Butterfly at Ad Week Europe: Why brands should speak to consumers on a personal level

In an enlightening talk, Max Factor and Blippar discussed how to make beauty more personal.  There was an acknowledgement that we are all spending an increasing amount of time with our smart phones, with Mikela Eskenazi, Blippar Senior Brand Partner, describing them as “the new sun, it’s everywhere around us, it energises us, it burns us too and ultimately we can’t live without them”.

With this in mind it seems natural that because consumers always have their smartphones readily availably, the route to becoming more personally connected with consumers is through them.  But how can brands truly get personal with consumers and build their trust this way, whilst knowing when it’s the right time to talk to them, and not bombard them with brand content which would become a bane rather than bonus?

Beauty brands in particular have been struggling to make waves with consumers in recent years as the rise of online beauty ‘vlogs’ have begun to strip brands of their power. Vlogs have empowered consumers instead of brands, as we see enthusiastic, unbiased consumers that are extremely relatable voice their opinions about their favourite and least favourite beauty products on YouTube. As a consumer, a rating from a vlogger is ordinarily trusted and is a sure way to increase brand awareness, recall and intent to purchase.

When beauty vlogger Tanya Burr showcased Homebase products in a Home and Haul video, the consumers who watched it were heavily influenced as the products featured enjoyed a 46% uplift in sales.

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However, with brands increasingly choosing to sponsor vlogging content, savvy consumers are losing faith in the medium as they recognise that content is pushed and biased, diluting their credibility as sources of information.  Brands like Max Factor, aware of this shift, are seizing it as an opportunity to build stronger functional relationships with consumers through apps like Blippar.

Blippar is an app that enables consumers to find out product information and enables consumers and brands to interact functionally with each other. Consumers can take photos of any blippable product on or offline and generate a tailored online experience linked to the product. This offering delivers brand controlled content alongside a more dynamic purchase experience in comparison to a Google search. However, having an app to reach a brand adds a new step in the consumers’ journey to purchase. Is a one-way brand to consumer functional conversation really enough to hold users attention?

In the world of beauty products the Blippar experience includes beauty tutorials, links to buy products and most interestingly, personalisation. Consumers can express an interest in a brands red lipstick or foundation, take a photo of their skin colour through Blippar and the app can recommend the perfect tone for them. This is particularly useful as it is plugging a gap that vloggers can’t, especially as most vloggers are not ethnically representative of their diverse audiences.

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Blippar is undoubtedly a platform that enables brands to functionally get up close and personal with consumers, but is function alone enough? Vloggers are personable internet celebrities that evoke strong emotions and therefore build strong bonds with their audiences. All you have to do is look at the outpouring of emotional responses that Zoella receives on YouTube, as consumers feel comfortable talking about topics beyond beauty, such as mental health.

In order to be a truly personal and trusted brand, at Butterfly we think a layer of emotion needs to be weaved in to seal the bond with consumers.

When I asked Laurie Murciano, Global Brand Manager of Max Factor if she thought there was an opportunity for brands themselves to start talking personally to consumers through platforms such as Blippar she recognised that is where the future of online content is heading. The marketing rules are changing as no longer can marketers tell consumers what they should buy. Vloggers have proved the value of emotions when selling products, so it’s time for marketers to start listening to consumers as Max Factor have done with Blippar. However, to take this to the next level they should go one step further and join the conversation, in order to build strong emotional bonds and foster loyalty.

Interestingly, Sephora has recently announced a collaboration with KiK messenger by which it can simulate ‘chatty’ two-way conversations with its consumers. The app is currently driven via artificial intelligence and is able to answer a huge variety of tailored beauty questions. This app is ground-breaking because it represents a brand that is one step closer to having ‘emotional conversations’ with its consumers, to make the Sephora beauty shopping experience personal. It is currently quite obvious that the app is a robot and not a spokesperson from the brand talking and for that reason the conversations remain relatively functional. Despite this, Sephora is undoubtedly a brand leading the ‘emotional conversation’ pack.

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The most successful brands of the future will deliver emotional conversations to their consumers through technology and will therefore create truly personalised purchasing experiences. There is a clear opportunity to combine brands listening to consumers needs and providing emotional, valuable advice.

It’s time to start the conversation, before others do.

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Hannah Loake, Associate Consultant, 05.05.16 (hannah@butterflylondon.com)