Storytelling and marketing have always been intertwined. The magic here is rather simple: a brand tells a story people can relate to, with the goal to connect and persuade its prospective consumers to switch to their product.
However, marketing’s dependency on storytelling techniques has never been more strong and creative than it is now. Brands tell stories that create a certain style of life, a feeling of comfort, liberation and empathy, or even a desire to be a better human being. The online marketing landscape is swamping with digital storytelling. We wrote about the automotive industry embracing storytelling and user-engagement techniques. Today we would like to shift our attention to beauty and personal care brands that, with the help of technology, have been successfully utilizing the power of storytelling.
A personal care product is not a high commodity, but because of its high market saturation marketers need to tell consumers more than they can actually see. Beauty brands have been telling stories as early as from the 1920s, such as Nivea, which was associated with young, sporty people enjoying their leisure time in the sun.
Dove, owned by Unilever, has been embracing digital storytelling and showcasing real beauty for more than 10 years now, and is considered to be one of the most creative beauty brands. Its “Real Beauty Sketches”, appealing to women and communicating that every single one of them is beautiful, took the internet by storm and earned it the best advertisement award by AdWeek in 2013. It is convincing, because it is not focused on the product, but rather on a cause. In fact, consumers are 80% more likely to support brands that exert corporate responsibility and put cause-related marketing into practice.
Let us now move on to 5 successful digital storytelling campaigns used by well-known beauty brands to illustrate how companies utilize different methods of employing narratives.
Maybelline New York
How can a company make mascara look interesting, inspiring and different? By creating an appealing story behind it and telling it in a unique way that will also reflect the best features of a product.
Labelled “Big Eyes”, the double-ended Maybelline mascara is equipped with two brushes, aimed at creating eyelashes that look fake, but are actually real. Although Maybelline called themselves pioneers of this beauty technology, the brand needed a compelling story behind it that would reflect the mascara’s unique features, and, therefore, intrigue and persuade its potential consumers. Maybelline’s strategy was based on creating content, and the more of it the better. First of, a two-sided mini thriller film “The Girl with The Big Eyes” was created, focusing on ‘him’ and her’ perspective and their spy hunt after each other. The male spy starts off his side of the story, but soon enough we see the female perspective and a hint of her ‘secret weapon’, which is, of course, the new breakthrough mascara. The film is styled resembling New York City in the 60s and the feel of popular spy films. The female protagonist also bears obvious resemblance to Uma Thurman’s character in the cult classic Pulp Fiction. Moreover, the mini film was supported by a photoshoot, after which all pieces of the produced content – video, photos and gifs – were collected into one to create an interactive scrollable site experience or a so-called multi-sensory story.
The story unfolds as you scroll down the microsite , and the user is presented with unique and enthralling content from the very first go. Photos, videos and quotes are accompanied with voiceovers, animated gifs, attractive typography and various circular elements. All these sections are sharable on popular social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest with a simple click. Furthermore, the “Girl with The Big Eyes” campaign did not stop there. The femme fatale character was active on Twitter for one day to engage with her fans: she tweeted mystery clues while followers posted questions and in turn had the chance to win the secret weapon, and, therefore, uncover the big secret. The thriller scenario worked well for Maybelline, generating 72% of site traffic coming from social networks, where bits of the story’s content were spread out.
Burt’s Bees Six Seconds Classics
It is true that every good brand deserves to tell its great story. What story does a brand started by a quirky beekeeper tell? You got it, an even quirkier one.
Burt’s Bees is an American personal care brand, specializing in personal care, beauty, health and personal hygiene and doing it all under the motto “Earth friendly, Natural Personal Care Company”. The brand originated in 1984 between Roxanne Quimby and Burt Shavitz, who were making candles in an abandoned schoolhouse they were renting for $150 a year. What got them into the personal care products industry were Burt’s 19th-century books about bee-keeping and home-made personal care. No wonder that the brand’s liking for books was a great choice to pivot on classic literature stories for their Six Seconds Classics Vine campaign.
The ten stop animation films feature tubes of lip balm dressed in costumes and portraying classical fiction characters such as Moby Dick, Gulliver’s Travels and Little Women. Burt’s Bees’ “classic” products were used for the films, and accordingly fit the theme of classic books. For example, four lip-balm tubes, with wigs and dresses, play the Little Women, indulging in the shortest-ever dialogue: “We really are little,” says the one one the right, while the other one answers: “and all women”. The clips, available on the brand’s social networks, playfully capture the personality of the classical works, also appropriately depicting the brand’s voice. Burt’s Bees are proud of their “classic” line: neither the products nor the packaging have changed in years. The comic spoofing of literary classics, thus, only reinforces the brand’s values and celebrates simple, yet captivating storytelling.
