Options Plus Loyalty, Not Flashy Social Media, Drive Foundation Purchases

Nars foundation

And the winner is…

When Tribe Dynamics studied the relationship between online buzz and the earned media value (EMV) of a variety mascara brands, they found a direct correlation between the online popularity of a particularly product and its total number of impressions and subsequent EMV.  The relationship sounds logically obvious, but that’s not always the case.  The rules for foundation (liquid, to be specific), which Tribe turned its attention to this week, don’t follow the same pattern.  Here, customer loyalty and available variety trump any social media sleight of hand, to create worthwhile EMV.

What the top three brands — Nars, MAC, and L’Oréal — had in common was offering more than 16 shades each, compared to 9 or 10 from the others studied.  Variety in the category produces wider loyalty, which, sure — with more options, you can appeal to more women, and maybe even the occasional dude.  Within those top three, however, the number of online publishers (social media, traditional online media, blogs) mentioning the brands’ foundations, and the correlating number of online impressions, didn’t necessarily correspond.

MAC Foundation FinderIn creating a vocal, loyal set of online customers, this tool is way more valuable than a bunch of blog mentions.

What Tribe found was that the number two spot, MAC Pro Longwear Foundation, had the highest number of publishers — 58 — mentioning its product, but still had way fewer impressions than the winner, Nars Sheer Glow Foundation.  Why?  Here, quality of online presentation seems to fully trump quantity.  What Nars has going for it is a loyal coterie of followers who tend to repeatedly mention the product and buy it over and over again.  A study by A.T. Kearney found that a majority of women refer to themselves as “creatures of habit” when it comes to purchasing foundation, and 60% of them reported shopping for beauty products online.

So the key here is to draw in the widest audience possible, and then make it easy to buy your product on the Web.  Voila, a repeat customer.  What Nars does particularly well is offer comprehensive product tutorials and insights from François Nars, the company’s founder, to create a loyal shopper who knows she’s getting the right thing.  And all three of the top brands excelled at making it easy to match skintone and foundation, offering online sources for finding the correct shade out of their many options (MAC’s foundation finder, free consultations from L’Oréal), effectively gaining repeat customers.

Marketing foundation online, unlike mascara, is way less about user reviews and influencer chatter.  Women might experiment with a variety of mascara brands, but skin tone doesn’t change, and consumers don’t seem to vary much once they’ve found the right product.  In creating EMV around foundation, then, brands need to focus on offering the best online experience for women either making a decision for the first time or looking to make a fundamental switch.

Tribe Dynamics logoAll data is provided by Tribe Dynamics.  For more information on the study, check out the full report.