The beauty industry and influencer marketing make for a perfect match, with brands actively collaborating with influencers on social networks to make best use of the visual format and high levels of user engagement to build brand awareness and loyalty.
Beauty brands have long woken up to the reality that user generated content far out performs their own - research shows that a staggering 97.4% of conversations surrounding beauty brands on YouTube was generated not by the brands but by independent content creators.
But as the industry’s understanding of influencer marketing matures, we’re seeing a division between what’s known as influencer advertising and those brands who are focusing on building longer term relationships with influencers who may have fewer followers but who are more able to genuinely connect with their audience, driving greater authentic reach and engagement for the brands they talk about on social.
Top beauty brand Benefit Cosmetics UK is one of the leading examples of this – putting their own employees and micro-influencers at the heart of their influencer marketing strategy.
They have responded to customer demand for the brand to remain human and relatable by launching creative initiatives that focus on generating authentic content their customers want to engage with, rather than selling them a beauty ideal they’ll never be able to match.
Here, following the launch of their Badgal Bang Mascara, Lauren Spearman, Digital Manager for Benefit Cosmetics UK shares the thinking behind their approach, how their own staff are part of a new initiative to create great content to post on Benefit’s social channels, and why the strategy is winning them new fans across the country.
Evolution of Benefit Cosmetic UK’s influencer and advocacy strategy
Three years ago now, we set out to find people who love Benefit, some were already on our radar while others were new to the brand and wanted to be part of it.
We put together a database of all those people, and that became the basis for our Friends of Benefit influencer programme. We would give them access to products and worked with a few influencers on a non-commercial basis. 18 months ago we realised we needed to do more with influencers, because our approach wasn’t where it needed to be.
Working with influencers that fit – Friends of Benefit
We have about 500 people on our entire influencer database, and we have some touchpoint with each one of them in some aspect, whether it be event invites, product sends, collaboration opportunities and much more.
For our Friends with Benefit programme, which covers around 300 influencer they are either invited by us to join, or can apply. We manually review all the applications we receive – we get approached every day by influencers wanting to sign up. We need to know they are the right people for us, as much as we are the right fit for them, so it is important and we take the time to check that.
Tone of voice is very important to us, and even at this stage of working with micro-influencers we are inviting them into the programme on the basis that we could at some point in the future have a commercial relationship with them. The point is, we are looking for relationships with influencers that could grow over time, where they are the perfect fit for the brand. We review who is in the programme every month to make sure we have the right influencers in there.
We need to show our understanding of what our customers want – which is more human, real, fun - and our content has to reflect that.
Empowering employee advocates to build the brand
The #lifeatbenefit hashtag started a few years ago as a global initiative to show Benefit’s dna - ‘laughter is the best cosmetic’ is our brand motto.
We work hard to attract and keep the best people working on counter and at head office, so this is the chance to show off all the fun we get up to here.
Alongside this Lisa Potter Dixon, our Head Make Up Artist & Brow Expert, last year set up a group of 30 employees who all work on counter, who have become our National Trend Team. They work closely with the marketing team, putting new trends out there across the different regions of the country, hosting masterclasses on counter and attending all the wonderful events and shoots we get to be a part of. It’s an amazing resource for creating content like Instagram stories, and how to videos.
Employee advocates make the brand more human and drive customer engagement
We want to give our customers reassurance because it can be quite intimidating going up to a beauty counter and having your make up done. But at Benefit, we have built a reputation for being super friendly while also knowing what we are doing. This is what we try to communicate in our content across social.
Our digital team manages all our social channels as well as creating content including live video and stories. Having our own employees create content in addition to this makes sense because we work for the brand and truly represent the face of it. We started to do make up looks live on camera last year, creating relevant raw content.
We’re real people working out how to get the look and customers like it. It’s important brands stay relevant to customer demand, people often want to see real people not models in makeup demonstrations.
We know that our customers engage more when they watch this type of content. We tested ad content across our channels recently, looking at polished ads (professionally filmed) and not polished (selfie shot with a phone). The ad shot with the phone resonated much better with our audience as it felt truer to real life. As a customer you think, I can relate to you.
Employee generated content is our way of staying relevant, never creating things that are unbelievably hard. We need to demonstrate our understanding of what our customers want.
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