Marketing is a powerful tool. A well-executed campaign can take a previously unknown brand to stratospheric heights. Exceptional marketers have been known to transform virtually unknown and nascent brands into global household names—and also catapult successful brands into market-share behemoths.
Not unlike some of the most enduring musicians in the entertainment industry who regularly reinvent themselves to stay relevant, these brands and agencies are masters of re-imagination. They pay attention to the market, consumerism, trends—you name it—to keep their strategies competitive, fresh and effective. Most of all, they are adaptable. In today’s fast and ever-changing marketplace, their chameleon qualities are among their greatest assets.
Consider the case of Unilever’s Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, which massively increased the brand’s exposure and created a refreshingly new emotional connection with consumers. Its campaign is just one of many modern marketing successes that prove to businesses large and small that there is always room for substantial growth.
Here, we profile some of beauty’s most exceptional marketers. Via their vast and varied marketing campaign experiences, they have uncovered certain secrets that deliver results. And they have the honors to prove it, as they are all award-winning entities. From Webby Awards to Ad Age Awards and other accolades that have been bestowed upon their products, services, campaigns and team members, these marketing geniuses are both acclaimed and highly respected. Whether you’re representing a brand or running your own beauty store, you’ll want to pay attention to their hard-earned insights.
Headquarters: New York City, NY
Number of Employees: 230
Successful business owners will tell you that there’s no such thing as an overnight success, but Birchbox definitely begs the question. Founded in 2010, the beauty retailer delivers monthly sample boxes to subscribers. Just seven years after its inception, the company’s expanded offerings include men’s grooming and full-size beauty products (including 800 prestige beauty and grooming brands), and its branded retail store in Manhattan’s chic SoHo neighborhood—with plans to open another in Paris in 2017. The brick-and-mortar store offers hair and makeup services in addition to an enormous selection of products meticulously organized by category. And the retailer boasts two in-house brands: LOC, which allows consumers to experiment with bold color trends, and ARROW, athleisure-inspired makeup and skin care.
Surprisingly, Birchbox’s marketing efforts are hyper-focused on its highly niche market of “non-beauty-obsessed consumers.” That’s right, the brand targets a different kind of beauty and grooming consumer: namely, the woman who doesn’t necessarily like to shop for beauty and grooming products.
“The industry typically focuses on marketing to women who are passionate about beauty and spend the most in the category. That group happens to represent just a small percentage of the population, leaving the majority of women ignored,” says Amanda Tolleson, Birchbox’s head of marketing. “Birchbox focuses on creating a different voice in the market—a brand that speaks to that underserved consumer. Birchbox is uniquely able to change her perspective—and grow her spending—by delivering a monthly assortment of samples, tailored to [her] needs and preferences, and creating a seamless way to purchase full-size versions of [her] favorites.”
Birchbox attributes its marketing success to this particular beauty consumer and market, comprising more than a million subscribers and four million total customers. Its early marketing boost remarkably arose organically on social-media channels, such as Facebook and YouTube. Excited customers in love with their monthly delivery of beauty samples couldn’t help but share their discoveries with the world via social media. “And our customer word-of-mouth continues to be a big driver of success—so we give credit to having a strong product-market fit and connecting with a specific consumer in a meaningful way,” Tolleson adds.
Some of the brand’s favorite market- ing campaigns have developed from a variety of strategies:
• Partnerships: Currently, Birchbox is in a multi-year partnership with JetBlue, which provides the airline’s Mint class passengers with a Birchbox amenity kit. The brand says the partnership has been effective in driving awareness, product trial and brand perception.
• Gift Giving: Customers often purchase the Birchbox subscription as a gift for a friend or loved one, introducing the brand to potentially new customers.
• Pop-Up Shops: Pop-up shops have allowed the brand to effectively engage customers in insightful ways and led to the opening of its flagship store in SoHo.
Expert Advice: Tolleson offers the following advice to small businesses/ beauty retailers that are growing their marketing strategies: “It’s critical to clarify who your customer is (and who she is not), and why your company is uniquely solving a need for her. Then, commit to building your strategy around that customer.”
5W Public Relations (5WPR)
Headquarters: New York City, NY
Number of Employees: 150
Representing a host of beauty brands (across skin, hair, oral care, cosmetics, fragrance and spa categories), 5WPR has made an indelible mark on the beauty industry. The New York City-based firm offers full-service public relations to a variety of industries, earning recognition as a Top 20 public relations firm in the U.S. In 2016, the agency was named a finalist for both the PR News Agency Elite Awards in the Consumer Marketing category and the Holmes Gold Sabre Awards in the Digital and Social Media category for its blogger outreach program on behalf of skincare/makeup brand Jane Iredale. 5WPR was also named a finalist in the PR News Agency Elite Awards’ Marketing to Women category for its rebranding campaign for FullBeauty Brands, its second time being recognized for the category.
