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Authenticity drives results for Kari Gran on International Women's Day
The woman-founded skincare brand's VP of customer marketing shares the ingredients for a successful holiday campaign.
Say “holidays” around brands and retailers, and typically what comes to mind is the shopping rush toward the end of the calendar year.
But even during the winter months when Black Friday is in the rearview mirror, it’s worth remembering that there are holidays throughout the year with room for brands to participate.
There are a few ways that these are different from peak season. For one, they won’t bring the same sales lift, as people don’t give gifts in the same volume. They’re also targeted at specific groups.
Unlike the December holidays, these are optional for brands and retailers.
To be sure, there can be an opportunity to attract new customers. But for brand leaders, it’s a matter of being intentional rather than jumping in to the fray. When considering which holiday deserves increasingly scarce resources, the trick is to keep an eye toward staying true to a brand’s ethos, and moving alongside the customer base.
For Kari Gran Skincare, the March 8 celebration of International Women’s Day is a natural fit. For the first week of March, the brand works in community with women – among its own team, consumers, and other brands. That lays the groundwork for the elements of an effective campaign.
“For us, it’s a mix of consumer behavior, knowing our customer base and making it authentic,” said Laura Kirkland, the Seattle-based brand’s VP of customer marketing. “And, it doesn’t hurt that we are all women here at Kari Gran. We know our customers and speak the same language.”
International Women’s Day finds consumers of two minds. Many women are seeking to both treat themselves, and uplift women-founded brands. Along with showing that it can “walk the walk,” Kirkland said the Kari Gran mixes content and altruism alongside promotions.
“We support the day by highlighting stories of other women founders,” Kirkland said. “We also regularly give proceeds of sales to multiple women’s organizations and have supported local events over the years. For us, it’s important that we recognize the true spirit of the day – not just be opportunistic for sales, as our customers will call BS on it every time.”
It’s also a day where the brand acknowledges that it is part of a larger community of women-founded brands. For International Women’s Day, the brand works with sister companies that have similar customer demographics to cross-promote products. Together, they can attract new customers.
“Many companies, especially smaller ones like us in the health and wellness category are female-founded, female-led, and have a larger percentage of female employees. It’s an ideal day – and month – to showcase how we support each other,” said Kirkland. “And in turn, our customers reward us, lifting us all up as a collective group.”
The right customer
If planned correctly, holidays can provide a big tent under which a brand can reach their ideal customer. But it’s important to align the tactics and tools being used to reach consumers around that goal as well.
“Yes, promotions and promo codes drive business, but it needs to hit the right customers,” Kirkland said. “If not, then I get a great day of revenue with one hit wonders, who never return.”
This lends itself to working with software companies or service providers who can help the brand be targeted with its reach. But like many brands, Kari Gran has streamlined marketing dollars amid macroeconomic headwinds. So it is also evaluating what works.
For International Women’s Day, results from the software platform SourceKnowledge stand out for the brand, as it strikes the balance between content, promotion and celebration of the holiday.
“Working with SourceKnowledge as our performance partner, we can use inventory for this campaign that allows us to capture shoppers with a price discount, promotion, coupon, or review while they are in an active buying phase of their shopping journey,” Kirkland said. “As the campaign learns about these shoppers and who's more likely to convert, SourceKnowledge is better able to identify the high-converting traffic across its network of publishers and micro influencers to promote Kari Gran to our key demographic – women over 40 – in an authentic manner that matches their buying journey.”
Kirkland said that SourceKnowledge has enabled the brand to “identify the right customers, and optimize our traffic mix to exceed set return on ad spend goals.”
“We are currently at 12.5x ROAS with SourceKnowledge,” Kirkland said. “So yes, while we are still offering a code to an incentive, I’m also finding the right, loyal customer.”
Gamification is another key element of campaigns that has worked. Kari Gran runs a promotion called “Double Up Weekend,” which automatically doubles selected customers’ orders.
“We make it very clear how customers can win so there is no confusion,” Kirkland said. “For example, we double every ‘X’ order that comes in. Customers love it. We will see multiple orders from customers to increase their chances.”
The results bare it out: These weekends yielded a 30% increase in AOV and a 56% increase in revenue, when compared to average weekends.
Choose holidays carefully
While the prospect of increasing conversion around a holiday can be enticing, Kirkland advises brands to take care not to force a choice – and that’s speaking from experience.
