A few years ago, virtually everyone had heard of Elizabeth Arden. Yet when asked about the brand, people followed up with “…but what are they up to today?”
It was the largest of all the turnaround opportunities that JuE Wong, our guest on the Hawke Media Podcast, had been involved in. The task piqued her interest.
Today, JuE is the President of Elizabeth Arden. She helped resurrect a brand that was considered by most to be well past its prime.
There’s a lot that marketers and entrepreneurs at any level can learn from the Arden Brand’s turnaround. Here are three of those lessons.
1) “Digital Marketing Should Focus on Lower-Funnel; Upper-Funnel Is a Cop-Out.”
What got JuE excited about turning the Arden brand around was that the CEO was all in on a digital play. She told him the only way Elizabeth Arden could have a place in the sun was leveling the playing field, which could be done on the social media side of things.
She gave the existing team a focus: whatever they did, overtly or unconsciously, they should put the brand front and center. More important, they needed to measure the returns so they could double down or change course based on results.
One of the very first things they did was launch a social media campaign in order to shift the perception of the brand. People always viewed Arden as having passed its prime. But the goal of the campaign was to become relevant to younger consumers who had no baggage about who Elizabeth Arden was.
Anyone who knew the brand had preconceived notions, but 18-25 year olds were open to who Arden claimed to be.
The brand measured efficacy in two ways:
1) For upper-funnel (brand awareness) it was all about impressions. They were in the 90th percentile in terms of brand relevance and 80th when it came to the intention to buy.
2) Lower-funnel – When Arden launched a video featuring Chelsea Handler, they had very strategically placed a lot of Arden products on the desk of Liz Arden, which you would expect. But they also gave makeovers to those at the shoot and made sure they were using Arden products. Chelsea Handler was a shining example of the brand’s social resurgence: she didn’t think she wanted to try a certain product, but agreed to, and her people on social media started asking her about the color she wore in the video.
Then Elizabeth Arden saw a definite lift in the purchase of that specific color. The connection was obvious.
2) Smart Social Strategies Work—No Matter How Big Your Brand Is
If you’re a smaller brand, you can look at all these examples of brands who have taken social media by the horns and taken control of it, while more established brands jump on the bandwagons and overpay.
JuE hired a bunch of interns and had them watch hours and hours of Youtube videos, scouring the Internet for anyone with fewer than 10,000 followers. They reached out to many emerging influencers and gave them products to write about. That kind of grassroots marketing is a lot more authentic—not to mention effective—than other strategies.
Those smaller influencers still looking to grow are a lot more receptive. They will be more willing to partner with you, but be warned: they also stay true to their calling, meaning they won’t just give you a glowing review because you send a product. Still, the reward is worth the risk.
Remember: It’s not just about getting the A-tier influencers; it’s about getting a review that drives a consumer to believe in the brand.
The up-and-coming bloggers are so meaningful because they’re independent, and people are more willing to listen to people who are unsponsored.
3) Social Commerce Is One of the Most Effective Brand-Building Channels in Existence Today
If you’re a brand just starting out, with very limited distribution, try to go after what JuE calls “social commerce.”
Basically, you say, “Come try my product; if you like it and recommend it to a friend, I’ll give you a commission, payable only after the shipment is made.” It’s really a derivative of the Mary Kay or Avon approach, but without the consumer having the whole inventory or having to know too much about the product, other than that they like it.
Because they can make an income, people are more willing to get behind your product faster. Then you can size up whether that distribution channel is worthwhile, or whether the brick-and-mortar route makes more sense. Brick-and-mortar is a costly affair, though, so you have to make sure you’ve got the funding to sustain it.
Today, would she go the wholesale route or try to stay digital and keep her margin?
JuE chose the latter. You can stay closer to the consumer that way.
Think about it: the reason brick-and-mortar stores are struggling, despite having great ideas on how to engage the consumer, has a lot to do with employees. Who is servicing people walking in? Hourly paid, minimum-wage workers.
They’re probably not going to be excited about your vision; most just want to make their commission or hourly wage. There’s a disconnect between the brand’s aims and the people in charge of carrying them out.
Whereas, if you’re doing business online, there’s plenty of opportunity for engagement. JuE still personally pens letters today; she’s written something like 200 letters and virtually everyone has responded. That need for emotional connection never goes away, no matter how advanced technology becomes.
Whatever community, whatever context, wherever you are, emotional connection is where the rubber meets the road.
Digital doesn’t eliminate that: in fact, it can be quite the opposite.
No matter who you are, social levels the playing field. But you’ve got to do it right.
Luckily, there are plenty of success—and re-success—stories out there like Elizabeth Arden’s to learn from.
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