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Beauty Digital Forum: Guthy-Renker Shares a Storyteller’s Secret

The story must be real and the message has to fit the medium.

In a rare chance to sneak a glimpse behind the curtain of the hit-making machine Guthy-Renker, senior director brand management Megan Drogmund, revealed the secret to the company’s success is authentic storytelling.

The company has shared its brands’ narratives way before the digital revolution. The new ease of reaching consumers is only amping up its power — but the message must be adapted to the platform.

“To take an unknown product and turn it into a global brand, a brand like Proactiv, it always goes back to one thing and that’s the authentic story. We’ve done that in broadcast and [now] transitioned by tweaking our techniques, adjusting to fit multiple demographics in digital and transitioned successful story telling to digital.”

Casting the widest net is part of Guthy-Renker’s master plan, adapting its message for the different demographics. In the case of Proactiv, the target spans teens, their parents who purchase for them and even grandparents. Television is the choice for the initial push because a product background can be told in two-, five- or 30-minute segments complete with the science behind the claims, product insight and the all important before and after images. “You have to have that proof,” Drogmund said. The developer or a celebrity — Julianne Hough in the case of Proactiv — attached to the product is also linked to the television campaign.

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But into today’s multitasking world where people want information in quick spurts, the company had to customize its message. Drogmund dispelled the notion digital marketing is only for Millennials. Last year, she said, 94 percent of the population had cell phones with 80 percent classified as smartphones. “We have to realize it isn’t just Millennials who are on devices or social platforms,” she said. “If we focused on just that segment, we’d be cutting ourselves off at the knees.”

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Another marketing caveat she imparted is “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Simply “plopping” an existing direct response spot into digital messaging isn’t as effective. The complexity and length of those messages would cause viewers to lose interest on a device.

Instead, the message of the longer direct-response piece is maintained but parceled out to fit the platform. The “constant thread” of the message is adapted for the right platform targeted at those who aren’t spending time glued to the television. Guthy-Renker has a toolbox of strategies teed up to the platforms be it YouTube, Instagram, Facebook or others. Some creative has light branding without the heavy call to action of direct response. And, she warned, it is important to think beyond relying solely on big data. What a person might pin on Pinterest is different from what they might follow on Instagram, she proposed.

Conventional wisdom, she imparted, doesn’t always hold true. While many think teens don’t relate to Facebook anymore, she cited Pew Research that the site’s mainstay is 18- to 29-year-olds. Thirty-five million moms are on YouTube, dashing the notion that the plethora of how-to videos is only watched by the Millennial generation.

Guthy-Renker’s journey has brought many lessons, Drogmund said. “We all knew digital was here to stay but we didn’t have the ability to measure until last year. What we have noticed is that, as we’ve gotten wiser and become more aggressive, more fun with digital campaigns, conversion has jumped. Recently we’ve had the highest spikes we’ve ever had.” But that doesn’t mean the company is done evolving. “You have to adapt and constantly revise the message,” Drogmund said. “You have to tinker with segments in this fast-moving digital environment that is still changing and is only going to get better.”