What Beauty Audiences Are Watching: An Interview with Benefit Cosmetics

Benefit’s Goof Proof Strategies for Flawless Social Video

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Benefit seems to have found the key to social video strategy, succeeding in the very competitive beauty industry. Despite a relatively small global corporate team of around 800, the beauty brand has embraced online video, generating more than 69M views to date in 2019 and securing a revenue of $1.5 billion dollars.

In this interview with Benefit, we sat down with Toto Haba, SVP of Global Digital, to better understand how his team navigates the challenges of online video as a consumer-facing brand. Here’s what he had to say.

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Tubular Insights: From a digital standpoint, what is the current challenge in the world of beauty?

Toto Haba: The rise of social media and platforms like YouTube have fundamentally altered the game. Discoverability is an ever-evolving challenge as the platforms mature and offer new formats and new advertising vehicles, and as they change their algorithms.

As a brand, just putting out a video is not enough. Even putting out an advertisement and paying a lot of money behind it isn’t enough to garner attention.

It’s really discovering the type of content that people are watching today, who they’re watching it from, and making sure your brand can stay front and center in those regards.

For example, Instagram coverage is starting to move towards Stories/IGTV. For us, it’s less about the feed and increasingly more about IGTV because Instagram is monkeying with its algorithm and starting to promote that more. We’re starting to see that pick up quite a bit.

TI: What is Benefit’s video strategy for addressing this problem?

TH: Our video strategy is really around getting earned coverage in videos. It’s increasingly hard to break through the noise and compete in an advertising environment that is getting very, very expensive. When we look at what people are watching, branded content is so small in terms of the beauty space in general (probably less than 10% of total beauty consumption we see).

What people are watching are influencers. You can spend all your days trying to get them to watch your own video, but at the end of the day, a majority of what they’re watching is from these influencers.

So, our strategy is to get in front of them is… Register for our joint webinar to find out all the details! 

TI: What do you consider successful for videos or series like “Tipsy Thursdays”?

TH: For that one, it’s a live format so it’s a bit different in terms of objective. The viewership is probably just in the thousands on a regular basis.

But what we get in terms of customer engagement and questions, we use for gathering intelligence like what sort of problems do people have and what sort of content are people interested in. If we’re still learning things to do in the future, then we consider it successful.

Other campaigns require different objectives. For example, we just did a Ramadan-based series of videos for YouTube where we talk to Middle Eastern influencers about topics that were probably outside of the beauty norm. There was one woman who talked about what it was like going through a divorce in the Middle East, which is a big deal in those countries.

When we look at those more traditional video campaigns, we’re looking at a couple things. We’re definitely looking at our V30 rate. We’re looking at our view-throughs on the videos. For that campaign in particular, it was also around driving up our subscriber count, so we have a good amount of subscribers from that.

TI: How do you measure performance in terms of your retail partners?

TH: We know from our experience that the more excitement we can generate around our launches of particular products, people are going to go look for it and they’re going to go buy it at Sephora or elsewhere.

Any retailer is going to want to support those brands that drive sales for them. If, as a brand, you can generate enough interest in your brand to get those recurring, growing sales, then they’re going to want to work with you.

TI: How does your team use data to understand what the right campaigns are?

TH: We invest a lot of our time in it. We use Tubular quite a bit for a lot of our benchmark reporting around earned, and the coverage that we’re getting. That’s critical for us to understand whether or not we’re doing well.

We’re also able to provide intelligence to our global teams around who they should be partnering with, and who is gaining in popularity versus not. Our teams in each market are so busy running their day-to-day jobs that, to be constantly researching who the hottest creators are in Portugal for beauty, for example, would take up all their time.

It’s hugely valuable to be able to hand them that information and say “you should be focusing on these people that are talking about our competition more than they’re talking about us,” or “they’re interested in our product categories quite a bit, or they’re on brand.”

The other part of our data analysis around our video content is performance-based. We do a good amount of advertising, and our video data helps us come up with hypotheses to test content versus other content. We’re really using it to improve the effectiveness of our videos from an advertising perspective.

TI: Are there any types of video you stopped investing in because of data and research?

TH: Our past is littered with failures! Every brand has had to figure this out, but we learned that trying to take a highly produced advertising piece and cutting it down to all the different social formats just doesn’t work. You really have to try to find a way to tailor your content to the platform in order to make it work.

As an example, our vertical video advertising is much more organic and less produced. It’s more of someone just talking in the camera, talking about stuff and with emoji’s flying over it, and that performs much better than a vertical cut down of a YouTube video.

From a brand standpoint, trying to figure out the right content at the right duration is an ongoing problem. We found some long-form content works out pretty well, like that Ramadan series I talked about. Each of those videos are about eight or nine minutes and they have a very good completion rate. Even post-campaign, people are coming back and viewing them on a regular basis.

TI: In the next five years, what changes do you envision in your beauty audience and how might that impact your video strategy?

TH: The number of creators and the intelligence behind the different platforms (in terms of tailoring content to what individual users like) will be so much more advanced that I think what we consider a big influencer today is going to be very different from what we consider a big influencer tomorrow.

It’s just going to become more fragmented, because everyone has the ability to shoot content now. Our phones are getting increasingly powerful, so you’re gonna have a lot more content creators out there in the future. Correspondingly, that’s going to create a lot more challenges for brands, to try to find a way to get your message out there at scale with so many different players.

In terms of other types of video, you may start to see a mix of augmented reality plus beauty videos. AR is already such a big part of beauty right now, where people can try on different products online. Where that’s going to evolve towards is consumers are going to be using it on their phones and are going to get tailored recommendations overlayed on top of video.

Curious to learn more about how Benefit drives sales and engagement in the world of beauty?

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