Photoshopped fakes and airbrushed airheads – the world of cosmetics advertising has been the source of much controversy in the mainstream media. The combination of unattainable perfection and homogeneity has been perceived as a damaging influence for young people. Thank goodness, then, for Leagas Delaney’s recent work for cosmetics retailer feelunique, a street-cast campaign that celebrates the many different faces of real-life beauty. LBB caught up with feelunique.com Marketing Director Tom Newbald and Leagas Delaney Head of Strategy Steve Mustardé and Creative Director Nigel Roberts to find out more.
LBB> How long has feelunique been collaborating with Leagas Delaney and why are you a good fit for each other?
TN> We have been working with Leagas Delaney for around six months now. To select a creative partner we went through an informal pitch process and from the beginning the team at Leagas Delaney seemed to understand our strategic objectives better than others. They have a great understanding of the beauty landscape and a proven track record in successfully communicating with our core, female audience.
SM> We’ve been developing this campaign with feelunique for the last six months. The reason we are a good fit is that feelunique have highly ambitious growth plans, so they need communications that can deliver transformational change to their sales fortunes. Leagas Delaney are famed for developing communications strategies and creative work that are commercially driven, which makes them ideally suited to high growth clients in search of such market impact.
LBB> How does this ad differ from advertising and marketing work you’ve done before?
TN> This ad is a huge departure from our existing approach. To date we have focused on very simple and descriptive creative, leveraging some of the big beauty brands that we sell to drive traffic. We are committed to raising awareness of feelunique.com in the UK and this new approach puts our brand name at the heart of the campaign. At the same time we want to create an emotional attachment with our customers.
LBB> What was it about the creative that the agency came up with that made you go ‘yes!’
TN> Two things stick out here. Firstly, Leagas Delaney was one of the only agencies who focused on our external messaging rather than what we should or shouldn’t do with the website. This was important to us as we already have a very talented in-house team already working on that. Secondly, building a campaign around our brand name was particularly appealing. In a way Leagas Delaney have helped us realise what a powerful brand name we have and this campaign is all designed around celebrating ‘uniqueness’ in a fun and appealing way.
LBB> In terms of your most recent campaign, what were your objectives from a strategic perspective?
TN> We have a very clear objective to own the online beauty market in the UK. To do that we believe we need to considerably raise our awareness levels and that’s our core, strategic objective. We have a great proposition in terms of product offering, content and service, we need people to know who we are and have confidence to shop with us.
LBB> What was your starting point to try and fulfil feelunique's ambition?
SM> As ever we started at the end. We needed to understand exactly what kind of business feelunique aimed to become to understand where it should start: we spoke to their owners, directors, financiers and partners to get the official version. We then spent a lot of time with their customers and future customers to understand what that kind of business could mean to them – how the brand could become known as ‘the’ destination for beauty but could also go beyond that to mean something very personal to consumers.
Out of that process came the realisation that women were sick of the beauty industry asking them to live up to unattainable ideals of beauty. We found that not only did women believe they couldn’t ever look like most of the models in beauty advertising, crucially they had little desire to do so anyway! These women were confident with who they are and felt a little demeaned by the implication that they should aspire to be someone else. We leapt on this insight as the key to win the hearts of customers everywhere. It gave us the opportunity to position feelunique as one of the few brands that felt on your side, that spoke your language and saw its role and that of its products as helping you to look great in your own unique way, rather than trying to adopt someone else’s look. That statement provoked such a positive response from women in research that we made it the cornerstone of our creative strategy.
LBB> What struck me was how the approach differed considerably from most cosmetics advertising, which tends not to be very natural-feeling or real. It’s either glossy or very light and soft-focus. Why was it important to the brand to do something different?
TN>As an online retailer it’s important we establish ourselves as a destination brand. Our product offering is unrivalled in the UK and that has mass appeal on an individual level. To get that message across we felt it was important to use real people in the creative and create an upbeat, edgy and ultimately fun spot.
