WRITTEN BY MediaMonks
With brands speaking directly to audiences in the same channels where they socialize with friends, the pressure is on for brands to speak more transparently and authentically to their audiences. But while “be authentic” sounds like it should be the easiest advice to take to heart, it’s anything but—especially for brands wading into a new market or showcasing a product without high market awareness.
The good news is that authentic messaging typically boils down to providing an honest portrayal of what consumers should expect from your brand, products or services. A Forrester report on customer experience highlights the importance of keeping your promises with what it calls the customer experience (CX) vision: “The CX vision should be an honest representation of the promises that a company makes through its brand image and messaging,” in terms of its values or its role in people’s lives.
A trendy solution for brands seeking a more authentic relationship with consumers is to forge partnerships with influencers: influencers showcase their relationship with the brand and its products, thereby providing an authentic CX vision to their audience who’s often heavily engaged on digital channels. While this method is effective, it may leave brands feeling wary about entrusting others with their brand image.
L’Oreal faced a unique challenge when it sought to integrate influencers into its omnichannel campaign celebrating the launch of its Unbelieva’brow line of makeup in Italy. With no substantial eyebrow market in the region, the team used this white space to their advantage by focusing on regular, everyday interactions between consumers and the product. While the overall campaign leveraged L’Oreal’s international reputation, the inclusion of influencers helped localize the content across the Italian market and provide viewers with a way to relate to the brand.
The four influencers—who each portrayed a different lifestyle like beauty guru, fitness expert or travel enthusiast—were given creative control over the scenes they would shoot themselves. Because portraying the eyebrow makeup was key, there were a lot of ways this could go wrong, like using improper lighting or putting the brows out of focus. That’s why we implemented a series of specific guidelines to ensure deliverables would remain authentic yet fit seamlessly into the overall campaign.
Guidelines were both general (stick to a neutral color palette to match the international campaign assets) and specific (shoot on an iPhone X to maintain the look and feel of a social media video, avoid artificial light which makes the makeup hard to distinguish). Content-wise, the influencers had relatively free rein outside of needing to shoot a horizontal and vertical video demonstrating each of the product “proofs”: that it’s waterproof, smudge-proof, transfer-proof and workout-proof.
"It would have felt staged to ask for reshoots… we focused on keeping that authentic feel."
From there, we were able to put on the finishing touches to optimize each deliverable for each channel, offering different glimpses of an overall narrative. “It was like a reverse-project,” says Willemijn Jongbloed, Project Manager at MediaMonks Amsterdam. “Usually you get the assets first and do the design after, but this time we produced while we were still getting the footage. Creative was never ‘done,’ it was a very intertwined process.”
Because of the guidelines in place, the influencer-produced work could be implemented with little rework and fast turnaround time. “It would have felt staged to ask them to reshoot,” says Madina Paulig, Creative at MediaMonks Amsterdam, “so we just focused on minor tweaking to keep that authentic feel.” The process, which required smart coordination between designers and editors, resulted in a relateable and eyebrow-raising campaign that clearly focused on the product value.
The Unbelieva’brow campaign used an unorthodox approach, but it worked: “In order to get the full concept across in a manner that speaks best to our audience, we gave our influencers the freedom to communicate this in their own, authentic way using their personalities to resonate with our audience,” says Paulig. This is the crux of what organizations must tussle with in the social-infused, influencer-dominated environment that’s transforming the customer-brand relationship.
“Influencers know their audience best, including how to talk to them.”
While the process outlined above worked well for a single campaign, a longer-term need for assets likewise requires a new creative framework. Inspired by the rise of direct-to-consumer brands’ leveraging of social, Avon (the direct-sale business) saw a need to empower its representatives to tweak and optimize digital content while safeguarding a consistent brand image and style.
“What we’ve got on the other hand is the advantage of 133 years of history and more than five million people’s worth of scale and therefore we’re trying to learn to move at the same kind of pace as those insurgent companies, while recognizing we’re a very scaled business,” James Thomspon, Chief Brand and Beauty Officer at Avon, told Marketing Week.
“Unbelieva’brow was a reverse-process; the creative was never 'done.’”
Partnering with Avon, we’re working with them to develop an always-on content studio that will deliver feed-ready assets on a weekly basis, amounting to over 12,000 a year. With the need for localized content at front-of-mind, deliverables will be available in multiple languages and tailored for specific channels, with space available for reps to customize the messaging to their local audience. This last point is key for ensuring that representatives can engage with their audiences authentically while maintaining a centralized design process.
Leveraging an online community of representatives or hiring influencers are just two ways to enhance marketing with authenticity. By rethinking creative and production processes, brands can safeguard themselves while placing greater trust in influencers and partners to accurately represent their CX vision to consumers. A well-defined process ensures that everyone involved can have fun with the freedom to express the brand’s relevance in their lives—and what more authentic message is there than that?