3 Things Traditional Beauty Brand Advertisers Can Learn from Their Direct to Consumer Counterparts

Published on Jan 2nd, 2020

Tania Yuki
Founder & CEO, Shareablee

At this time of the year, we take stock of the past 12 months, across more than 15 industries on social media including retail. We'll wrap the full analysis in detail at our January webinar but in the meantime I wanted to share some of the standout lessons traditional beauty brand advertisers can learn from the performance of Direct-to-Consumer brands.

As we analyzed the social insights from Black Friday and Cyber Monday it was clear that Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) brands on social are using shoppable and Influencer driven content to drive traffic and commerce in unique ways, that most of the more established, traditional brands have not yet adopted.

Initially it was very easy to write D2C brands off and say "Social engagement doesn’t equal sales - just because something is popular on social, doesn’t mean anything in the real world!”

Then Kylie Cosmetics happened, where a brand came out from nowhere to a billion dollars seemingly overnight, following in the tradition of brands like Dollar Shave Club and more who had initially paved the trail. Then Away Luggage, and Everlane, and Huda Beauty and many more. And almost all of these newer brands follow this same trend of being very 'un-brand like'.

Here are a few strategies that approaches that stood out as we analyzed their approach to social media marketing particularly in the beauty category:


1. Move quickly and don't be afraid to experiment


Brands that are nimble, reactive and fast to engage are finding the most success on social, where best practices and popular post formats change frequently. Not sure what to do on IGTV, or how many stories to post daily? Experiment, and look at your results to learn fast, and keep evolving.

Digital-first brands like Kylie Cosmetics and Huda Beauty are leading the way in terms of how to adjust and adapt and shape their marketing around social. They're light as a feather, they play as if they have nothing to lose, and they don't have heavy and long-established ways of working. This freedom to do what feels right with new formats is a very freeing thing – and without a big legacy to protect the question to answer is only, "what does my consumer want today?".

(Instagram carousel: @kyliecosmetics)


2. Create content that recognizes the strengths of each platform


Whether it's image or video-based content, the battle for attention is more intense than ever before as more brands saturate existing platforms. For video content more brands are looking to Facebook and Twitter, where the barrier to engagement is very high. Competing with vast seas of very entertaining TV, publisher and sports content, brands need to create like publishers, or audiences will quickly ignore them, not wanting to simply watch ads. On Instagram, by contrast, images are still dominant and some of the most engaging pieces of content look like beautiful storefront installations - and the selling aspect is completely acceptable particularly infeed.

Still want to focus on video on Instagram? Double down on Instagram Stories. Instagram stories remain very popular for brand advertisers. While short in length per story, what we've observed this year is a number of beauty brands posting multiple stories in a day - and when a viewer combines them all together people are actually spending a lot of time with moving images on Instagram in this way.

(Instagram Stories: @anastasiabeverlyhills)


3. Shift your tone of voice from a distant, exclusive one to a familiar, relatable one


Following a Direct-to-Consumer brand is more like following your best friend and getting tips, previews and exclusives, than it is like following a traditional brand. It feels much less like sitting back and being advertised to and more inclusive, engaging and real.

This can be a challenge for some traditional luxury brands – where some of their mystique has been their exclusivity and their distance. However, audiences don't trust a brand they can't relate to anymore - they want something that feels unique, that expresses their values and that feels accessible to them and special. To create this feeling, brands need to really be getting down with their consumers and listen to how they communicate – and then use their language and their interests to guide content and product creation.

(Instagram: @fentybeauty)

These 3 suggestions seem simple enough on paper. But adopting them will take a cultural shift and an internal transformation that involves time, money and considerable risk. The advocates for this change will need support - both executive level support, as well as data to prove that this is more than just anecdotal evidence, and more than simply gut-based.

Most particularly traditional beauty brands will need to move at least 3-5 times faster than they are right now. Traditional brands should be asking the question: "how can I behave more like a content creator and a media publisher than a traditional advertiser?". That's where they'll start to see the true potential of social reach and engagement.

If you have questions, join me during our Q&A on January 28th, just click this link to register.

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