Legacy cosmetics giant Estée Lauder remains relevant in the digital age by embracing new technology and data-driven, customer-centric marketing tactics.
Estée Lauder was founded over 70 years ago, in 1946, when Lauder and her husband Joseph began producing cosmetics in New York City. From its initial four product offerings, Estée Lauder has grown to encompass 29 companies, including Clinique, MAC, and La Mer.
Much of Estée Lauder’s growth since 1946 can be attributed to the company’s need to keep up with a rapidly evolving retail landscape. Today, consumers’ attention spans are shorter, technology is more sophisticated, and beauty retailers are increasingly taking a customer-driven rather than a product-driven approach to marketing.
If one thing has remained the same, though, it’s Estée Lauder’s commitment to the customer. Estée herself famously believed that making a sale began with making a connection with the consumer: speaking with her one-on-one, applying the products to her face, and letting her see the results for herself.
Today, those one-on-one connections are far more difficult to achieve, which is why Estée Lauder has adapted its approach to customer relationships for the digital age. Now, the company begins every customer-centric campaign by considering the following four questions:
1. Who drives us?
For each and every retail company, the answer to this question should be obvious: customers. Customers are at the center of all decisions, and a customer-obsessed mindset will give any retail company a distinct competitive advantage. Before executing any new marketing strategy, Estée Lauder tests the strategy against these four customer-centric standards:
- Does it stop me? Think of this as the “thumb-stopping factor” — does it catch the consumer’s eye and keep them from continuing their endless scroll?
- Does it reward me? Now that you’ve caught the customer’s attention, provide something useful, funny, or inspiring to draw them in, or risk losing them for good.
- Does it make it easy for me? Keep your CTAs relevant and prominent to make it clear how your product will benefit the consumer.
- Does it stay with me? If you don’t drive a conversion right then and there, keep your brand top of mind with memorable content.
Estée Lauder’s marketing team begins every campaign by placing themselves in the customer’s shoes. This customer-first, digital-first mindset has led the company to sustainable growth, quarter after quarter.
2. Who inspires us?
The companies under the Estée Lauder umbrella rely heavily on influencer marketing to spread the word about new products: MAC has over 25,000 official makeup artists across the globe, and frequently sends them products and a short brief in exchange for social media engagement.
However, the influencers that Estée Lauder’s companies choose to represent their respective brands are unexpected, offbeat, and truly inspiring — the companies operate under the belief that brands that take a stand and go against the norm will come out ahead.
Take MAC’s partnership with Instagram influencer and YouTube vlogger Patrick Starrr as an example: born Patrick Simondac, the celebrity makeup artist is a Filipino-American man who describes himself as “a boy who loves makeup.” He revealed his MAC line via a powerful, emotionally-charged YouTube video that amassed almost 1.5 million views.
While cosmetics have historically been marketed to women (and usually white women), MAC knew that Starrr’s bombastic personality and commitment to diversity were a perfect fit for the MAC portfolio. Starrr has since released a second collection with MAC, which has been met with rave reviews.
3. How do we execute?
According to research from Facebook, desktop users spend an average of just 2.5 seconds with any piece of content — and on mobile, that time drops down to 1.7 seconds. That seconds-long attention span means that brands need to get to the “hook” of an ad within just a few seconds, or risk losing the consumer’s attention altogether.
But the hook isn’t enough on its own. The content that follows the “hook” moment should be authentic, funny, and hyper-personalized. 71 percent of consumers prefer ads tailored to their interests and shopping habits, and consumer engagement increases by 3x when ads are personalized.
This latest Clinique campaign checks all the boxes: it offers a hook within seconds, it’s funny and relevant to the buyer, and featured influencer Elle Walker, who runs the blog What’s Up Moms, is a perfect fit for the campaign and its audience.
4. Where are we going?
Estée Lauder may be a 70-year-old brand, but it doesn’t shy away from new ideas. The company is constantly innovating, as evidenced by its use of new technology like virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI).
For example, the company partnered with the app YouCam for the launch of its Pure Colour LOVE lipstick at the end of 2017. The app uses VR technology to allow customers to “try on” all 20 shades of the new product, without the mess, germs, or wasted product that comes with using testers in-store.
Estée Lauder has also ventured into AI, partnering with Google Home in November 2017 to launch the “Estée Lauder Nighttime Expert” app. Users can chat aloud with the “Nighttime Expert” bot, which suggests personalized nighttime skincare routines.
Today’s Estée Lauder may not be able to accomplish the face-to-face contact with every customer on which Estée herself built a cosmetics empire — but with customer-obsessed analytics and forward-thinking technology, it can offer a groundbreaking facsimile that some might argue is even better.