The Marketing Changes Brands Are Making To Improve Their Bottom Line And Relevance During The Pandemic

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 20 brand founders and executives: How have you changed your marketing strategy during the COVID-19 crisis?

Aleena Khan Co-Founder, CTZN Cosmetics

The immediate change we made was shifting from product-related marketing to community-driven content, focusing on human voice. As founders, we decided for the first time to actually speak to the camera and share our thoughts during this uncertain time with our community in order to create a relatable human element behind a brand. 

We refrained from sales in the first few weeks of quarantine because, in our hearts, we really felt it seemed insensitive. We addressed COVID-19 from early stages and started off by involving our community in helping us decide which organization to donate to during this pandemic. An Instagram poll led to a video where we shared the results and final decision.

We shifted our email marketing as well by introducing a new segment titled CTZN Connect, a lighthearted Q&A segment that profiled one CTZN from around the world answering questions from, “What are you doing during quarantine?” to “You know you're from my culture if ________.” We noticed these emails had higher open rates than any product promotional email in the past!

Our most recent strategy has been using our platform as a place for positivity during a time where it is incredibly easy to focus on our collective fears. We just published a video on our IGTV titled “Positive Reflections I Had During Quarantine,” and it includes almost 50 video submissions from around the world. From Giulia in Milan to our grandmother Noreen in Pakistan, we used this time to create meaningful content that not only spreads necessary joy, but also makes our community as a whole feel more connected than ever. 

The effects of COVID-19 has actually made my sisters and I, as co-founders, more connected and devoted to our brand more than ever because this pandemic has forced us to reflect on what we have done thus far, what should shift today, and what should remain changed in the future moving forward.

Emma Spivey Founder, Her Royal Hempress

Right now I'm focusing more on giveaways, hefty product discounts and PR opportunities, including donations to nurses as well as educational blog pieces. Several of the expos I was planning to attend, like SXSW, have been canceled. I'm not going to invest in future expos until I'm sure the economy has reopened. It's just too costly and venues don't refund. PR has been my main focus during the pandemic.

Andrea Lisbona Founder and CEO, Touchland

We have made the decision to stop influencer collaborations to review our products and ensure we maximize product availability for as many people as possible. We have dedicated our marketing budget toward ramping up production and machinery to double capacity to serve as many people as possible. On social media, we have not promoted any messages regarding COVID-19, and our communication has been focused on positivity and giving hope for what’s next. We have also launched our “Healthcare Heroes Program,” where we dedicate 5% of every weekly restock to ship to healthcare workers.

Jordynn Wynn Co-Founder, Insert Name Here (INH)

As far as overall marketing strategy, we did make some adjustments early on. We changed our content focus to be more interactive: voting, games, polls. When selecting user-generated content for reposts, we selected looks that were work-from-home aspirational. 

We’ve been very fortunate in the fact that our main focus from the beginning has been to make accessible hair products that can easily be applied at home without the help of an expert. While we are all unable to visit the beauty experts we trust and love (hair stylists, hair colorists, etc.), many people have turned to clip-in extensions to replace their tape or sew in extensions. 

We’ve also really leaned into our clip-in bangs. These are having a major moment right now, with all of the talk around cutting your own bangs paired with the videos of DIY bang cutting gone wrong. For the people handling those desires a bit more cautiously, our clip-in bangs have been a good alternative and we’ve definitely seen a rise in their popularity as a result.

Romain Gaillard CEO and Founder, The Detox Market

We are known for community engagement. We host several events a month at our stores in LA, NY and Canada. In light of COVID-19, our events and marketing team have joined forces to create that same sense of community online by sending relevant, up-to-date content on a variety of subjects like making the most of quarantine and supporting overall wellbeing. We are packing our Instagram with live founder interviews, fun rounds of trivia, Zoom-friendly makeup looks and at-home self-care tips. Above all, our goal is to serve as a reminder that social distancing doesn’t mean disconnection.

