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Beauty & Personal Care

Sowing the Seeds of Social Responsibility

1 Apr, 2011 By: Jackie Jones Response

Aveda’s environmentally responsible mission gains ground with the help of consumer-centric DR principles, say marketing executives Rachael Ostrom and Gigi Abbadie.

In a time when more consumers are demanding socially conscious business practices from the beauty industry, many brands are sitting pretty, banking on the fact that they provide environmentally safe and Earth-friendly products. But that’s not enough for Aveda Corp., which for more than a decade — since its first Earth Month campaign in 1999 — has used key direct response principles to push its message of goodwill to the beauty industry and beyond.

From consumer response to employee engagement to salon participation, the hair and skincare company’s marketing is about a lot more than just making a profit — it aims to empower all whom it comes into contact with to give back to their communities.

“We have a set of beliefs as a company, and one of them is that economic and environmental goals are mutually achievable,” says Gigi Abbadie, director of affinity marketing for Blaine, Minn.-based Aveda. “It doesn’t matter if we do campaigns to give back if we’re not running our business in a responsible way in the first place. Some companies are more engaged in giving, but for us it’s ingrained in how we do business and how we support communities locally and globally.”

A hairdresser founded Aveda, a manufacturer of flower and plant-based beauty products, based on the principles of ayurveda — the ancient Hindu art of medicine and of prolonging life — in 1978, and stressed using plants as the basis of all beauty products. It’s a philosophy the company still abides by.

“Our founder believed that if it isn’t good for the Earth, it’s not good for hairdressers and consumers either, and we still really focus on that principle,” Abbadie says. “Stylists are emotional, artistic people who really engage in our mission and what we do, and they have continued to do so as the company’s reach grows.”

DR Roots Support Synergy

It is Aveda’s multiplatform, highly interactive marketing strategy — the principles of which exemplify the core of DR — that not only help the company shine as a beauty brand, but also help further drive its charitable outreach. As its marketing enters new territory, so do its humanitarian efforts. It is a continuous and mutually beneficial circle that is extremely important to Aveda’s continued success, says Rachael Ostrom, executive director of consumer engagement.

“Everything in our advertising efforts is tied into one another and supports one another in an effort to continuously engage and interact with consumers in the way they want and in a way that supports our mission,” Ostrom says. “Whether it’s print or digital, social media or E-mail, at all touch points we’re constantly trying to get contact information to stay locked in with our customers. All of those components create a deeper level of engagement because we are always seeking to make things synergistic.”

Aveda is primarily print- and digital-driven from an advertising perspective, according to Ostrom, who adds digital is increasing every year, with an expected growth of more than 200 percent in 2011. Crucial to the marketer’s success is the interconnectedness of both advertising platforms, which also provides a measurable means of tracking ROI.

“The key element to our marketing is synergy; we strive to make one method always drive traffic to the other,” Ostrom says. “Every magazine we do print advertising in directs consumers to a unique landing page, and we also include a digital refer-a-friend component where they can share offers via Facebook, E-mail or even with an embeddable link users can post to their own blogs.”

Aveda utilizes DR marketing through its most modern and ever-evolving channels, most notably social media and mobile platforms. In addition to a traditional website, the company operates a YouTube channel, where experts explain styling and product tips and share behind-the-scene videos; a Facebook page, which is the main source of interaction among fans, employees and the brand; and a Twitter account where Aveda talks to customers about everything from product launches to charity events.

Aveda was also the very first beauty company in the U.S. to launch a mobile site after parent company Estée Lauder discovered high amounts of mobile traffic coming from Aveda’s customers in particular, according to Ostrom. Mobile marketing best meets the needs of on-the-go consumers looking for store locations and information on new products, she says.

“Aveda has always been very strong as far as traffic coming in from mobile, so we wanted to make sure consumers were seeing the message appropriately from their mobile devices,” Ostrom says. “Guests are often trying to find a location near them when they’re already out on-the-go looking for products, so we wanted to give them a platform to do that effectively.”

Goodwill Gets Social

Social media, and in particular Facebook, is one of the more efficient marketing tools used to promote Aveda’s global fundraising campaigns as well as the centralized efforts of local salons, spas, institutes and retail locations, Abbadie says. In addition to getting and keeping consumers actively involved, social-networking sites provide an avenue for Aveda to share stories of heartfelt activism that might otherwise go unnoticed, such as when employees in Aveda’s Taiwan office rescued a group of stray cats. The story was posted to the company’s Facebook page under the “Beyond Beauty” section, which shares stories of employee activism and corporate social responsibility with interested fans.

“That’s one example of how localized Aveda’s reach is and the type of giving that happens that may never be seen without social media marketing,” Abbadie says.

But perhaps the biggest example of Facebook’s prevalence in Aveda’s marketing strategy is in connection to the Earth Month campaign. Kicking off March 22 on World Water Day, Earth Month is the company’s core fundraiser during the year. Aveda encourages all salons and employees on every level to participate, and through the use of digital channels, Earth Month has been one of the beauty brand’s most successful fundraisers to date.

“Back in 1999, our goal was $250,000, and we were thrilled to achieve that goal. Just last year, we raised more than $3.7 million — we’ve really grown exponentially. This is part of how we still engage in the original mission we started,” Abbadie says. “We care for the world we live in. It’s a philosophy we focus on here, and it’s what our network focuses on out in the world.”

This year, Aveda’s goal for Earth Month fundraising is $4 million. Allowing different salons to interact with their customers in a way best suited to each community is what drives the campaign’s success, according to Abbadie.

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