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Smashbox Cosmetics Plots a Course Through the Land of Influencers

Smashbox’s Ginny Chien weighs in on the “the crazy world of influencers.”

Reaping the whirlwind of what Smashbox’s Ginny Chien called “the crazy world of influencers” can be tricky business.

That was one of the many points made by Chien, who opened the WWD Digital Beauty Forum in downtown Manhattan Feb. 7 by giving an insider’s road map into this unmarked terrain. “In makeup, it’s definitely been a game changer,” she said of the rising power of influencers. “There’s literally cottage industries popping up around these influencers from dashboards that show you how to contact them to full-on fancy agencies having divisions dedicated to influencer buying,” Chien added.

Chien, executive director of global digital and consumer marketing at Smashbox Cosmetics, provided a warning: “When you invite the world of influencers into your brand, it can be sort of easy to take on their voice and their persona because they always come with their own distinct voices. You just don’t want to lose sight of your own brand.”

Describing influencer marketing as “more of a developing art than a well-defined science,” she posed the challenge: “How do we integrate this world of influencers into a brand that we have worked really hard to define; how do we do that without sacrificing any of our integrity?”

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She started this quest by defining a menu of activations, divided into four buckets, ranging from a “mega 360 partnerships” with one or two influencers, including efforts ranging from merchandising to in-store events, and social media content. Then there are also sponsored campaigns of ad content, with brands hiring influencers to create content. Often opportunistic deals pop-up sporadically, such as sponsoring an influencer’s master class. Finally, there is the rudimentary box campaign, in which products are sent to influencers to see if they sample the products and hopefully create some content and reveal if they have a gateway amount of followers. It is the most efficient generator but lacks control.

Part of this process is picking the kind of influencer a brand should look for. In Smashbox’s case, it was neither the dramatic makeup user or the ultra-arty type.

Chien described the Smashbox ideal as “creative, confident and fun.” Smashbox settled into a relationship with Shay Mitchell of “Pretty Little Liars.”

The process for picking the right influencer is like dating, she observed, noting the box campaign is like casual dating and the 360 partnership stage feels like a “full-on relationship with lots of levels to clear.” Chien added, “when there is that much money on the table you better make sure you and that influencer are committed to each other.”

The proof is in the yardstick. Smashbox adopted, as its measurement, earned media value. A dollar value is assigned to each form of content — such as Instapost or YouTube video, and that is added to the dollar value of the engagement that is generated. The EMV is important because it is believed to correlate with market share.

“The more EMV you generate through influencers, the higher your market share can potentially be,” Chien observed.