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Study: Beauty marketing gone social, marketing forays suggest untapped promise

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — Beauty brands rapidly are moving ahead with their social and mobile strategies to allow viral campaigns and create new consumer relations opportunities. But there’s no cookie-cutter approach, and brands are experimenting with what approaches work best for their business, according to a new report by consulting and research firm Kline.

The “Beauty Marketing 2011: U.S. Promotional Activities and Strategies Assessment” report found that during the recent holiday season, marketers ramped up their viral campaigns to attract consumers who turned to social media platforms for the best deals on their personal care products. However, social media is not the only tool marketers are experimenting with to connect with consumers; couponing and price promotions are experiencing a comeback, strengthened by consumer desire for special offers and free or discounted items. Yet, Kline noted, even traditional couponing is being challenged by the growing trend of mobile marketing, where marketers are finding that mobile couponing offers significant advantages over paper-based forerunners in delivering higher redemption rates and encouraging impulse purchases.

Such traditional marketing methods as broadcast and print media and in-store merchandising have been long-standing marketing tools. Yet within these established tools, marketers are both threatened by new technologies that allow potential customers to screen out TV commercials, and are constrained by inflexible publication dates and comparatively high costs. Social media's real-time adaptability and keyword-based targeting strongly complement the parallel of traditional and proven marketing efforts, and concurrently tap into a savvy, trendsetting demographic.

The study found that cutting-edge beauty marketers are experimenting with a range of social media platforms by establishing a presence on such websites as Facebook, YouTube or localized Foursquare, where they can connect with the community and more accurately target a given demographic. The marketers are tapping into the emerging potential of “f-commerce” and “m-commerce” that blur the line between social media as pure communication tool and as an emerging sales channel. These marketing forays, still in their infancy, invite cautious optimism but suggest great untapped promise for marketers, according to Kline.

“Consumers now have the ability to do extensive real-time evaluations on products and prices before they purchase,” noted Donna Barson, senior associate at Kline’s Consumer Products practice. “The growing ubiquity of new, on-the-go technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, are also creating a better-informed and more accessible consumer."

"The landscape for marketing beauty products has changed dramatically over the last several years, with brands moving from traditional advertising as promotional vehicles, to also include social marketing, mobile marketing, enhanced loyalty programs, new sampling methods and more," Barson continued. "However, there is no cookie-cutter approach to all, and brands are experimenting with what approaches work best with their business model, their consumer base and the image they want to project.”