SM> The brand needs to feel authentic and real if it is to be seen as living in the real world, in touch with people’s real world attitudes to beauty. We purposefully didn’t make something unreal and glossy because that would have implied feelunique was a glossy confection that people couldn’t relate to. We hope we’ve struck the right balance between feeling authentic and high quality (without being too polished) because these are high quality products after all and making yourself up should always feel a little bit special.
NR> The familiar and stereotypical vision of professional beauty wouldn’t have been right for this campaign. Apart from the fact that it would have made it difficult to stand out, we’re celebrating everyone’s own individual beauty. So we had to show a whole spectrum of ‘real’ people, young and old, female and male.
LBB> It also taps into wider trends around personalisation and individuality which seems to be of growing importance in the digital and social age. I was wondering if this figured in any of you discussions?
TN>Personal relevance is one of the holy grails of online retail and something we discuss a great deal internally. We have plans in this area, we’re not leading the way but I think we’ll have a lot more to offer customers in the future. Over the past six months we have rolled out subscriptions, favourites and wish list functionality as well as complex search and merchandising technology; all of which greatly enhance the customer experience.
SM> While not being a direct input to our thinking, the personalisation of the digital era validates it nonetheless. Digital technology hasn’t created the desire for individual expression, it has merely unlocked an existing, innate desire for it. The popularity of platforms like Facebook is evidence enough that that desire is enormous. Our brand idea that ‘Everyone should feel unique’ champions the same individual expression in the beauty world where consumers feel it has been sorely lacking. As a result, we believe it will be transformational for them.
LBB> How did you go about casting the spot? What kind of people were you looking for? Are they actors?
NR> When we were casting the spot, the main thing was to get the right range of people. Predominantly female, for obvious reasons. They all needed to be confident in how they look. But we didn’t want stereotypical or unattainable beauty. We cast one or two actors and aspiring models (for the reassurance that they would be comfortable in front of the camera), but many of the people featured in the commercial are members of the public found by street-casting. Their ‘look’ was one thing, but then we had to make sure that they could deliver the statement ‘It’s all about me’ in the right, playfully confident way, to make sure that no one came across as arrogant. If you are to like the ad and the spirit behind it, then it was crucial that you like the people in it.
LBB> There’s a real sense of the diversity of beauty in the ad – no one look dominates. Why was this important?
TN> Well we have over 18,000 items on the website from over 500 brands so we really do have something for everyone!
NR> The diversity of people was key. You can’t talk about everyone being unique and having their own individual beauty if the parameters of beauty that you show are too narrow.
LBB> As for the director Kathi Prosser, what do you think she brought to the campaign?
TN> The director was Kathi Prosser. From the beginning Kathy had a very clear vision as to how she wanted this spot to look. She has a very calming nature and succeeded in getting the best performances out of our cast during the day.
LBB> What are the other elements to the campaign and how do they work together to convey the key message?
TN> We have a lot of supporting activity going on. The creative team at Leagas Delaney have created a beautiful portfolio of ‘It’s All About Me’ artwork which we’ve been putting on postcards, posters, clings and t-shirts all supported by our Everyone Should feelunique.com call to action. We have a large social media campaign where people can design and win their own ‘It’s About Me’ t-shirt and during November / December we’ll be running a Christmas focused online display campaign.
SM> The TV is the main piece of creative as that’s the most impactful way to bring this new brand idea to life, but the core creative idea is deepened through various other channels too; in the Facebook app people can design their own T-shirt saying “It’s all about me” and post it on their Facebook profile. 500 of the best will have their T-shirts printed and sent to them for free. There will be posters in relevant sites throughout the country and stickers saying “It’s all about me” will be placed at the bottom of ladies bathroom mirrors. All of these are delivering the same creative message in intriguing different ways which will make the brand famous for being a champion of individual beauty.
LBB> Going forward, what’s next for Feel Unique?
TN> ‘It’s All About’ Christmas in the short term! We have a number of new campaign ideas for next year and we’ll continue pushing to grow the business as quick and effectively as possible!