Legacy Beauty Brands Are Still Learning How To Be Relevant On Social

4 Min Read |

Now that social media is at the forefront of beauty industry marketing strategy, legacy beauty brands have fallen behind their younger competitors.

Fresh young brands have taken to online platforms with ease. They promote their products with a sense of effortlessness by collaborating with influencers and connecting with consumers; and more conventional beauty companies are taking note.

Some legacy brands have opted for major revamps and boosted their social media reach by acquiring new brands with existing online engagement. In January 2017, Coty invested in Younique, a cosmetics brand with an online peer-to-peer sales strategy, acquiring a 60 percent stake for $600 million. Since selling to Coty, Younique itself has seen a rise in peer-to-peer sellers from 80,000 to 213,000. Along with a double-digit growth in sales and increased traction internationally in countries including France, Germany and Spain.

However, the investing company has profited most significantly. Coty’s CEO, Camillo Pane, said that the investment in Younique was an important contributing factor to the parent company’s 19.4% increase in profitability during 2018. Coty is also learning from the younger brand and applying new social media-focused strategy to other names under its umbrella. Since acquiring Covergirl from Procter & Gamble, Coty has applied a complete rebrand to transform this iconic name into a celebration of authenticity and diversity — aiming to “inspire people to embrace their unique identities and unapologetically create any version of themselves, or who they want to be, with makeup.”

Tapping into the Inclusivity Trend

This rebrand taps into current industry trends that have grown directly from social media beauty marketing and audience engagement. Trends that promote inclusivity and personal expression, and embrace identity politics.

However, insights from social research company Preen.Me shows that in spite of its rebrand, Covergirl is still falling behind new startups such as NYX Cosmetics, ColourPop and Fenty when it comes to social media engagement.

Why? Because these new brands are native to the digital world and harness the power of social media in innovative and intuitive ways.

NYX, owned by L’Oreal, has built a loyal following through it’s digital strategy. It uses the interaction and sharing of its highly engaged audience to expand its reach, and runs an annual online makeup competition called The Face Awards. This competition invites entries from beauty bloggers in the form of videos which demonstrate makeup skills — and the finalists and eventual winners are decided by the brand’s audience, rather than by in-brand judges. This has the dual effect of increasing awareness of the brand and involving the audience in a way that makes them feel invested in NYX.  

Fenty’s launch campaign in 2017 was entirely digital and primarily focused on Instagram and influencer marketing. Owned by Rihanna, Fenty is rooted in the beauty movement towards diversity and inclusivity. It offers foundation in 40 different shades and its Instagram promotion strategy resulted in the acquisition of 1.4 million followers in only 4 days. That strategy took a personal approach, tapping into consumer desire for recommendation from trusted sources; a desire that is certainly understandable in a highly saturated market where choice is abundant. Fenty used reviews and testimonies from influencers, models, beauty industry professionals and ‘normal people’ to capture the interest and trust of new customers.

Different Engagement Levels, but Same Audience

Notably, Covergirl shares much of the same fanbase as these newer brands, which are capturing attention on social media. Preen.Me found that Covergirl shares 33 percent of ColourPop’s overall audience, and 27 percent with NYX.

This suggests that legacy beauty brands lack of success on social media is not because their core consumer base doesn’t use social media much.

Instead, the difference is down to these newer brands’ ability to create and sustain conversation on social media. Preen.Me’s co-founder and COO, Haggai Klorman said, “in the long run, brands that win on social activate a large part of their fans to do the talking for them.” Young brands employ a more organic marketing strategy that allows their fanbase to do lots of the work for them. This strategy includes techniques which encourage users to tag their own content with the brand’s social media handle and hashtags; hosting competitions and giveaways that require audiences to create their own brand-related content; and inviting ideas for product and content conception directly from customers.

Legacy Brands Are Still Catching Up

Hélène Heath, senior editor at visual intelligence company Dash Hudson, said, “by emphasizing content that highlights their fans and dropping special collaborations with relevant Instagram superstars, they [modern brands] have been able to outpace traditional companies who rely on more basic activations and not moving as quickly.”

Not all is lost for Coty’s Covergirl. Since its relaunch, it has begun using social media marketing strategies similar to its fresher counterparts; and seeing positive results. Its social velocity, measured by the concentration of audience posts and engagements through tags and hashtags, grew by 270 percent in 2017 — in comparison with a 114 percent growth in 2016.

However, that increase pales in comparison to the growing success of younger brands. The social velocity of NYX Cosmetics, for example, grew by 867 percent in the same period. New brands have an advantage: this form of marketing comes naturally to them. While brands like Covergirl are playing catch up, young names on the scene continue to build on their early success and develop new social media strategies that increase their digital marketing lead.

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