Why it matters to be an expert for brand-building in beauty retail

The highly competitive market of beauty retail means that communicating your brand through in-depth market knowledge is key to getting listings, attracting buyers, and reaching your core audience. The high saturation of new products getting launched in the sector is a message for companies to set themselves apart in order to make a compelling argument as to why consumers need their products; and why retailers should list them.  

 An effective approach to brand building is to harness expertise in the field and to leverage market insight. At its core, this involves developing a solid strategy in brand storytelling, for appropriately reaching the relevant stakeholders and getting traction from your target audience. 

 In this article, our friend and partner Lilli Gusto, Director of award-winning PR agency Word of Mouth Communications, shares her thoughts about brand building, the best methods to promote your brand, and the importance of not only becoming – but also showing that you’re an expert in the sector. With a strong background in publishing and experience in beauty retail, Lili works by providing a bespoke approach to brands, and she has successfully represented a number of niche beauty brands globally, especially skincare and wellness brands.  

Why it matters to be an expert for brand-building in beauty retail

By Lillian Gusto, Brand & PR Director of Word of Mouth Communications

Brand identity or a brand story is how consumers differentiate between one brand and the next. Take Coke or Coca-Cola for example; most people remember their bi-line or tag line to the brand, which is, ‘It’s the Real Thing’, and the brand identity is already right there at the forefront- which is, that Coke is the original cola (of the world) and there is no other like it. Of course, delve deeper into this brand story you will know that Coke is a drink made from coca leaves, or that the company has a secret vault with its recipe and no part of the recipe is found together hence, the secret of how to make it never comes out.  

The brand story also is how the consumer relates to the brand and vice-versa. Consumers want to buy into companies that are like-minded, so if a company’s ethos and brand story includes the importance of ‘sustainability’- from its packaging to ingredients, etc., they tend to associate themselves with the brand through that shared ethos.    

 It should also be noted that the brand’s story can relate to showing ‘expertise’ in the field. This is where brand owners can come in to show their experience or wealth of knowledge. For example, if there is a shampoo brand owned by a hairstylist/ hairdresser, this individual, can most definitely give advice on hair and what is best for hair, and hence justify why they developed the shampoo or conditioner as such.  

In my role, as the PR or Head of Communications for brands, I have lots of open conversations with clients about themselves, as experts in their field. We might discuss subject matters such as NPD (new product development), or trends, and it is through such conversations I find the value their expertise can add to the brand because it justifies or gives weight of that product to retailers or buyers. So, in the case of the shampoo, it makes sense, if the hairdresser developed the product because they know all the shortcomings, gaps in the hair care market, having worked in this field for years, and may have developed something that could close that gap. Hence, this is how retailers get excited about the brands that are backed by ‘expertise’.   

Which brings me to evidence of expertise or how brands can show the evidence that they have the expertise? With regards to showing evidence, while there are many ways to do it, (such as name dropping celebrities perhaps one has worked with, if one has been so lucky to be part of this circuit) the best way, is always to build up a rapport with the top editors in the industry. This of course, comes through the PR, and answering the interviews for features that the writers and editors are working on.  

Consumers trust the opinion of the writers or journalists, because it is their job to find out about all the ins and outs of a product or brand, or topic, but also retailers or peers in the industry look at this as evidence that another peer within the industry agrees or approves that certain brand owner is indeed an expert in their field.  

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To meet and for brands to be within the circle of their peers, within their industry remit, it is important to annually participate in awards and tradeshows. My top suggestion in Health/Wellness & Beauty would be to look into global tradeshows such as Cosmoprof - as this trade show can create more opportunities in other markets such as the USA/Southeast Asia or India. (They do the different Cosmoprof trade shows in the different regions.) It is also within the trade shows that brand owners meet manufacturers, and can discuss with their peers the latest trends in the industry that can shape future NPD (new product development). I would also suggest looking into local, smaller trade shows, or specific regional trade shows such as those in Scandinavia like the Eco Life Show, for example, if a brand is sustainable or has significant eco aspects.  

Awards and winning industry voted awards are equally as important, because many of them are judged by industry experts or again peers within the industry. They reconfirm or validate certain aspects of the brand or products that can help elevate a brand. For example, if a brand wins under the category of ‘Best New Innovation’- this gives weight when trying to justify to retailers why the range or SKU will sell well. There are many within the industry or across industries. I would recommend applying for the Global Make-Up Awards, as they also have Green Awards each year 

There are many other awards also run by magazines each year, and top editors judge these. Each year, when I enter all the brands I represent, I make sure I do a good mix between industry and the consumer titles/magazines.  

My top tip when looking for awards to apply for: Look for the aspects that can match your brand and product. What are the awards for and about? Afterall, it wouldn’t make sense to enter an award if your brand wasn’t ‘natural’ or ‘sustainable’ when the awards clearly state they are looking for these aspects in all entries!  

Finally, it is crucial that brands consider budget before finding the right channels to use for exposure and brand awareness. Do not simply throw away budgets to do social media campaigns because you think or see that everyone is doing so. It might not be right for your brand. Instead, invest wisely, by evenly distributing throughout quarters of the year by doing different activities like a tradeshow, then a social media campaign, or an event. It is always advantageous to have a steady flow of PR or news around your brand, its products, the founder (for expert advice on industry topics or remit) because it continues to remind consumers it is in the market. Good PR or articles also help to build evidence for the brand and ties back in, full circle, brand identity. Remember, it takes time to build a brand so take your time to build it, and it will come together.   

Many thanks to Lili for her insights into the beauty & skincare industry, and what it takes to get your brand out there. Here at Product Guru, we've got just the place to start! We'll be unfolding a one-of-a-kind opportunity soon that'll enable you to launch your product to major stakeholders in the industry from buyers and distributors all the way to influencers and journalists! Stay tuned as we unveil more news within the coming days. 

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