Olivia Mae Foong is an SEO who has delivered exceptional results for clients across B2B and B2C industries.
As well as having a broad knowledge of SEO tactics, Liv has specific experience in, and passion for, the beauty industry – which she’s used to bring a blend of creative thinking and technical nouse to Impression’s own beauty and healthcare clients, including Clarins, who we announced our new relationship with last week.
In this episode of OutSpeech, the digital PR podcast, Liv joined me to talk all about PR and marketing in the beauty industry. From her insights into the brands doing it well, to her assessment of the beauty industry’s YMYL characteristics, Liv shares so many interesting and inspiring thoughts. Have a listen below, find her blog posts here on the Impression site or follow her over on Twitter, @seoliviamae.
What inspires you about beauty in particular?
I think we’ve learned over the last few years, it’s not just about empowering women anymore, it’s empowering anyone to if something helps them feel better if something helps them especially now in lockdown.
If there’s if there’s like a face cream that makes you excited to, you know, do your night care, or get ready for bed, that energizes you in the morning, like if there’s something that we can help get in front of consumers that will bring them joy that doesn’t necessarily change their appearance, but helps them feel better about themselves, that’s always been something that I’ve been really passionate about.
Thank you for sharing that. And I think like you say about something that’s become even more important to us all over lockdown. And where we haven’t necessarily felt the need to kind of put our makeup on in and look a certain way for other people. But it’s more about just having that routine that, like you say, brings us joy and gives us that opportunity to practice some self care.
How has marketing in the beauty industry changed over the year?
So looking at the beauty industry when I first started and that would have been around 2017, which doesn’t feel like that long ago. But when you think about how the influencer industry has changed over the past few years, I think when I first started in the industry, it was all about who was the biggest influencer you could find within your budget or who was the the influencer that you could get with the most reach that it was always about that because influencers were this shiny new thing.
Whereas now when we are in 2021, it’s more about trustworthiness. I think people now see through the facade of an influencer on Instagram or YouTube that has x amount of followers because there’s so many of them now and I’m not discrediting that the work that they do, but I think a lot of consumers now see through it and see that maybe it’s not as authentic as it could be, or there’s definitely more authentic influences in the fold compared to others.
And that’s where it’s really important for digital PR teams and marketing teams to make sure that they find the right one. So I think when I first started, it was very much, you know, find the biggest influencer whereas now you see it more as like how can you be seen as a trustworthy brand that it consumers can trust to put their money into, because you know, times are hard now and like if people, people don’t have as much disposable income as they normally would.
So it’s all about making people feel good about what they’ve purchased, even you know, before the purchase, but then after knowing that they bought it from like a reputable company, and the person that influenced them to buy it was also a trustworthy person too.
Absolutely, I think that’s something that’s really grown in importance over the years is this idea of purpose and value and making people feel good about what they bought rather than just selling them the cheapest version of it.
Do you think that’s something that has played a major part in the beauty industry? And what would you say are the key things in achieving that authenticity as a brand?
How to achieve authenticity as a beauty brand
So I think the main things when it comes to achieving authenticity, especially as a beauty brand, is the research that goes behind the products and especially also the stories that go behind the products or certain collections.
Consumers don’t just want to nowadays just see a product with the latest ingredient or the latest buzzword attached to it. They want to know about the research that’s got gone behind it. Have they had consumer trials? What are the results like for that? And if there’s an influencer, promoting it, or the marketing materials around it, are they inclusive? Are they considering all types of people that are going to want to buy it? And what is the impact purchasing that product? Are they making a positive impact on the world?
I think that’s like the main things I’ve seen now be the biggest force drivers.
Absolutely. We had an introduction yesterday with one of the global beauty brands that we’ve just announced that we’re working with. And it’s no secret that we’ve announced it on our social media, but we now work with Clarins.
And they were talking to us a lot when they’re about their history and the r&d work that they do, and the stories behind their ingredients. And I think all of that is so so important.
And for us as their digital PR team and as their SEO team, we’re going to be helping them to surface those messages more and more.
