Beauty is only skin deep - or so the saying goes. But with multicultural consumers, outward appearance and beauty can connect back to heritage, adding an emotional tie-in that communicators can touch upon to help build a lasting relationship between those demographics and a brand.
Consumer giant Unilever has put great effort into reaching out to African-American and Hispanic women. It focuses on consumer insight, says Stacie Bright, senior communications and marketing manager.
Leading up to its Vaseline "Skinvoice" campaign, it found out how African-American women view beauty, that they support charities focused on kids, and that they've used Vaseline for many years.
That same research-based philosophy also served as the foundation for the "Pasa La Belleza" ("Share the Beauty") campaign from several Unilever brands, which targeted Hispanic women.
"We took a deep understanding of a key consumer for Vaseline: African-American women," Bright says. "If you talk to people with darker skin, you'll hear the most incredible words they use to describe their skin. Strength. The relationship it has to other generations. They have a deep connection, emotionally and physically, to their skin."
Before the effort, Unilever, through focus groups and a survey with Essence, discovered that African-American women also have a deep connection to Vaseline, which was founded in 1870. Bright says Unilever learned that many African-American consumers had even used several products to create a homemade "cocktail" to help the sometimes overly dry African-American skin.
In addition, African Americans and Hispanics have more brand loyalty than non-Hispanic white counterparts. According to the 2006 Yankelovich Monitor Multicultural Marketing Study, in collaboration with Burrell Communications, 58% of African Americans and 55% of Hispanics say "it's risky to buy a brand you are not familiar with," compared to 44% of non-Hispanic whites.
Vaseline took this insight and worked with M Booth & Associates on the PR component of the "Skinvoice" campaign, which not only introduced the new Vaseline Cocoa Butter line of products, but also helped to foster a dialogue with consumers about their skin. Efforts included a Web site; a partnership with Big Brothers, Big Sisters; African-American celebrity spokespeople like Vivica Fox and Alfre Woodard sharing their skin stories through various media vehicles; programs with African-American sororities; and an appearance at the Essence Music Festival.
"A brand like Vaseline [has] an advantage because it has a great heritage with this [African-American] audience," says Jennifer Teitler, SVP and director of M BoothÕs consumer practice. It was able to use its understanding of African-American skin, including specific moisture and lotion needs, she says, to create "an emotional connection between the brand and the consumer, beyond just talking about the product."
"We wanted to launch... in a way that would both, from a product and an emotional standpoint, resonate with our audience," Bright adds.
"Pasa La Belleza" also relied on consumer-based research for its 2007 launch, says Marisol Martinez, senior multicultural brand marketing manager for Unilever. She adds that the company gained insights about Hispanic consumers' buying power, and that they turn to friends and family for advice on beauty products.
"For Latinas, it's all about word of mouth," she says. "It's following that personal information that came from your sister or friend; that is usually more powerful than communication you may see on TV or [elsewhere]."
"Pasa La Belleza," for which Edelman provided PR support, offers beauty tips for female Hispanic consumers via a Web site and in-store events in mass retailers in Texas and California. Two stylists - Leonardo Rocco and Lilly Rivera - are available through PasaLaBelleza.com to offer beauty tips and advice.
"[Unilever] set out to create a program that fostered a trusted relationship with Latinas and our brands," Martinez says. The campaign did that by offering product samples, both through the Web site and at in-store events, allowing consumers to "touch and feel,"she adds.
Unilever brands Dove, Suave, Degree, Pond's, and Caress are all part of the program.
Both campaigns have netted results. The Cocoa Butter line launch was one of Vaseline' most successful new product rollouts in the past 10 years, Teitler says. And Unilever expanded the multi-brand platform of "Pasa La Belleza" for 2008, adding Degree and Pond's, which were not part of the original program.
"The goal is to develop programs that connect to [the multicultural consumer's] culture, beauty behavior, and preferences, to create a long-term relationship," Martinez says.
"It makes business sense," says Audrey Ponzio, VP of multicultural at Edelman, which has worked with Unilever for several years. The huge multicultural markets are waiting to be tapped into. "Companies that don't invest will lose out," she adds.
Both campaigns have no plans to slow down. As part of this year's "Skinvoice" drive, the team introduced a documentary, What Does Your Skin Mean to You?, and has added singer Kelly Rowland and actress S. Epatha Merkerson as spokespeople. "Pasa La Belleza" will also continue to leverage its relationships with relevant spokespeople and will evolve the program, based on continued research and insight into the target audience.
"Our consumers' behaviors and preferences change daily," Martinez adds. "Latinas tend to be trendsetters, so we're trying to stay on top of those changes and understand consumers and their needs."
Procter & Gamble saw a need for a conversation about overall beauty in the African-American community when it launched its "My Black is Beautiful" (MBIB) campaign in 2007. The company did research on how African Americans are portrayed in entertainment and media, and found that many women were disillusioned with what they saw.
