Chic packaging. A mysterious name. Millennial pink. Those factors all scream prestige beauty products.
And that’s exactly what Suave, the bargain drugstore hair brand owned by Unilever, was going for when it went undercover and pretended to be a luxury haircare brand, dubbed “evaus.” (That’s “Suave” spelled backwards.)
In a clever marketing stunt, Suave sent beauty influencers packages of evaus, claiming it was a new haircare line. Then, it captured their reactions on camera upon revealing they were actually using Suave.
The campaign received wide press coverage in both lifestyle publications like Teen Vogue, Glamour, and New York Magazine’s The Cut, as well as in industry sources, like Fast Company and Ad Age.
Plus, hundreds of people across social media posted about the campaign.
It’s an example of a successful marketing campaign rooted in content. Here, we break down the key elements of how Suave effectively used content to launch it, and then extend the messaging afterward.
Root Your Campaign in Research
With this campaign, Suave aimed to prove that labels and prices don’t always indicate quality.
“No matter how many times we say that Suave works as well as salon brands, we know that women are skeptical of quality if the price tag is too low,” says Jennifer Bremner, Brand Director, Skin Cleansing, at Unilever.
To get to the root of that dichotomy, Suave conducted research on women’s spending habits in the beauty space.
“What we found was that 7 in 10 women feel that premium or higher-priced brands and products are more trustworthy than value ones,” Bremner says.
They also found that millennials are some of the biggest skeptics, but they’re also very receptive to value brands.
“While our research confirmed that women today perceive premium brands to be more reliable and trustworthy, 92 percent of millennial women agree that they would buy a lower-priced hair care product if the quality was not sacrificed,” says Bremner.
With that, the idea for evaus was born.
“Suave is always trying to highlight its salon-quality results, and we have previously seen white labeling as an effective tactic when asking consumers to look past the label and consider what’s inside the bottle,” Bremner says.
Takeaway: By commissioning research on its target audience, Suave learned about their beliefs and biases. This allowed Suave to create a campaign that had a good chance of resonating with them. And bonus: proprietary data points from research can be valuable assets for PR teams to pitch to journalists.
Create Content in Various Formats
Different content types work to achieve various goals. Suave created a suite of content to support the campaign.
“Our [2-minute] video asset aims to show real, discerning women that value and quality can – and should – co-exist and that all you have to do to believe is try Suave,” Bremner says. “This authentic, organic real-time reaction will act as our driving force for converting skeptics.”
The longer video was cut down to :30 and :15 spots for further digital distribution.
In addition, Suave created a suite of infographics to lay out its proprietary research findings in an appealing, visual way that consumers could easily digest and share.
The http://evausproject.com/ landing page serves as the information hub that houses product details (albeit, about the evaus line).
For social media, Suave enlisted a suite of influencers who they converted to “Suave Believers.” During and after the campaign, the influencers posted Instagram content for their followers to drive home the point that price is not indicative of quality.
Takeaway: To ensure the greatest reach and distribution for your campaign, determine what channels will be important, and what content you’ll create for each. For the Suave team, the video was the centerpiece of the campaign. But they supported the video with influencer Instagram posts for their target audience, and infographics and proprietary data for the media.
Prompt an Emotional Reaction
Suave’s campaign had such a successful launch because it prompted an emotional reaction.
“Our intention with this content was to reflect what women are really thinking and feeling,” Bremner says. “We learned from listening that women can be heavily influenced by labels and price tags yet are often pleasantly surprised by the great results they get from Suave. We thought there was an interesting story to be told around perceptions and chose to do that visually through video content.”
The bait-and-switch Suave pulled felt a bit familiar – it’s a tactic that Bremner and her Unilever team have used in other lauded campaigns, like Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches.
“I’ve been lucky enough to work on several incredible, inspiring campaigns during my time at Unilever and I think there are special and unique components to each one,” Bremner says. “Working on campaigns such as Dove Real Beauty, Dove Love Your Hair, and the evaus campaign has given me the opportunity to help shape the way women see beauty – both their own and in the world around them.
“While we have tested out this kind of social experiment before, never have we done this to the scale of going undercover as another brand,” she adds.
Takeaway: Use content to tap into your audiences’ emotions. In doing so, you’ll connect with them on a deeper, more personal level – which will also make them more likely to share your content.
Use Content to Keep the Conversation Going
Even if a campaign has a strong launch, you need a plan in place to keep people talking.
Particularly for a campaign targeting millennials, leveraging influencers is a good way to amplify your message.
“Younger generations, such as millennials and Gen Z, are looking to influencers for inspiration and advice in many facets of life, especially in the beauty realm,” Bremner says. “They are real tastemakers who have a pulse on the beauty industry and that is why we have partnered with a select group of them. They were Suave skeptics who didn’t previously use Suave and may have never used it. We are challenging them to try us and share their thoughts with their followers.”
The influencers promote Suave on Instagram daily, using the #SuaveBeliever hashtag. Suave encourages audience members to use it, as well.
“Our #SuaveBeliever hashtag has been around for a while and it really aims to drive home our ‘Trying is Believing’ campaign,” says Bremner. “We know that no matter how many times we say that Suave works as well as salon brands, some people don’t believe it until they try the product. The goal of using #SuaveBeliever is to be able to highlight the women that are in the know, that are trying Suave and changing their brand perception because of this campaign.”
Takeaway: Even if your content reaches your audience, it’ll likely take more than one interaction to convert them to being customers. Have a plan in place to keep the conversation going in the weeks and months after the campaign has launched.