Amy Zunzunegui CEO and Founder, Wldkat

We definitely have had to shift our overall launch strategy. Our big launch event was going to take place in New York City at a Lower East Side bodega, where we were going to stage a complete takeover of the space for an entire day. We were planning on inviting media, consumers, influencers and industry friends to take part in the event. 

Due to COVID-19, we unfortunately had to cancel those plans, and instead put the dollars toward more online marketing efforts. Now, our focus is on digital marketing and social media. As far as press goes, we shifted from doing in-person interviews to creating a video tele-side from my living room, where I introduced the brand and the products to all media. This was definitely a shift from our original plan, but, because we are a group of resourceful individuals at a small startup, we have been able to adapt to anything thrown our way.

Jordan Schindler Founder, Nufabrx

We pivoted our marketing strategy to focus from B2B to a direct-to-consumer approach. Our pivot to reusable copper medical masks came as a result of demand from our first responders. There clearly wasn’t the time to ramp through a traditional partner. We launched our own direct-to-consumer website, theramasks.com, a social media program and instituted a buy one, give one program to ensure we could truly help the people that need these most. We have also offered direct delivery to our local community, dropping these masks off in person while practicing social distancing to those that are unable to leave their homes.

Kristy Hunston Co-Founder, Avoila

Luckily, we invested in social media as a priority from early on. And, now, our social media channels have become more important than ever. Our number of followers are still growing steadily, and the community we’re building online is a vital part of our business. So, staying relevant to our audience is very important, especially as they’re navigating through this period. 

From a messaging perspective, the only thing we have pivoted on is the idea of luxury. The words “luxury” or “luxurious” aren't really resonating right now. Whether the market is being more discerning with money or [people] feel like this is a time to give up on certain indulgences, we can better connect with them by talking about quality and talking about self-care, That’s where they want to focus, and it makes sense. For us, beauty is about nourishing and honoring your skin. So, communicating to them about honoring themselves during times of stress fits right in with our brand message, and they seem appreciative about it.

SELMIN KARATAS Co-Founder and CEO, Kazani

We have teamed up with some small businesses in different industries located in New York City, and we decided to donate a part of our sales to a charity, Direct Relieffrom the end of March moving on forward. As a marketing strategy, all the small businesses posted on each other's Instagram Stories and Instagram posts, and tagged one another.

We also did an email campaign by sending out emails to our customers that we would be donating 30% of our sales to charity. We posted a blog about it as well. We also gave away a recipe to make your own hand sanitizer on last month's blog.

Since my father is the co-owner of our business and a French chef at the same time, we are also featuring healthy-made food as it is important to have a healthy immune system during the pandemic, and posting it to our Instagram stories.

Olga Parno Founder, Masktini

Our social media team is very busy. The main focus right now is self-care and sharing how to keep your skin glowing without professional care. Spas/medi-spas are closed, but we can still educate consumers and share skincare tips. We are also doing things like giveaways with our bloggers, IG takeovers by yoga instructors [and] makeup artists sharing how to navigate quarantine, staying healthy and looking fabulous.

Since our expos and events have been canceled, we work directly with associations, spa industry, boutiques and distributors in the U.S. and internationally.  We work via video conference calls. I think contact and support is so important, especially now. We had to push back PR rollout, but have not canceled the campaign. Our British Vogue feature "Get Set, Glow!” [that is in] April, May and June campaigns [is] still running both in print and online.

Michelle Ranavat Founder, Ranavat

I have been doing so many more IG Lives and creating helpful content for people navigating skincare at home without facials. The feedback has been amazing, and I will continue to do this even after lockdown ends. Creating a strong community is what [my brand] is about and, prior to COVID, I was unsure on how to create that on social and outside of events, but the current circumstances have allowed me to grow in a way I hadn’t predicted.

EVELYN SUBRAMANIAM Founder, Bija Essence

Life today can be lonely for many. Therefore, we have made sure to stay in touch with our customers by sending newsletters, posting social media Stories and videos that are relevant to people’s lives, and even sending handwritten notes or personal emails, among other things. 

