A nice woman named Rhea Brown wrote me and asked if I would write an article about competing with a national brand like Dove. She sells a line of 100% natural products that include things like Organic Shea Butter.
I think that her question is a good one and I will offer several pieces of advice. Even if you aren't in the beauty products business, pay attention - there are probably a couple gems in here for you too:
Realize That Your Target Market Is Different:
OK, everybody buys soap, and Dove is one of the top selling brands in the US. However, there is a separate, smaller, but profitable market that is willing to pay a premium for natural or organic products.
If you can show a valuable difference in your product you can actually charge a premium for your products. While you may not be able to capture the market share of a billion-dollar branding organization like Unilever, you can have a higher profit-margin per product.
Think About Your Brand
Some successful brands that come to mind are Burt's Bees and Tom's of Maine. These products are carried at many health food stores and even some regular grocery stores and gift stores. These brands sell to people who want to avoid unnatural chemical beauty products. They both have a "modern hippie" orientation.
Another way you can go with the brand is pure luxury. Think about selling your products through Spas, boutiques or other luxury locals. a|MEN|ity is a brand of natural men's having products sold through boutiques and at Barney's New York.
Branding is all about difference and clarity. What makes you products different and meaningful? Now everything you do from packaging to copy must reflect that.
Remember that the price you can charge for your product has a lot to do with branding. Why are a pair of Nike shoes, made in the same sweatshops in China as other brands, able to command such a high price. Nike has branded itself as an elite product synonymous with success, power, and importance.
If you do your job correctly, you will not be in competition with national brands. Leave them to the masses. Unless you have a few hundred million dollars in your marketing budget - you won't be in the same league for a while.
Starbucks started as a quirky, hippie, environmentally sound, youth-oriented brand. Their prices were higher than other coffee shops, and much higher than brewing a brand at home. They penetrated their market and offered a significantly different product (they have nearly double the caffeine content of other coffees).
Use Guerrilla Marketing Tactics:
If I had a beauty product to sell, here are a few things I might do to get the word out.
- Develop a "media kit" or info packet about the product that can go out to the media or interested buyers
- Get the product into the hands of every beauty editor for every magazine in the country
- make sure to clip and copy every positive thing written about your product to use as a sales tool
- Send free samples along with wholesale order forms to the owners of upscale boutiques and salons
- Have a web site / blog / and e-newsletter that offers free beauty tips. Make sure to capture customer information through an opt-in form.
- Find bloggers that write about health and beauty and get samples with info packets to them
- Go to conventions, hair shows, etc. as an exhibitor. This is one of the best ways to get in front of buyers.
- Focus on a word of mouth campaign. Run a promotion on your web site where if somebody buys one unit you will ship another unit free to a friend.
These are just a few of the tactics I would use to get the product known and in front of as many people as possible.
With a little ingenuity, competing with a national brand is unnecessary. Ultimately you create your own market of loyal customers.
J D Moore - Marketing Comet