From from your experience in SEO as well as PR, how have you seen that focus on authenticity change over the years? I mean, Google talks about EA T and we talked about trustworthiness and the importance of good content and things like that. Has that really been an influential factor for the beauty industry?
Authenticity and YMYL in the beauty industry
I think it’s one of the main things that I’d want to get across for any beauty brands or anyone that works at a beauty brand, that might be listening to it to this podcast is that I believe that beauty brands are 100% involved in the YMYL sector.
So for those that don’t know, your money, your life, those are websites that Google perceives as something that could affect a consumers money or their lifestyle.
So if they were to purchase from you or to get services from you, if you’re not a trustworthy website that could impact that person’s financial state or their health.
And when it comes to skincare and beauty, I think we’re realizing more and more now how important that is because people aren’t going to want to buy a product that potentially can ruin their skin or ruin their health when it’s not just a cosmetic thing anymore, because so many people do have, you know, pre existing medical conditions or pre existing conditions in their skin, and that could affect what they purchase.
So what you see nowadays, and especially what I see when I’m writing content for our beauty clients is that they are competing against the likes of Healthline, also Web MD, maybe even the NHS as well.
And the main things that I see as important to include in your beauty content are things like sources, you know, if you’re going to say that a product can give you a 50%, you know, reduction in acne or something like that, you need to be backing that up with a journal article, or at least your own consumer trial as well. So I definitely think it’s all about having credible sources, which is so great about Clarins. Because you know, they do all of their own research in house and you can tell that they put so much time and effort into it. But you need to also make sure that that is being conveyed online, so people feel more trusted in making those purchases.
Absolutely. And that’s where digital PR can really come into its own as well, I think is that particularly for those sites that do operate in the your money, your life sector, it’s no longer just about volume of links and getting as much quantity as possible. It’s much more about thinking how those links convey that credibility and how you can use your backlink profile to prove that you are the most credible source of information. Right?
Yeah, definitely. Like, like you said, it’s not about quantity of links anymore. It’s about the well, you know, quantity does come into it, but it’s about quality as well.
And we, you know, look at it from a consumer perspective. And not just from a crawlability and indexing perspective, who’s going to if you’re reading an article safe, we’re going to use beauty as an example, if you saw a link to a certain brand on health line, linking out to a certain skincare brand, you might trust that a lot more than you might do for them like a say a mommy blogger not not discrediting them at all, but you would definitely see a link on the health line as more authoritative.
Definitely. And it’s so it’s really interesting observation that you’ve made, I think there as well. So thank you for sharing it this this idea of beauty brands fitting into the YMYL because so often we think of finance and insurance brands and like you say medical brands as well, but actually if we’re making claims about our products as beauty brands, then we need to be able to back those up and that means that we fall into that category as well.
Are there any campaigns or any other any kind of PR strategies that either you’ve been involved in or that you’ve seen other brands using that you’ve really enjoyed in this sector?
Inspirational beauty PR campaigns
That’s a really, really good question. And I would definitely say that there, so there is a brand that is called The Ordinary. And they’re part of the group called Deciem.
So The Ordinary has been, is quite a disruptor in the skincare industry, in the sense where they, if you look at their products, they will just say something like 100% insight ingredient, you know, what, there won’t be any airs and graces about what it is, it won’t have nice packaging, they won’t be saying, Oh, this will make your skin look like this, you know, you can get glowing skin, they’re very much ingredients, and science focused.
So a lot of what they have to do is educating the customer on why a product is good for them. So you see a lot. And I never know if it’s paid or not. So, you know, take it for what you will, but I always see, whenever they have a new product out.
Straight away, you’ll always see it being reviewed on refinery 29. And, you know, media publications that do target a certain demographic that they target. And it’s all about just making sure that if you are going to send products to people, if you’re going to send products to media publications, or if you’re going to send them to influences, you have to get the message across about the benefits of what the product does. And the ingredients, because I think I’m sure you’ve seen in the PR industry as a whole, you know, these mailers that people get nowadays can be absolutely crazy. Like they could get like such, like flamboyant packages come through to like newspapers or influences.