More than ever, we have reached out to other small female-founded businesses to partner with and work together in creative ways. Just recently, a few of us collaborated in a virtual market or live pop-up on Instagram. It was a great experience for both the clients and the companies. We are also working to partner with other like brands to offer packages of multiple products for people’s wellness.  

We have focused our marketing strategy on online sales such as our website and online retail stores while thinking of alternative channels. Most importantly, we decided to donate and help nonprofit organizations such as Direct Relief by giving them up to 30% of our proceeds. We believe that it is important to help our communities survive this pandemic, no matter how near or far. This is the time to be present and work with our communities in whatever capacity we can afford.

Greta Fitz Founder, Ascention

We dialed up our IG Lives in a big way, partnering with key wellness brands and experts in holistic healing to provide our social collective with perspective, knowledge and tools that they can use to navigate through this or any difficult time. Our focus is to provide the collective with ways to navigate and to help them reveal their best self. We realized that these efforts are not just for navigating through what’s happening now. What COVID-19 is showing us is how we process stress and uncertainty, and what needs to be healed or loved more during this time. 

When things are “normal,” many of us tend to sweep these triggers and emotions under a rug and, then, when things hit the fan, we may self-combust because many of us haven’t worked through those uncomfortable emotions that we try to bury with superficial solutions. We’re grateful for this perspective as we are entering into a new normal. Even after the quarantine is over, we will continue to focus on ritual with scent and intent, and educate how this works to elevate your mind. A clean healthy mind is essential to healthy living now more than ever. 

Sara Saidy Founder, Legendary Apothecary

We have canceled or postponed all events and expos. We are fortunate that our hero product Smooth Feet is a product that is needed now more than ever. Smooth Feet has been called “pedicure in a bottle,” and it’s very useful during a time when people can’t go to a salon and get a pedicure. So, we’ve actually experienced an increase in sales through our website, and we’ve been working hard to provide the best customer experience that we can through offering promotions, free shipping, expedited order processing time, and making our website more efficient. 

Regarding social media, while we acknowledge the challenges of the world that we currently live in, we feel that we all need a little bit of normalcy and, if someone follows a skincare brand, they don’t need to be bombarded with news or advice about COVID-19, so we’ve tried to keep our social media posts the same as before.

Suzie Moldovan Founder, Flybrow

While Flybrow has always shared our services on Instagram, we quickly realized we had to do three things: 1). Innovate. Create a service we could do without touching people in person. 2). Promote. Get on Live and start giving away tips and advice. 3). Collaborate. [Team up] with other influencers or blogger clients to share how it works and to get people excited about something that we've never even offered before.

Instead of making it sound like we were sad that our services came to a complete halt, we embraced an abundance mentality of giving, sharing and creating something so we could reach even more people virtually than we ever could in person with our two hands. We have collaborated socially with @ByrdieBeauty, and we will be collaborating with @FabFitFun

We also now do Friday's with Flybrow. Every Friday at 1 pm PST, [we are] doing free live brow consultations for anyone that wants to see what we'd suggest for their brows. I’ve been amazed at all of the people who have been joining, from Texas to Philly to even Malaysia. Before all this, we were a California-based company with clientele in LA and San Francisco. Now, I started meeting all these people in different cities that we could never before reach. They have questions about filling in their brows, brow shape issues, product questions and so much more. From this demand, Flybrow from Home was born! 

We are now offering virtual appointments. For $75, they get mocked up photos from all angles of their brows that they can follow themselves or take to a brow expert in their hometowns when all of this is over and a 30-minute zoom with me that we record and send them where we fill in their brows together, and trim or tweeze or even learn to tint. It’s been amazing.  I’ve come up with a few standard ways to teach: Border Border Fill and ABCs of brows where I show them the front, arch and tail, and where they should be on their face, completely customized. The only brows they’ll ever need to learn to fill in [are] their own.  

We have two to five appointments a day and almost everyone we have met so far lives somewhere in the U.S. that Flybrow does not yet visit. We are continuing to think of influencer clients who might be interested in doing a virtual appointment to show their followers what it's like and other ways to share our new service.

