Glossier. Harry’s. Milk Makeup. It’s certainly no secret that some beauty and personal care brands exert a special pull among consumers. But it fascinates me that some are able to expand their audiences so fast. In just six months, for example, Mario Badescu shot to the No. 2 spot in teen girls’ favorite skincare brands in Piper Jaffrey’s semiannual “Taking Stock With Teens” survey. Neutrogena is still in first place, but Badescu barreled right by perennial favorites like Clean & Clear and Clinique.
Based on new research from Captify and Publicis Media, the secret is as basic as understanding when and why consumers are looking for new products. “The D2C brands have really tapped into find drivers that consumers are engaged in, at just the right moments,” says Anand Siddiqui, global vice president of insights for Captify. He says disruptor brands are the biggest news in search this year. “They’re not trying to do this one-size-fits-all thing.”
Here’s a bombshell: In the yearlong study of haircare searches, Watermans, a disruptive brand that promises to help hair grow, had the highest volume of searches. (I know. I’d never heard of it either.) It accounted for 8.6% share of searches, beating some 100 global haircare brands, including mega-advertisers like Pantene and Garnier. What more evidence do old-school brands need that D2C disruptors are serious competition, especially when it comes to targeting and connecting with online audiences?
The Captify/Publicis research analyzed 491 million global haircare searches, and there’s a depressing trend for marketers of mass brands: those searches focused primarily on price.
D2C brands also do better with their use of influencers, a powerful skill, since those searches gained 55.3% in the year. (And 54% of haircare searches were associated with celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin, who owns Ouai, a cult favorite.)
But finding the right points of engagement isn’t as easy as it might sound. Festival marketing — Coachella, we’re looking at you — and big moments like Fashion Week actually led to a decrease in searches. Yet major film and music events are powerful: The 2018 Oscars sparked a 214% jump.
Siddiqui tells Marketing: D2C Weekly the research further convinced him that D2C brands have an inherent advantage. “They intrinsically understand what customers wants and they come to market that way,” he says. One of his favorite examples from the research is BeautyKubes, shampoos that are both organic and vegan, with plastic-free packaging.
His advice for legacy brands is to understand what is really motivating consumers — and then shift using that information — but also to expect that moving from mass to niche won’t be easy.
It’s not that other brands — even a Pantene or Head & Shoulders, for example — couldn’t make a zero-waste product similar to BeautyKubes. But that move won’t seem as genuine.“Consumers will naturally be more cynical about a brand trying to pivot to become organic, compared to one that started out as organic in the first place,” he notes.
Conversely, Siddiqu is just as skeptical about the large consumer ad campaigns many D2C brands are diving into. “It’s so important not to lose authenticity. Their strength is in knowing the consumer and in microsegmentation and personalization. Broadcast TV messages? That’s not their power.”