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In 2020, the question isn’t whether brands should be online. Rather, it’s how.

While some view digital as an opportunity to reinvent, Nars found value in staying true to its founding roots. Julia Sloan, senior vice president of global marketing and integrated communications for Nars Cosmetics, spoke at WWD’s 2020 Beauty Digital Forum about how Nars crafted a successful digital campaign for its 25th anniversary — and accompanying 72-shade lipstick launch.

“There is an ever-changing landscape when it comes to beauty and the pace of disruption is faster than we’ve ever seen before,” Sloan said.

Nars drove more than 100,000 social media conversations with reverse time-lapsed melting assets that proved both provocative and on-brand. “After all,” said Sloan, “some of our best shades are Deep Throat and Orgasm. We like to be a little witty.”

The buzzy social media assets translated to sales, which exceeded expectations, Sloan said. Nars then turned to its influencer pool to drive brand awareness and sales. It gifted influencers with a specially packaged collection of all 72 lipstick shades, generating more than $6 million in Earned Media Value. And when Nars made the limited-edition collection available for customers to purchase at $250, it sold out within three hours.

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The company hosted a global influencer experience, attended by François Nars and his family, in Florence, Italy.

“It was about educating these influencers we work with about the brand’s story, [as] a lot of them don’t really know Francois’ story,” Sloan said. The event garnered $10 million in EMV and more than 261 million social impressions, prompting Nars to replicate it on a local level.

In response to an audience question about whether Nars works with influencers on an earned or paid capacity, Sloan said, “We actually have never paid influencers to go on a trip like this. We feel they will get enough content and will be excited enough to come on an earned capacity. The paid campaigns we do with influencers are when it’s exclusive content that we want them to talk about on their own channels.”

One such piece of paid content was a YouTube video with influencer Estée Lalonde, whom Nars commissioned to drive engagement for its augmented reality lipstick try-on feature. (Nars also partnered with influencer Hikari Mori on local content in Tokyo.)

“The average shades tried on per user were 15,” said Sloan, adding that Nars saw 1.8 million shade try-ons globally, cumulatively.

Similar to Nars educating influencers on its brand roots, Biossance has taken an “edu-tainment” approach to online. The Amyris-owned clean beauty brand launched its online education platform, Clean Academy, last fall with the intention of cleaning up the confusion around clean beauty. Guided by “Queer Eye” star and then-newly appointed Biossance brand ambassador Jonathan Van Ness, the brand-agnostic platform included eight courses, each of which aim to decode a hot topic in clean beauty.

“Sometimes, as you dive into all of this data, you can lose the audience if it’s not educating and entertaining,” said Catherine Gore, president of Biossance.

Clean Academy’s debut series reached 100 million people, racking up 22,000 views and 10,000 reviews, according to Gore. For its second season, Biossance leaned into the series’ brand-agnostic stance, finding allies in Ilia, Youth to the People, Follain, Āether, Weleda, Suntegrity and Ursa Major.

Biossance also announced that it will host a gala this summer to honor brands, celebrities and changemakers who are “moving the needle forward in sustainability,” as well as an endowment to award scholarships to young students of STEM and sustainability.

In a joint presentation at the conference, Lauren Thermos, director of global integrated media and marketing strategy at Revlon, and Pierre-Loïc Assayag, chief executive officer and cofounder of influencer marketing platform Traackr, spoke about Revlon’s influencer strategy.

Nearly 40,000 influencers shared roughly 1.2 million posts about beauty brands in the U.S. in 2019, garnering nearly $3 billion in unique engagement and hundreds of billions of unique views, Assayag said. And yet, only 2 percent of those posts were actually sponsored.

“Influencers should be part of your overall brand and marketing strategies from the start,” Thermos said. “Our media is even more fragmented than ever. The organic reach of our channels is diminishing.”

Influencers help broaden that reach. While “there are definitely instances where influencers can drive sales,” said Thermos, brands have to set longer-term goals for success, too.

“For Revlon, it’s making sure that we’re aligning our objectives for our campaigns with our business goals, that we’re no longer working in silos and bringing 360 planning to the forefront of everything we do,” Thermos said. “We also empower the teams to spend their money more effectively so they’re able to validate and negotiate with influencers in a more sophisticated manner.”

Assayag added that when negotiating with influencers, “the more data you bring to the conversation, the better it’s gonna go.”

Trinny Woodall, founder of the color cosmetics line Trinny London, regularly uses social media to engage with “the invisible woman.”

“As beauty brands, we all have that responsibility around inclusivity, gender. But how inclusive are we around age?” she said.

Woodall has amassed 600,000 followers on her personal Instagram page, and she regularly uses Facebook to engage with her community, which she’s dubbed “the Trinny Tribe.”

“I’m an influencer without taking payment from anyone because I talk about what I like,” she said. “If you have a community that starts independently, it’s so important to nurture that and work symbiotically with it.”

Her approach to content creation is to do one take, then post. “If you have to film it again, it’s not real,” she said, explaining she learned to do so during her career in television, including the BBC’s “What Not to Wear.”

Woodall now hosts Trinny Tribe events, fostering conversations with her followers about their “sense of transformation in themselves.” The Trinny Tribe now has about 20 communities worldwide, with a few thousand members each.

“There’s a big difference between an influencer community and a community community,” Woodall said. “An influencer community is a one-way conversation with comments. A community community is a two-way conversation. You can post and chat with each other.”

More from WWD.com:

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