The agency’s 2017 achievements include the campaign it developed for client It’s a 10 Haircare’s 2017 Super Bowl commercial. The campaign led to more than 43 million impressions on social media, with more than a million YouTube views, sending the commercial to the seventh top-trending spot on YouTube post-game day. “Our campaign also resulted in Adweek ranking the commercial No. 2 on its list of Best Super Bowl Ads. This multifaceted approach is a great example of how our PR and social media teams can really amplify efforts in tandem,” says Ilisa Wirgin, senior vice president and group director for 5WPR.
One of the most notable characteristics of 5WPR and its effectiveness as a marketer is its ability as an entity to evolve, becoming and providing whatever is required of it in an ever-changing marketing landscape. So as the rules of digital, social media and traditional marketing change, 5WPR follows suit with relevant strategies. As Wirgin puts it, five years ago, the agency was focused on creating opportunities with celebrities; now it’s more focused on creating connections with digital and industry influencers—because that’s what’s effective today, particularly in beauty.
“We are executing more and more fully integrated PR and digital programs for our client partners, taking a 360-degree approach to PR, social media, branding and digital marketing for brands within the beauty and grooming space,” says Wirgin. “We’re also seeing new types of clients in our beauty and grooming practice as more and more men’s skincare brands start focusing on consumer marketing.”
Expert Advice: Wirgin offers the following advice to small businesses and beauty retailers that are growing their marketing strategies: “Understand your audience and yourself. Know what websites your target consumers read, where they shop and what they do after work for fun. Be transparent with your customers and always stay true to your mission. Keep a clear vision of success in mind. What does it look like for you? You’ll need to develop different strategies depending on if you want to create top-tier awareness or if you need to immediately impact your bottom line.”
Dollar Shave Club
Headquarters: Venice, CA
Number of Employees: 275
Men’s grooming shoppers have generally been viewed as a no-frills, fuss-free group. They get in and out of the store, purchasing only what’s needed. The popular men’s grooming brands were well established in their lanes without much marketing excitement or fanfare, until a disrupter came along. Dollar Shave Club hit the grooming scene in 2012 with a humor-packed video cleverly poking fun at the hassles of shaving and offering a hassle-free solution.
Dollar Shave Club’s smart marketing brought attention to problems consumers may not have even realized they had—the inconvenience of having to regularly remember to purchase their necessary shaving products and the not-so-cheap monthly expense. And to really seal the deal, Dollar Shave Club served up an unbeatable solution—a $1 fee for a monthly subscription of razors shipped straight to their door. As you can imagine, male consumers responded, and the brand gained a whopping 12,000 subscribers in the first two days of its launch.
Today, it boasts more than three million members. Subscribers can choose from three different razor subscriptions, with prices ranging up to $9 per month, all featuring a combination of razors with blades and refill cartridges.
Dollar Shave Club has also expanded to include a host of grooming products: hair, face and body cleansers; hairstyling and skincare products; hygiene wipes; and a travel case with optional travel-size products. Overall, the brand offers nearly 30 SKUs across five different grooming categories.
“We are a grooming brand dedicated to helping men live smarter, more successful lives by making and delivering high-quality, personal-care products, original content and technology,” says Dollar Shave Club. “We understand our members and speak to them in a relatable and authentic voice.” The brand made a deliberate decision to cast itself as much more than a mere monthly razor subscription service, creating a compelling lifestyle brand and infusing humor into its mission of making men’s lives easier. With playful online content headlines such as, “How to Look Good in the Rain” and “10 Grooming Life Hacks Mythbusted,” customers can’t stay away.
“We’ve made over 100 videos that address consumer concerns and drive our message home in a variety of different ways,” Dollar Shave Club says. “In our first-ever television campaign, we created spots that brought to life the absurd experience of buying razors at the store. In the spots, customers got tased, punched below the belt and even tranq-darted for trying to buy a pack of blades. The commercials really resonated with consumers because just about everyone has had to fight the razor fortress to get a razor.”
The brand’s keen understanding of its customers and playful way of communicating with them has garnered more than 10 different awards, honors and recognitions for its campaigns—all in just a few short years. The brand has received a CLIO Image honor, Webby Awards and recognition from Ad Age, Business Insider and others. Dollar Shave Club credits its marketing success to making an investment of time and resources into understanding their customer, discovering their frustrations and delivering solutions, from content to product offerings and more.
Expert Advice: Dollar Shave Club offers the following advice to small businesses/beauty retailers that are growing their marketing strategies: “There isn’t a silver bullet that is going to solve all of your needs, but if your messaging (and offering) is rooted in a solution for your consumer’s problem, you will be ahead of the game.”
