The Body Shop is a brand well-known for its strong ethical positioning and vocal campaigning on a number of key sustainability issues. So how is The Body Shop using digital to nurture its loyal community of ecologically-conscious consumers?
Charlotte Adjchavanich has an impressive portfolio of experience within the beauty industry, with roles at Molton Brown, Elemis, Kiehl’s and Shu Uemura (the latter two under L’Oréal), before joining The Body Shop in 2013. As Integrated International Brand Communications Director, she is responsible for transforming the way the brand speaks to its community of customers. The Body Shop is a brand which has a strong cultural relevance, and specialising in smaller niche brands, Adjchavanich is well-versed in the use of storytelling in order to grow brand awareness. We caught up with her at the Festival of Marketing to talk about The Body Shop’s digital growth and transformation.
FD: As beauty brands have carved out their space in the digital landscape, how has the relationship with the customer evolved?
CA: Before, brands would always talk at their customers, now they have to talk to them, and we really have millennials and Generation Z to thank for that. Previously brands relied on journalists to tell their story. Now we have influencers who are spreading the word through endorsement and word of mouth.
The way in which we work with influencers has changed dramatically; previously we have focussed on partnering with celebrities and make-up artists who were really proud to talk about our products. But today we recognise that everyone has a voice. Brands have to change with the times, they can’t afford to think in a funnelled way anymore. We understand that right now our message can be spread through lots of different voices, not just celebrities, and we’re reflecting that in the way we communicate. We don’t just look at celebrities and the macro level, we work with micro influencers too, because their voice counts as well. That organic content is a really important part of our story.
FD: How does loyalty contribute to The Body Shop’s story?
CA: We’re nothing without our consumers, they are so passionate, and they spread our message. It’s incredibly powerful, because nurturing those engaged customers makes them ambassadors for a brand’s story, and people believe people. On YouTube, 97 per cent of the conversation on beauty is held by influencers, so in effect, only 3 per cent of branded content actually matters. Our customers know that their opinion is powerful, and we want them to feel empowered to speak up. Customer loyalty is one of the main reasons why our petitions have become synonymous with our purpose. The day we launched our petition to end animal testing worldwide we used a tribe of influencers to help us, stemming from a single post, and we got two million signatures in less than
FD: Advocating ethical practices is at the core of The Body Shop’s purpose. What’s the cultural significance of this, and how does it contribute to the authenticity of the brand?
CA: Sustainability was the DNA of The Body Shop from day one; we believe businesses should be a force for good. The company is over 40 years old now, and it’s fascinating to see the cultural shift that has taken place in that time. Today there are many brands that are taking a stand around issues like Fairtrade, animal testing, and human rights. Activism and sustainability are part of the zeitgeist now, so for The Body Shop it’s the perfect time to re-establish ourselves, tell our stories, and educate consumers about our mission. Branded content is not just about storytelling, it’s about education as well. I think brands need to teach people, and our goal is to keep raising awareness for causes that people don’t know about.
FD: How are you communicating specifically with Generation Z to bring them into the well established Body Shop community?
CA: We know that Generation Z expect to be spoken to in a different way, but of course, we don’t want to do anything drastic to alienate our core customer base, who are a little bit older and grew up with The Body Shop. Every brand wants to recruit younger customers, because you need to create realisation at a younger age and sustain the growth of your brand story. When connecting with Gen Z, we try to use more of a peer to peer tone of voice, and use very positive sentiment within the copy that we use on our posters, in store, and on our Instagram.
We also work with younger generation influencers, because we know that they have that insight into how that market are using these platforms. We never micromanage them, we just give them the brief, and let them talk, and that has been very powerful. Our ‘Dare To Mask’ campaign was launched with over 60 international digital influencers who came to the UK. That was one of our most successful campaigns to date, because our influencers spoke and recorded in their own authentic style, which really had high engagement with their fan base.
FD: Do you have any advice on nurturing a successful and natural influencer/brand relationship?
CA: Authenticity is key. It can be very challenging for a brand to get influencers into the beauty space, especially celebrity ones. Our strong ethical purpose can be a bit intimidating for influencers, because they don’t want their partnership with us to close doors on other potential partnerships. So this is why the group that got involved in our ‘Against Animal Testing’ campaign is so powerful, they were completely legitimate and authentic. We meet with them, we talk to them not at them, and it’s a two-way conversation. We don’t ever want to be seen like we’ve ‘sold out’. Our customers are intelligent, socially conscious, and thoughtful, and when they buy a product, they can feel good knowing they’ve supported a community trade project somewhere in
the world. We want to continue to celebrate that.