Written by: Lea Brandhofer
The story of eos’ influencer marketing campaign
The internet offers vast new opportunities for brands to gain momentum. One brand that benefited from the many possibilities of the web is eos, a small challenger brand that managed to reach the leadership position in an over-invested market (Juniper Park, 2014).
Eos stands for ‘the evolution of smooth’ and is a company marketing lip balm in an innovative new packaging. The round colorful packaging makes the lip balm an absolute eye-catcher and every fashion forward woman knows about this egg-shaped balm. The product entered the market in 2009 and today eos has become the best-selling lip-balm in the US (Lieber, 2014).
But how did eos manage to achieve such strong growth in such a short period of time? Eos’ secret to success arises not only from its innovative packaging but also from a marketing trend that rose with the new opportunities of the internet: influencer marketing. Eos is an excellent example to highlight the possible success of influencer marketing, so let us look at how they leveraged relationships with celebrities and social media influencers in order to achieve brand buzz.
Influencer marketing can be described as word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing, where an influencer transmits the brand message to potential consumers to alter their perception of the brand and influence purchase behavior (Foster, 2014). Whereas before the rise of social media, brands often trusted in celebrity endorsements to spread the word, today anybody can act as an influencer by being involved on social media. Influencers are experts, opinion leaders or personalities that have a narrow reach and deep impact with their peers. In general, one can identify four levels of influencers: celebrities, publishers (bloggers and Youtubers), fans (customers and stakeholders) and friends (Foster, n.d.).
Product fans as brand ambassadors
Eos used influencer marketing to overcome the huge competition it faced when entering the over-invested lip balm market. Their core target group are women between 25 and 35 years that are “stylish, curious and interested in being in-the-now” (Effie Awards, 2011). Eos knew that their target group is always looking for the next hot item that they can share with their peers on social media. This gave eos the idea to include their target group in the activity of gaining brand equity by allowing them to trial the product. The plan was to increase brand awareness for this so far unknown lip balm and to get people to try it so that they could recommend it on their social media platforms therefore creating online buzz around the brand. The trial initiative was based on the insights that women trust their community more than any other source (Liu, Jiang, Lin, Ding, Duan & Xu, 2015) and that women are power users of social media looking for and sharing recommendations, tips and information with their peers. Influencers have the potential to promote brands faster and better to target audiences, and not only reach more customers but also increase response rate (Liu et al. 2015). By trialing their lip balms, eos was sure that women would acknowledge the quality and usefulness of their product, become fans and follow their desire to share their new discovery with their online community (Effie Awards, 2011). In this way eos made the women that tried their products to influencers and thereby indirectly created a WOM campaign leveraging the women’s social media behavior, making them the brand’s storytellers and brands ambassadors (Booth & Matic, 2011).
The trial products were sent to customers that were experts in the beauty scene such as beauty editors (publishers) and consumers (fans) that had already contacted eos and showed their support for the brand. Especially publishers are seen as opinion leaders online and often have many followers that trust their insights and recommendations (Uzunoğlu & Kip, 2014). This trust is based on shared interests and preferences. The advantage of working with a digital influencer is that their output follows the two-step flow theory. Instead of transmitting the message directly, brands transmit the message through opinion leaders who are perceived as more trustworthy, therefore adding an extra step to achieve credibility (Uzunoğlu & Kip, 2014).
The initiative was based around the motto of “get one, share one”. The women were invited to receive a free lip balm and could share this same invite with their social media network (Effie Awards, 2011). To additionally create an online buzz, eos encouraged women to complete the sentence “If the world was made for women...” and post it on their social media channels with the hashtag #madeforwomen. This allowed customers to interact with the brand and each other and at the same time highlighted the brands motto of being made for women to make their life easier. In the end no paid media was used and the campaign was carried by online influencers, including beauty editors and fans of the brand (Effie Awards, 2011). This was important as eos only had a small marketing budget.
The campaign was an enormous success and today eos has a huge number of positive reviews and followers on all social media channels. Over 80,000 photos relating to eos lip balm have been uploaded on Instagram, with consumers expressing their love for the brand (Foster, n.d.). The brand is also immensely popular on different ecommerce websites with pages full of positive reviews. The fact that eos has managed to get to the fourth place of the “Teen Vogue-Goldman Sachs Love List”, which features 50 brands that so called “It Girls” love (Business Insider UK, 2014), indicates the extent of their following and popularity.
Are celebrities worth the hype?
