For beauty brands trying to grow their customer base, the TikTok boom born from the COVID-19 pandemic has gone bust as of late, leaving marketing and social teams scrambling to find the best new ways to reach their audience.
In an effort to evolve with changing consumer behavior and preferences, Future Beauty Labs, the parent company of Byoma, Isle of Paradise, Tan-Luxe, and Tanologist, bet big on experiential marketing this summer, hosting three activations in New York City to increase sales revenue, build awareness, and convert new loyalists. The three events centered around the theme of nostalgia and boasted arcades and games that resonated with Gen Z and millennial consumers and influencers and generated some impressive results; Isle of Paradise sales increased 124% at Sephora event locations, Tanologist social engagement increased 297%, and Byoma hit a record-breaking sales week at Target and is now listed as the top 10 skincare brand at the retailer.
So, what makes experiential marketing such a memorable and effective medium for driving customer engagement, especially in the current landscape? In-person experiences and events have rebounded in the US post-pandemic, and people are ready to get back out there, be more social offline, and try new things. At the same time, the beauty and wellness industry is having to contend with historically high inflation, dwindling investor funding, and navigating a rapidly changing retail industry, causing some brands to shut down operations.
Experiential marketing offers a chance to connect directly with consumers on a deeper level than what is possible online. Today’s consumers value having memorable experiences, and the beauty brands that are there and ready to greet them out in the real world are the ones that will survive and thrive in these difficult economic times.
“There's nothing like meeting [your customers] face to face,” Noelle Cantarano, VP of Marketing at Future Beauty Labs, tells BeautyMatter. “It helps humanize the brand. It drives a deeper connection when you can meet in person and build those more intimate relationships. I think that now more than ever—especially with TikTok trends and Instagrammable moments—people want to have those experiences and share them with their communities.”
In June, Byoma, Isle of Paradise, and Tanologist brand teams planned and executed three consumer- and influencer-facing pop-ups with the hope of bringing awareness to each brand individually while also spotlighting new innovations and social causes. BeautyMatter caught up with Cantarano to learn more about Future Beauty Labs’ experiential marketing efforts and how other beauty brands can integrate experiential activations into their marketing mix.
Isle of Paradise: Empower Shower
To celebrate the launch of Isle of Paradise’s new collection of body care products, the brand hosted a series of consumer pop-up experiences in front of three different Sephora locations in New York City on June 5–14. The immersive “Empower Shower” experience involved a themed booth filled with aromas of the new collection’s signature scents, along with paper "water drops" and "bubbles'' that consumers would try to catch to win deluxe samples and other fun prizes. These prizes included eucalyptus bundles to hang in your shower, bathmats, shower speakers, Sephora gift cards, branded sticker sheets, and more.
After the “Empower Shower” experience, customers were encouraged to head in-store, where the brand had a front-of-store display and Isle of Paradise field team members ready to help further educate them on the latest launches. Customers were also given a free tote bag with any purchase made from the brand that day.
As a result of the Isle of Paradise Empower Shower pop-up series, over 8,000 samples were distributed outside of the Empower Shower pop-up locations, and the brand experienced a 124% lift in sales across all Sephora event locations in New York City. The Isle of Paradise Body collection is driving 25% of total brand sales within weeks of the official launch on May 2.
Future Beauty Labs worked directly in connection with Sephora for this activation, which Cantarano says made the event such a roaring success. At one point, there were over 500 people in line to try the shower.
“With foot traffic returning to stores, they are really eager and excited about eventing,” she says about Sephora. “They're pushing brands to do more eventing, whether in-store or on the sidewalks.”
Cantarano says working with a retailer like Sephora “is the easiest and best way to merge all of your marketing tactics together to get the best success.” In terms of ROI, Future Beauty Labs saw the quickest uplift in real-time sales since the activation was so heavily linked to retail.
“What's so nice about Sephora is they're incentivizing eventing at all levels,” says Cantarano. “So whether it's more indie brands that just want to send some field team reps into the store and do some mini sampling, that's always welcome. There's a lot of opportunity with Sephora to do those types of in-store sampling and consumer touchpoints at all different levels.”
When Future Beauty Labs doesn’t work directly with a retail partner (as is the case with the following two activations) for a pop-up, Cantarano says her team always incorporates a retail tie-in in some way, whether that’s a promo that customers can take back and shop, or a call to action to go in-store for a gift with purchase.
Tanologist Level Up Campaign
To celebrate the launch of their new Tinted Mousses and Daily Glow Gradual Lotions, Tanologist hosted a retro arcade-themed pop-up in downtown Manhattan on June 24 and 25. The pop-up was free to the public and included a series of arcade games, brand samples, and the chance to win free, full-size products, assorted gift cards, airbrush T-shirts, Jacquemus bags, and more.