And whilst that’s great, you know, it makes for a good Instagram story, it doesn’t necessarily tell the consumer at the end of the user journey, what that product does for them.
Absolutely, that ties in so well with something I was speaking to John Rowley, about from Thorntons, on a previous OutSpeech podcast was this whole idea of solutions based marketing. And it’s something that we do think about a lot in the digital PR industry is what are the solutions that we offer? And therefore what are the problems that people are facing that we’re going to be addressing? And I think sometimes we use our PR campaigns to highlight the problem as a way of starting the conversation. And sometimes we use them to highlight the solution.
But it sounds like The Ordinary are doing a great job of identifying not just what those problems and solutions are, but also the appropriate media publications to get them across it. And so yeah, that’s a really great example. Thank you.
What does the future look like for beauty PR and marketing?
I think that, you know, especially in 2020, where we saw almost I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s an uprise against influencers, but people definitely saw, you know, when they would go onto social media, and they saw maybe the majority of the influences that they follow living their best life in Dubai or things like that.
I do think that we’re now taking a step away from what we would see as the cookie cutter influencer, perhaps, and it’s more we’re going back to the roots of what we would see as like the thought leaders or in an industry.
So if we’re going to use brands as an example, Clarins do a really great job at this because they are quite selective with that influencer engagement. And they do they are currently doing an event with an influencer called Caroline Hirons. And whilst she is an influencer, she has this background in skincare and beauty that expands far beyond what she would be considered as an influencer.
So I think it’s all about I think what we’re going to see now in the future, is people moving away from perhaps, you know, getting a sponsorship with someone that was potentially on a like a reality TV show, and that might have tons and tons of followers.
And instead, we’re going to go back to what we would see as like a micro influencer or a thought leader who is someone that knows their stuff about the industry, they might not have as big a reach as the former, but who they do reach will be more trustworthy of what almost more trusting of what they say.
Wonderful, thank you. And I think that’s a really positive direction for the industry to be going in.
I don’t think that’s solely true of the beauty and consumer industry. I think actually, something that lockdown in particular has taught us is that we need to earn our place in front of consumers. And as brands that means that we need to understand the audience’s we’re speaking to and we need to have something valuable to say and we can’t get away with, you know, some of the techniques that used to like the cookie cutter influences and some of the stuff that used to be easy wins, it’s just not going to cut it anymore.
How do digital PR and SEO influence one another?
I think you know, it’s all about web digital PR, if we’re trying to get links back to our client from relevant and authoritative sources, we need to make sure that when they get when they do land on the website, that they are having a positive experience. So I think the two definitely come very much hand in hand.
And I know from the work that we’ve done together as well, when you’re thinking about brands that might already be on the first page for, you know, the head core keywords, the difference between position three and position one, a lot of the time it comes down to links, and it’s all about the authoritative, high quality links as well.
So I think they, they’re pretty much essential to each other, especially when you’re getting into the realms of if it’s a brand that might be competing against a industry giant, or a brand that loads of people know, links are so important, because if a consumer doesn’t know about your brand, but Google, if Google can see your backlink profile, and they can see that you’re being linked out to you by all these authoritative sources, then that’s basically Google saying, you might not know about this brand, it might not be on the, like the forefront of your mind to buy from.
But we do think that it’s a trustworthy place that you should at least look to, in this purchase journey. So I do think the two definitely come hand in hand.
Definitely, it’s all about starting and continuing conversations with the consumers, isn’t it and whether we’re using kind of PR to start that conversation in the first instance, and kind of fill the top of the funnel or if we’re using SEO to make sure that we’re there and we’re visible, partway through that conversation.It’s all it’s all tied into that user experience, as you say, and you can get as many links as you want. But if you get on the sites, and it doesn’t work, and the content isn’t great, you’re not going to see a conversion and equally if you create a great site, but no one talks about it. No one’s ever gonna land there. So yeah, it’s definitely something that continues to work hand in hand.
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