October 16, 2019

by Nigel Hollis

A recent WARC newsletter offered up an article titled, “How e.l.f. re-engaged with consumers”. The review of how the U.S. cosmetics company achieved this was interesting and led me to reflect on the need to adapt your media strategy to be appropriate to your brand’s status.

The article summarizes a presentation given by Kory Marchisotto, Chief Marketing Officer at e.l.f. at Advertising Week New York 2019 detailing how e.l.f. returned to growth with a new marketing campaign informed by a detailed exploration of the brand’s customer base and the brand’s differentiating strengths. Reassuringly, success was measured not just in terms of views and awareness but behavior, most notably that the campaign drove 78 percent more new visitors to the site.

Based on this success, Marchisotto advises brand custodians to adopt a clear three-tiered marketing formula:

  •     Unleash that kick-ass creative
  •     Tailor it to unique audiences
  •     Deliver it through a media plan that is structured around personalizing to those audiences with daily optimizations to drive performance

Marchisotto concludes, “The results will speak for themselves.”

It was the last comment that got me thinking. I have absolutely no argument with Marchisotto’s recommendation for a small, beauty brand. But would it work for another industry and, perhaps more important, would it work for a far bigger brand?

My answer to the first question is an unqualified yes: the formula could work for another industry. In fact, it could work irrespective of the power of digital to drive daily optimization. As evidence I will offer up the example of the Subaru car brand in the U.S. in the mid-90s which tailored content to specific audiences and targeted it using print and outdoor.

My answer to the second question is a qualified no: I do not think the same media strategy would drive strong enough results for a big brand. To my mind, it not whether the strategy would be effective but whether it would have the necessary scale. Closely personalized and targeted media will simply not reach a wide enough audience to keep up the sales momentum.

Reading the review of e.l.f.’s success suggests to me that the brand successfully moved from the start-up phase of instinct and intimacy, where the brand appeals to a small group of early adopters, to that of explore and engage, where the brand needs to more actively consider the needs and motivations of different customers. But beyond that stages lies another of breadth and broadcast, where the brand builds on its existing customer base to push the boundaries and extend its appeal to a much wider audience. The brand may still need to deploy a cloud of digital assets but it will also have to ensure that it reaches beyond the existing customer base with a more inclusive appeal.

But what do you think?


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