Tanologist also hosted a self-tan exchange where guests could bring in their old bottle of self-tan from any brand and exchange it for a free full-size Tanologist product. In addition, the brand donated $10,000 to Sage, an LGBTQIA+ no-profit, in celebration of Pride Month.
The two-day Tanologist Level Up Arcade pop-up experience resulted in the distribution of over 5,000 samples, over 4,000 attendees, and more than 500 self-tanners traded in exchange for Tanologist. The Tanologist Level Up Arcade pop-up experienced an +88% reach on social channels following a 297% increase in engagement and garnering more than 1K followers in the days following the event.
From an engagement perspective, Tanologist’s Level Up Campaign was the most successful activation for Future Beauty Labs. “We saw the most social shares engagement content creation from [the Tanologist Level Up arcade experience],” says Cantarano. “We had over 4,000 attendees, so it was pretty massive over two days.”
Byoma: Pickleball for Pride
Byoma hosted a private pickleball event at City Pickle in Wollman Rink Central Park for 90 press members and influencers as well as 60 community members, highlighting a few of the brand’s most popular summer products: Moisturizing Gel-Cream SPF 30, Balancing Face Mist, and Hydrating Serum. The brand provided pickleball lessons and encouraged attendees to “get as active as their Byoma skincare ingredients.” At the event, Byoma also announced a $20,000 donation to GLSEN, a nonprofit supporting LGBTQIA+ youth by creating safe and inclusive school environments.
Byoma distributed over 4,000 samples to consumers at City Pickle and within Central Park. In the week following the event, Byoma experienced a record-breaking sales week at Target and is now a top 10 skincare brand for the retailer. The brand also received over 150 social mentions and over one million social impressions following the event, garnering over 1,000 new social followers. “[Byoma’s Pickleball for Pride] event was really successful in driving brand buzz and awareness,” says Cantarano.
Pickleball is rapidly gaining popularity as a sport for all ages and abilities, and Byoma was one of the first brands to spot this trend and host an event around this emerging recreational activity.
“It was really a fun moment to jump on a trend but also tie it back to the brand,” says Cantarano. “‘We've seen so many brands replicate that exact event since then.”
While this event wasn’t open to the public, the samples and social shares definitely contributed to the brand’s sales lift at Target, which Cantarano says has continued week over week. “Every week since [the event], we have had our best week ever for Byoma from a sales perspective,” she adds. The brand’s success at Target is even more exciting, considering Future Beauty Labs only launched the brand in February of 2022.
The Future of Experiential Marketing for Future Beauty Labs
After a successful trio of pop-ups, Future Beauty Labs has big plans to ramp up these consumer events and activations outside of the New York City and Los Angeles areas. “On any given weekend, a New Yorker has 100 cool things they can experience,” says Cantarano. “Middle America is not getting any of those experiences. We really want to be one of the first brands to activate in some of those key important markets that don't have these exciting experiences often.”
Cantarano estimates that around 15% of Future Beauty Labs’ marketing budget is going towards experiential marketing, adding that she sees that budget growing year over year as her team continues to prove measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) show how these events are driving sales, awareness, and engagement.
Experiential marketing doesn’t have to be exclusive to well-known brands with big budgets. In Cantarano’s view, you can do it at any size. “If you are a brand that sells at Sephora, you can start really small with mini localized events in stores,” she says. “You can do street sampling. There are things that you can do at really low cost just to generate awareness and get your product in people's hands.”
While free samples are an enticing way to get customers in the door, Cantarano believes that’s not why people engage with these types of activations. “Thousands of people are coming for these 10-minute moments,” she says. “I actually think the sample now is the least relevant part of the whole thing. I think it's just the icing on top. [It’s about] having that moment, that photo, or that TikTok. It’s [about] creating that content, and I think that that's now the winning piece of it.”
As the gap between consumer and influencer starts to shrink, brands should plan their activations accordingly, ensuring that consumer-facing pop-ups are just as exciting and Instagrammable as an influencer-only event. The average consumer can reach just as many people as a popular influencer—and in a much more authentic way.
“The consumer is holding a little bit more power… and we're seeing social communities crave authenticity and the desire for more authentic reviews, experiences, and testimonials. They are looking for the truth—not the paid truth, but the truth.”
Experiential marketing is one of the most powerful ways to reach new customers and drive brand loyalty. As Future Beauty Labs continues to expand these consumer activations into new cities, Cantarano is already thinking about the next big growth driver: AI.
“We’re also thinking about how AI is going to play into the experiential of the future,” she says. “How can we be playing more in that space? Because everything's starting to really merge between social media, experiential, and AI. What is that going to look like in a year, and how do we continue to stay in the lead?”
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