"So much of how we are seen, portrayed, or defined in terms of what is beautiful is told to us, rather than us setting the standard ourselves," says Kisha Mitchell Williams, brand manager of multicultural marketing and scale for P&G. "[Beauty] is both an individual and collect[ive] celebration of who we are. That is why we started the program."
With a Web site that includes a discussion guide for African-American women, a multi-city tour, an appearance at the 2008 BET Awards, and a partnership with the Essence Music Festival, MBIB is getting out in the community and allowing African-American women to discuss the notions of beauty, Williams says.
Other campaign elements include events at local malls, where African-American women are receptive to hearing about beauty; grassroots efforts with traditionally black sororities; and events with celebrities like Angela Bassett.
"Thousands of women come and support these events," Williams says of the multi-city tour, which ended a few weeks ago in Charlotte, NC. "When you get that type of... energy and engagement with the target, you know it is really powerful and something the community needs."
While MBIB is unique to African Americans, P&G's overall approach to multicultural outreach isn't much different than reaching out to the general consumer, says Williams.
"P&G's mantra is all about improving life and providing health and beauty care products that touch and improve consumers' lives," she says. "That is no different than the strategy we have for reaching out to our multicultural consumers."
P&G brands featured in MBIB include Pantene Relaxed & Natural, Crest, CoverGirl Queen, and Olay. Williams says future plans include reaching out to different media networks, including local and national TV, radio, and print, to continue the conversation. Lippe Taylor helped P&G with the campaign launch.
Reaching out to men
Women aren't the only ones concerned with their appearance. It's also becoming a key consideration for men. A 2007 study from The Nielsen Company found that 84% of Americans think it is "OK" for men to spend time and money on their appearance. Unilever noticed that with its "Skinvoice" campaign, men also got involved at events like the Essence Music Festival, sharing their skin stories, Bright says.
"We look at it as a campaign that reaches men and women," she explains, mentioning overall increased outreach to men, thanks to a new men's skincare line Unilever launched this year called Vaseline Men. "It's not so much that [the campaign] would be gender-specific, but it's much more about the insight and target, though we still see that women are the main focus."
Nair has been marketing to gay men in particular for its Nair for Men brand for years, says Melissa Martin, group product manager of the women's health and personal care division for Nair's parent company, Church & Dwight (C&D). Nair, which was previously part of Carter-Wallace, was acquired by C&D in 2001. This year, the company participated in the New York Gay Pride Parade, with Jesse Brune of popular Bravo reality show Workout serving as a spokesman.
Brune spoke to both traditional and gay media, discussing how men can look and feel good, with exercise, the right diet, and proper grooming, Martin says. But Brune's outreach was just part of the campaign to get Nair for Men to reach consumers in a fun way by discussing lifestyle, Martin says.
The parade and partnership with Brune "gave us the opportunity to kind of go where people wouldnÕt expect to see Nair for Men in a very fun and engaging way," she notes. "All the brands from C&D have general targets and if there is an opportunity to have a focused niche message, than we certainly take advantage of that."
Looking ahead, Martin says Nair for Men plans to continue to reach the gay community through PR and advertising efforts, specifically through gay-friendly publications and Web sites. The brand plans to increase its online outreach in 2009, in conjunction with the Nair for Men Web site, after taking a break from an online presence in 2008.
"Obviously, Nair for Men has a niche audience, and the gay community represents a high concentration of that," Martin explains. "Not only are we appealing to the straight audience, but it is also important to appeal to the gay audience." One way Nair did that was to donate money to the Gay Men's Health Crisis during Gay Pride Month.
"We're not just selling a product," she says. "We are really caring about the community."
Understanding the consumer, through research and insights, is important for all outreach, multicultural or otherwise. But focusing on a specific group, whether it is encouraging conversation about a hot topic among African Americans or reaching out to Hispanic women who love to share beauty advice, companies can reinforce what they learned through their research and tap into a segment of the market that can often get looked over.
"The Hispanic community is a valuable segment of the company," Martinez says. "[This] allows Unilever to showcase its abilities to put insight into action."
A broad audience
Multicultural haircare brand Soft & Beautiful Just for Me! launched a campaign in 2007 that encouraged mothers and daughters to discuss self-esteem, including conversation starters from a psychologist and a book, Trip in Time, written by AÕLelia Bundles just for the campaign.
In conjunction with its general market and African-American outreach in 2006, Fiske Industries launched a campaign promoting its skin- care and haircare products to Hispanics through publications such as Fama, Mira, and TVNotas.
In July, Target, through advertising, branding, and PR efforts led by its firm UniWorld Group, launched Shea Moisture, a line of organic skincare products developed exclusively for multicultural skin types. The PR campaign included media outreach to both multicultural media and general markets, and multicultural beauty and lifestyle blogs and Web sites.