“Don’t jump the shark to make something happen. If it just doesn’t make sense for your brand, you’ll end up missing out on creating a long-term customer,” Kirkland said. “I’ve been a marketer for a long time and tried to make many a holiday or observed day into something special when it was just a lame connection. In those cases, it is best to take a pass.”
To review, here are a few key questions for brands to answer when considering holiday participation:
- Is the holiday authentic to a brand’s voice and community?
- Can a brand reach the right customer on this holiday?
- Are promotions prepared to provide incentives for these customers?
- Are the tools in place to build relationships with customers that lasts for the long-term?
Trending in Marketing
New Honest CEO plans to apply Amazon experience to ecommerce
Carla Vernón is also bringing learnings from General Mills to the brand's category strategy.
The Honest Company’s new CEO is eyeing upgrades to the brand’s ecommerce strategy, and considering category expansion.
Carla Vernón joined Honest in December, bringing experience as VP of consumables categories at Amazon and leader of recognizable brands such as Cheerios, Annie’s and Nature Valley for General Mills.
Vernón will now marry the commerce acumen she built with those companies to a premium brand that is driven by purpose. Founded by Jessica Alba in 2012, the digitally-native Honest makes products in personal care, beauty, baby and household products. The company has taken off in the baby category, as 60% of revenue came from diapers and wipes in the fourth quarter.
“Honest is a brand built on a number of values... clean formulations, high-quality ingredients and input, products where you can believe the quality is worth the value that you are paying for them,” Vernón said on the company’s earnings call to recap the fourth quarter and full-year of 2022.
Vernón said the brand has “unique DNA,” in that it was built by “thoroughly modern” entrepreneurs that typically speak to a younger set, but cuts across demographic lines. That can set up expansion into new categories.
“Honest is a brand that needs to speak to all consumers, all demographics, all cultural groups, all life stages,” Vernón said. “I am extremely confident that the shoulders of Honest are broad, that the shoulders of Honest are strong to bear the weight of many categories and that there are categories waiting for Honest values to come in and energize the category and change what consumers think they can expect from the category.”
This will require a balance: Honest wants to be thoughtful about where the brand can “lead, innovate and win,” Vernón said.
“We exist to push our categories farther with our purpose-driven ethos,” Vernón said.
At the same time, it wants to find a fit with its margin strategy, and ensure it can maintain a premium positioning that has taken a hit as a result of price increases among brands across the landscape amid inflation. Honest may de-prioritize or exit some categories along the way.
In particular, Vernon believes investing in hero products can help propel the brand.
“That’s something I learned on brands like Nature Valley, a business that had many, many SKU offerings, but some of them are very core, driving the fundamental growth and business model of the brand and then new places to play where they will really fit our business model as we go forward,” Vernón said.
The company’s fourth quarter results underscore why there may be a need to explore expansion. Revenue increased 2% over the prior year, but consumption was up 15%. The company recorded a net loss of $12.6 million.
The results showed a disparity between channels: Digital revenue declined 14%, while retail revenue increased 18%. Revenue was 57% retail, 43% digital.
The company said online orders were lagging consumption. Honest saw 8% consumption growth on Amazon, but also saw the ecommerce giant take a more cautious approach to inventory. With the cost of digital advertising going up amid rising CACs and privacy-oriented changes, it also shifted marketing spend to realize key opportunities in retail.
Vernón said the brand is also aiming to overhaul its ecommerce experience. Vernón is set to draw on her work with Amazon overseeing many of the same categories where Honest has a presence. These include babycare, household products, food, beverages, health and wellness and beauty.
At Amazon, Vernón was credited with elevating the shopping experience for beauty. She introduced more emerging and prestige brands, launched virtual lipstick try-on and created the first-ever beauty-focused holiday shopping event, called Amazon’s Holiday Beauty Haul.
Now, Vernón plans to work closely with the honest.com team to make sure the brand is meeting the expectations of the digital shopper.
“That has everything to do with things from being efficient in the experience of the storefront, really making sure you maximize the storefront so that the consumer transactions are clear, efficient and fast and so that we can really customize what we show to customers on the storefront so that when they are shopping, it’s an experience that’s highly relevant for them,” Vernón said.
While retail has gained more focus as partnerships with Target and Walmart have driven not only growth but incremental customers, Honest Company's overall strategy remains grounded in both channels. That means it is taking care to provide a standout presence on the ecommerce channels of retailers, as well as its direct-to-consumer site.
“As we continue to grow with our retail partners, we want to make sure that Honest is effectively being brought to life in the digital mediums that they are continuing to grow and invest in,” Vernón said.