Headquarters: Los Angeles, CA
Number of Employees: 10
You may remember the video of a sophisticated red-headed beauty with a British accent, wearing an aqua-blue party dress while sitting on a toilet and telling viewers how to mask their unwanted bathroom stench. Credit Ackermania Creative’s marketing genius for bringing that memorable spot to life. A huge creative risk that paid off handsomely, the Poo-Pourri ad has more than 39 million YouTube views. The agency’s work magnified Poo-Pourri’s sales, taking the brand from practically unknown to worldwide recognition in just months.
With the tagline, “Entertainment for Marketing,” Ackermania Creative supplies brands with marketing campaign ideation, writing and production to deliver video marketing that culminates in sales, brand interest and pure comedy. Its videos have been viewed more than 165 million times and have become some of the most acclaimed video campaigns ever. Ackermania Creative’s work on the men’s grooming brand Dollar Beard Club helped boost sales to $1 million in one month; they also took oral-hygiene brand Orabrush from zero to millions and full retail distribution. Ackermania has been Webby honored and recognized by Ad Age for the Funniest Viral Video.
“Most importantly, Ackermania’s videos have driven sales, including doubling or tripling revenues, regularly delivering ROIs of over 1,000 percent,” says Ackermania Creative’s chief creative genius Joel Ackerman, who combines his experience in writing, filmmaking, standup comedy and marketing to produce highly effective marketing videos. While the videos are entertaining, they are designed to deliver results. “A lot of people don’t realize that our focus is almost always sales first, or getting people to take some action. Virality and entertainment are crucial, but they are secondary as objectives,” Ackerman says.
He adds that one of the keys to Ackermania Creative’s success has been working with unique brands that have strong personalities and knowing why people buy their products or services. “Besides working with good people and good brands, the key to Ackermania’s success is having the creative grow out of the brand DNA, specifically the product features or benefits, or the problem the product solves,” Ackerman says.
Expert Advice: Ackerman offers the following marketing advice to small businesses/beauty retailers that are growing their marketing strategies: “Find out why your customers [spend money at your beauty store]. Find out what the biggest reason is, then the next biggest reason, and so on, until you can rank the reasons why people [shop at your store]. Keep in mind, their reasons may be emotional—[what your store offers may cause them to] feel a certain way.”
Headquarters: New York City, NY
Number of Employees: 250
Integrated marketing is just one of many strategic solutions offered by public relations firm DKC, which boasts a client roster of top beauty brands, such as L’Oréal, Ulta Beauty, European Wax Center and Cos Bar, amidst a vast clientele across more than 30 industries and areas of growth.
DKC has been ranked No. 1 on the Observer list of “Top 50 Most Powerful PR Firms in America” and has earned recognition from PRWeek numerous times. Its work with CLEAN perfume garnered the brand the Fragrance Launch of the Year award by WWD.
“Within the beauty world, two client campaigns remain among the work we are most proud of,” says Diane Briskin, DKC’s managing director. “When we launched CLEAN, a fragrance created by the brilliant Randi Shinder ... we aligned our PR, influencer and experiential strategy with the advertising agency’s creative, and the result was an unprecedented launch—both from an earned media perspective and, most importantly, revenue generation.”
The second campaign that stands out for DKC with glowing agency pride is its work with Ulta Beauty from 2011 to 2014. When DKC began working with the mega beauty retailer, it did not have a strong national PR push, nor did it have a presence in Manhattan. DKC leveraged its industry connections, and PR and marketing prowess, to spotlight the retailer and land it on the radar of those who needed to know. The outcome was “publicity results and measured awareness for the brand growing exponentially,” Briskin says.
The firm’s success lies in its intense focus on integrated marketing mastery, combining strategies in influencer outreach, strategic social execution, buzz-building experiential tactics and a compelling
brand story. “DKC’s mission is to make a demonstrable difference in our client’s business,” Briskin adds. “That starts with the core of PR—launching aggressive outreach targeting media, bloggers and influencers. This outreach must then be layered with strong creative ideation and led by a smart strategy.”
Ultimately, DKC credits the team and its varied talent for its marketing command. The DKC team comprises career publicists, former marketing executives from major companies, broadcast journalists, creative directors, data analyst experts and video content creators, allowing the company to specialize in more than a dozen different service categories.
Expert Advice: Briskin offers the following advice to small businesses/ beauty retailers that are growing their marketing strategies: “Be energetic, creative and yet, strategic. There are now so many channels one can execute to get their message out—and one should be ready to build a plan that layers those various channels, as long as they pertain to the right target market. Make certain to develop a distinctive personality for your brand within your marketing effort; you have to create an emotional connection and leave a mark on the consumer.”
[Photo courtesy of Dollar Shave Club]