By UTalkMarketing Editor, Clark Turner.
The beauty and skincare industry is having a tough time of it as the credit crunch rolls on. Consumers are counting their pennies, which means that non-essentials are taking a hit and high end premium brands are being overlooked for more purse-friendly lines.
It’s all good news for Simple. The brand has always positioned itself as a good ‘value for money’ offering but with the current economic climate it has seen its customer base grow by an impressive 52 per cent in just two years.
“It’s very interesting, “Simple’s Group Marketing Director, Alex Pike, told UTalkMarketing. “The health and beauty market is slowing down from the consistent growth we’ve seen over the past 10 years. But with regards to Simple, our brand has been going from strength to strength.”
“People are more price conscious than ever before, but are also looking better value and we’ve been busy educating consumers that paying more does not seem to necessarily mean you are getting a better product.”
To prove the point, Pike points to recent findings from consumer group, Which? A recent study found that Simple’s Kind to Skin Replenishing Rich Moisturiser costing just £3.21, outperformed a £47 eye cream, StriVectin-SD.
Pike admits that Simple’s marketing spend is a fraction of that of beauty giants such as Olay, L’Oreal or Nivea, but consistently sticking to the brand’s philosophy over the past 50 years since launched in 1960 has paid off. The result has been a much better cut through on ROI.
“Maintaining a consistency in messaging is key,” she added, “We’re a British brand, in so far as we’re made in Britain for British consumers. By contrast L’Oreal’s marketing, which is fronted by American celebrities, just doesn’t resonate with British consumers in the same way.”
The brand philosophy in question is that Simple never uses harsh chemicals, colours, perfume or alcohol in its products. It was summed up in a series of adverts in the 1980s fronted by Joanne Lumley with the tagline, “Not perfumed, not coloured, just kind.” Perhaps amazingly, they still have recall amongst consumers today.
“It’s been about refreshing the message and re-educating the public,“ said Pike. “The heritage of the brand was targeting consumers with sensitive skin. Now we’re saying that the products are suitable for everyone, not just those with sensitive skins. Why would you want to irritate your skin with unnecessarily additives?”
The education programme has been led with heavy investment in PR working hand-in-hand with online initiatives. The result has been a growth in new loyal customers while still retaining the established core base.
“It’s been a very difficult balancing act,” admitted Pike. “But we needed to widen the appeal of the brand while telling consumers why Simple was a better alternative to other products.”
Pike is a fan of innovation in her marketing. Successful strategies have now seen her being selected as a finalist in the ‘Innovator of the Year’ category in the Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards 2009. Whether or not she scoops the title will be revealed at a ceremony in London on September 16.
According to the marketing leader, the best way to build innovation into any brand strategy is to get as close to the consumer as possible. Simple uses quantitative and qualitative research to ascertain what women are looking for in products and how their requirements have shifted and evolved.
“It helps us to stay one step ahead of the competition,” Pike said. “Being UK based definitely allows us to get closer to the British consumer and gives us an advantage over our US competitors.”
It’s an approach that has led to one product, Vitamin E Serum Pads, becoming the golden fleece of marketing - a ‘must have beauty essential’. But just how you elevate a product to such a level?
“Again it’s down to listening and getting closer to consumers, while looking at wider lifestyle trends,” explained the marketer. “Women are increasingly time stretched with family and work commitments and are now engaged in ‘the pursuit of convenience’, while at the same time more interested in their health and appearance.”
“They want convenience, but they also want to be able to make healthy choices. It was these demands that led to the invention of the Serum Pads.”
She added, “Of course, it was Simple who first came up with the idea of the cleanse/tone/moisturise routine and gave rise to us owning the number one cleansing pad brand. With convenient cleansing, it naturally made sense to then follow with a convenient moisturising product.”
Despite its heritage, Simple remains a forward looking brand with increased investment in digital marketing. The platform is used as a key part of the strategy to reward loyal customers and stimulate word of mouth.
The website (simple.co.uk) is rich in content and experience including a personalised skin care report for users – which not simply recommends Simple products, but lifestyle changes too making it a holistic tool.
A second site, Teen Simple, dealing with the skincare concerns of troubled adolescents, launched just months ago saw 50,000 young users sign up in the first week of launch.
Meanwhile Pike recently masterminded an initiative to create the UK's youngest board of Simple skincare advisors with a view to creating an opportunity for budding young business people to experience insight into the corporate world.
The members help with product research and development while writing blogs to drive the brand’s social media presence. As one might expect, Simple also has a presence on Twitter, Facebook and bebo.
“The health and beauty sector has been slow on the uptake of social media compared to other industries, but Teen Simple’s work drives this for us as a brand.” Pike concluded.
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