly through various digital channels and consumers are quick to either champion or condemn trends, brands and products. With this in mind, it's never been more important for brands to dig deep to articulate an honest purpose and use it as a driving force in every execution - consumers are quick to catch out and call out untrustworthy brands.
Brand communications are a gateway to connect with customers. But first, it’s vital for the audience to be identified and engaged with specifically. Who are they? What worries them? What motivates them? What can you, as a brand, do to support them? By answering these questions, brands are able to deliver messages that their audience wants to hear, connect with and care about.
Brands shouldn’t be afraid of the beauty consumers’ intellect. Instead, they should be empowered by the opportunity to leverage off genuine science, research and supporting statistics to help shape their communication. Consumers are hungry to know more - brands should look to create a two-way dialogue between themselves and their audience by educating, providing knowledge and answering questions. Evidence, efficacy, potency, patents and proof - these speak volumes for the skin-savvy consumer. As well as promoting authenticity, it’s a memorable way to cut through messaging. Brands should look to the stats and facts which bring their story to life to create an easy and effective conversation starter.
A brand’s message can even leave the parameters of their marketing and enter the realms of the UGC beauty world if they are saying something that people want to talk about, providing an opportunity to control the conversation and influence online opinion. For consumers to become a brand’s biggest advocates on digital platforms, the messaging needs to hit in the right spot and opinions need to align with what audiences believe in - but most importantly, they need to be authentic.
Do you know who your customers are and what makes them tick? Are you telling compelling stories that your customers care about? Adjust the way you communicate to connect with savvy consumers, become a part of their online conversation and show that you can meet their needs and be the brand they believe you to be.
By facing up to some hard industry truths and focussing on uncovering and communicating authentic USPs to audiences, beauty brands will be able to connect in deeper ways and differentiate themselves in a saturated market, securing their place in a new era of brand experience.
If you’d like to think about your challenges differently and reframe your barriers and benefits as opportunities in order to become an engaging beauty brand, we’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to get in touch with our expert team.
Michelle Bower, our Associate Strategy & Transformation Director, believes that knowing if your brand is a painkiller, vitamin or candy is the key to deciding the most effective antidote to meet your customers' needs and ensu...