The brand is currently indulged in its follow-up Vine campaign, featuring recording artists Us the Duo (who became a social media sensation posting songs on Vine) to promote the brand to the younger generation. The due creates lip balm themed short songs and invite users to submit their own songs about the many flavors of Burt’s Bees’ lip balms.
You might walk pass the beauty isle and overlook the French cosmetics company La Roche-Posay. What you can’t overlook is the brand’s high-quality content website, full of expert tips in helping you achieve a healthy and beautiful skin.
The brand, owned by L’Oreal, uses storytelling in a very subtle and communicative way. It takes a step further by aiming at not only raising awareness of its products, but also educating its (potential) customers about skin damage, proper cleansing and how to choose the products their skin needs. La Roche-Posay tells stories that deal with solutions to problems. Say, for example, you have hyper-sensitive skin and need dermatological advise sparing the trip to the doctor’s office. You go on a cosmetics company website, but all you get are bleak product descriptions, all aimed at forcing you make a purchase. As a customer in need of advice, you are most certainly unsatisfied. La Roche-Posay is less about the product and more about the people. The website is filled with expert tips, question-answer segments and how-to’s by experts-dermatologists, and are also accompanied with trustworthy looking faces, creating a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Through the relation of content marketing and healthy skin stories, the brand pledges to find the solution for every skin-related problem. Even if it does not entail purchasing any of La Roche-Posay products. By celebrating success stories, the brand lends a helping hand to consumers and thus wins at storytelling.
Crème de la Mer
Luxury-cream brand La Mer recently introduced two promotional campaigns focused on the consumers to launch its newest eye gel treatment.
The first, “Through Their Eyes” consists of short videos titled Illuminating Moments that show high-society stylish couples in New York, Seoul and Paris using La Mer’s newest product. The brand aims at connecting its image with the people who are considered to be trendsetters. For example, the first video of the couples-series features American socialite Olivia Palermo and her German husband Johannes Huebl. They apply the new La Mer eye gel and gaze endlessly in to each other’s eyes. Although an emotional appeal is aimed to be triggered, the videos lack a representation of reality. Consumers can watch the videos on the brand’s website, as well as on YouTube.
La Mer, owned by Estée Lauder Cos., has been spotlighting its products (which are, let’s face it, not affordable to every consumer group) and how they can make a difference, therefore appealing to consumers. The second campaign for the new product manages just what the first one does not – to appeal to the average consumer and tell his/her story. The campaign, hashtaged #EyesLightUp, invites fans to make a photo mosaic of the things that make their eyes light up. Users upload pictures from Facebook, Instagram or their personal device, and ultimately the mosaic image is composed of all the small pictures the user selected. Campaigns that appeal to consumers using social media have the potential to inspire them and create a stronger consumer-brand relationship. La Mer’s #EyesLightUp showcases ordinary people’s stories, and does it with the help of social media. Personal stories that people can relate to have a higher probability to be noticed and appreciated.
A strong narrative is by far the most essential element for a good content. The iconic high-fashion house Chanel is no stranger to good storytelling. Its creator, the legendary Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel has become the brand’s strongest symbol, along with the actual signature logo of two interconnected C’s. Coco’s legacy also plays a major role on the company’s interactive website. INSIDE CHANEL is a content-centric microsite created in 2013, which features 12 chapters of Chanel’s most distinguishing fashion pieces and faces, along with embedded videos. The microsite is a digital story by itself, a visual ride, submerging the user straight to the core of Chanel’s history and values.
Every chapter tells a success story of a product or the life story of the brand’s ambassadors, such as Marilyn Monroe and the iconic Chanel No°5 perfume in chapter 2. Moreover, INSIDE CHANEL takes the brand’s history and presents it in an interactive chronological timeline, celebrating each milestone with grace, style and sophistication.
Great narrative is also at the core of the company’s recent campaign “The One That I Want”. Launched as a mini-romance film in the form of a commercial for the signature Chanel No°5 fragrance.
It is directed by the renowned filmmaker Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby etc.) and stars supermodel Gisele Bündchen and actor Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones). The commercial parades the 21-century woman who is torn between her successful career and balancing her marriage. The story’s visuals remind us of a film, and Bündchen embodies an image of a strong yet feminine women, much like the Coco Chanel herself. All this in sum display a successful implementation of storytelling together with the core values of the brand.