Mona Dan Founder, Vie Healing

It's a new conversation now to get the idea of at-home acupuncture in the minds of people, to educate and teach them about the possibilities of Eastern medicine at home. There is so much that can be done for our systems that goes far beyond exercise, foods and supplements. We have shifted our social strategy to teaching the methods of these tools and showing the options that are available. 

We have also been invited to join IG Lives with incredible companies like Kindbody to offer more education and understanding of what options are available to build our body during this time. Keeping ourselves in isolation assists with slowing down the spread, but there is the aspect that is missing in this entire formula of slowing the spread while we're in isolation, which are the education and recommendations of what to do to elevate our body's immune and organ response to build resiliency. Luckily within Chinese medicine, there are tools and techniques that can be taught to do even at home to up the wellness game of each individual.

Anne Cheatham Co-Founder, CFO, Nuele

We have had to make many adjustments to our marketing strategy during COVID-19 and have found a lot of value marketing within our network of partners. In March, COVID-19 was such a disruptor that it affected all of our partners equally, which halted the majority of our planned activities. Participation in events such as SXSW and beauty industry events were postponed, which forced us to rethink and adjust so that we could maintain momentum. 

Rather than launching with a plethora of new experiences, we are placing more effort on creating real experiences with real people, which we believe will communicate authenticity to our audience. For example, on social media, we are focusing on developing individual relationships with people in our community and have selected influencers to work with that genuinely love our product and align with our values, regardless of follower count, and we are amplifying their voices through our partner networks. 

We are continuing this to post-purchase customer experiences by using these influencers to create content that provides hair tips personalized to every hair type. Lastly, we have begun setting up one-on-one interviews with publications, and my co-founder, Dr. Christine Martey-Ochola, who is a scientist and who created the Nuele Hair Serum formulation. This is something most beauty brands cannot say that they have. We believe that these experiences will drive credibility, increase word of mouth and repeat sales.

Overall, this has driven us to focus on quality engagements rather than quantity, which is great for us because we're all about authenticity. So, to the end, this has helped us realign with our values.

Joe Freeman CEO, Zone Naturals, MedZone and SweatZone

One of our products called SweatZone, which is a workout-enhancing balm, has been growing in momentum over the last few months.  It’s now available in Walmart and, with the many stay-at-home requirements, it has been a great alternative for people working out at home. We are working with stay-at-home influencers who are working out to tell their story about how they use it, and our customers are posting success stories on Instagram and our web pages. 

Initially, we wanted to promote the product line in gyms, but, with so many facilities temporarily closed, we had to pivot immediately to the home workout market. We are positioning our success stories now to help us tell our story in the coming months. Our goal is to drive awareness to those working out at home, and social media is key for those customers.

WENDY MAY REAL Founder, Pure Bloom

During the initial stages of the COVID-19 crisis, we felt it was more important to allocate most of our marketing resources to establish safety protocols for our staff and customers, launch a CBD Hand Sanitizer and Moisturizing Spray to assist with immediate unmet public need and utilize our supply chain to procure N95 masks for medical professionals.

However, our team has recently begun reevaluating this year’s marketing strategy with a growth mindset.  A new consumer has already emerged as a result of this crisis and will be better defined in the next several months. Our team is strategizing innovative ways to capture the attention of this new consumer demographic while remaining sensitive to the needs of our loyal customer base. These strategies include retooling our IRL events with a virtual component, creatively introducing our audience to remote CBD education opportunities and unique collaborations to expand our social media footprint. 

EUGENE HE Founder, Ceramiracle
We are focusing a lot on engaging with our customers and keeping them entertained and educated during this period. We launched our biweekly livestream in March and while that contributed to growth, the biggest takeaway was being able to interact with our most loyal customers and having the opportunity to listen to them face to face.  Personally, I was due to speak at two events which have now been made virtual. Since we have been mostly digital from day one, we are still able to market Ceramiracle like we always had. If anything, COVID-19 has made us more focused on strategies that worked for us.

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