Additionally to the initial campaign eos is increasingly counting on celebrity support, with artists such as Jennifer Lopez and Miley Cyrus featuring the product in their music videos. These celebrities are highly popular and influential with millennial girls eos’ largest and most successful target group. With their strong presence on social media platforms such as Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook rather than traditional advertising, eos plays right into the hearts of their young demographic target group. These channels are also popular forums for celebrities to endorse brands. Kim Kardashian, for example, posted several photos on Twitter and Instagram using the eos lip balm (Byrne, 2015). These photos not only reached eos fans, but also her cumulated 101.5 million followers on Twitter (Kardashian, 2016a) and Instagram (Kardashian, 2016b). The advantage of using celebrities is that they have a big reach and can increase advertising effectiveness, enhance brand recognition, and lead to purchase intentions (Spry, Pappu & Cornwell, 2009).
On their website, eos dedicates a whole page on what they call “eos buzz” where they post photos of their “celebrity fans”, Print & TV mentions and recommendations as well as positive buzz from the web including comments by fashion magazines, blogs and opinion leaders (eos, 2015).
Many experts, however, criticize the use of celebrity endorsement. Industry expert Denise Lamberston even says that “celebrity endorsements are an antiquated model left over from traditional advertising that focused on print and television campaigns” (Salup, 2014). The internet is making it harder for plain celebrity endorsement to seem credible, as a simple placement of the celebrity in an advertisement is not enough anymore to convince a consumer. Basically, if a celebrity signs on to endorse a product, he or she better actually consume that product and none of the competing brands, as everything is photographed and published on social media immediately, so marketing has become much more transparent due to the web 2.0. Consumers will see the brand as well as the endorsing celebrity as less authentic, and this can actually hurt the brand especially as credibility plays such a big role in the success of a brand (Erdem and Swait, 1998). Social media has made the engagement with consumers to a 360 degree proposition which means that the celebrity needs to show his or her support through every single channel and in every life situation in order for it to be authentic (Knowledge @ Wharton, 2013). This increases the risk of marketing a brand through product endorsement as a failed campaign can easily become the mockery of the internet.
However, when done right, celebrity endorsement can still be an attractive marketing tool, especially as it is a good way to catch the consumer’s attention in his or her otherwise busy life and create brand awareness. When choosing a celebrity it is important two consider two things. The first is that the celebrity should be associated with positive emotions for your target audience. The second aspect is that the celebrity should match the product and have some sort of expertise regarding the product, as this makes the endorsement more credible.
Eos shows celebrities using the lip balm in their normal environment, not placed in an advertisement. In this way it seems like the celebrity actually uses the product and is not just advertising it. The celebrity seems more like a normal person giving advice which is supported by Bell (2012) who highlights that successful influence marketing is done in a P to P channel, which stands for person to person, rather than a B to C channel. Consumers are tired of being advertised to but they are always looking for advice on how to improve their lives.
In total, eos does a great job at integrating their customers and loyal fans into their campaigns by using influencers and engaging with their customers on social media platforms.
What other brands can learn from eos
So what can brands learn from this success story? Eos success is based on a two-tiered influencer marketing strategy using both celebrities and social media influencers. The digital influencers on the one hand are seen as online opinion leaders who have a following that trusts their opinion and have the ability to reach potential customers by offering a direct and credible link to the target group (Bell, 2012). Celebrities on the other hand have millions of followers and therefore reach the masses with their messages. Whereas the celebrity will help with amplification, the online influencer can increase conversion and actually get the consumer to try the product, as consumers are more likely to act upon an influencer’s recommendation (Weiss, 2014). Therefore, a combination of the two types of influencers can be a substantial success.
Influencers such as publishers and fans will create long lasting benefits for the brand, as they create online content such as blog posts, reviews, testimonials and recommendations that show their love for the brand and that come up when someone searches for the product online.
An important takeaway when it comes to influencer marketing is the need for credibility. This applies to any kind of influencer marketing. What differentiates traditional celebrity endorsement from online celebrity endorsement is the heightened need for credibility, as the web 2.0 has increased transparency of such campaigns. Celebrity mentions such as the ones done by eos are successful as they don’t appear to be advertisements, but rather a personal recommendation by a celebrity. A 360 degree approach where the celebrity uses the product in every life situation and portrays this on all their channels can also increase authenticity.
Choosing an influencer that fits the brand, connects with the target audience and is an expert on the topic is also an important takeaway. Eos chose good looking and powerful female celebrities, such as Jennifer Lopez, that their customers look up to and that are experts in the beauty industry. Kim Kardashian, for example, is famous for her flawless makeup looks and therefore is the perfect person to endorse such a beauty product.
What makes this marketing strategy so attractive is that it actually doesn’t require a huge marketing budget, as it is mainly the influencers who spread the message for the brand. This is a quick way to achieve brand recognition that is actually long lasting.
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