Bobbi Brown Web Site Analysis
Analysis of BobbiBrown.co.uk
This paper is an analysis of the e-business segment of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, specifically their UK website. The topics addressed in this analytical paper are primarily the various marketing and branding strategies employed by this company. As an e-business in a near saturation point market (cosmetics) it is important to understand what companies such as the one analyzed in this paper are doing in order to set themselves apart from their competitors.
The online market for cosmetics is extremely competitive and is a largely price driven system in which countless retailers have developed solely because of their ability to provide name brand products for a fraction of their actual cost. Or off brand products at an even further reduced rate. Especially in the context of a financial crisis, this ability to undercut competitors can be devastating to companies which focus on branding as opposed to discounting. In order for Bobbi Brown to succeed, the brand itself needs to become desirable enough to the general public that consumers are willing to pay the relatively higher price for the product.
Increasingly this marketing has become the domain of interactive multimedia and social networking. When clients purchase Bobbi Brown products it is not necessarily because the item itself is significantly better than a discounted or off brand item. The customer is paying specifically for the prestige and image associated with the company name. As such, it is important that companies focus a great deal of their time and their resources on the successful promotion of their brand as well as the association of their brand with desirable individuals and events.
With the proliferation of internet-based businesses, it is difficult for one individual company to separate itself from the millions of other companies offering similar products or services at competitive prices. It is then down to the unique position of a founder or head of the company to develop an extensive following among the more well-known members of a particular social group or industry which in turn generates interest not only in them but in those ventures to which they attach their name. This fact represents a simplification in the shift which business as a study has undergone during the last 2 or 3 centuries. In years past, simply making a necessary product available within a community was enough to ensure business. As commerce has become multinational and transportation is moving quickly enough to ship even fresh produce around the world in time for it to be sold and consumed, simple production is no longer a guarantee of success. The focus of much business strategy has shifted from production to marketing and developing a substantial relationship with customers the loyalty of whom determines the overall success of the business.
The key to success in these new and decidedly more competitive waters is diversification and multiplicity. A business must have many approaches to spreading their name and their image and many different methods of attracting an ever widening population of potential customers. Strong media campaigns as well as multiple websites all related to the product help ensure that a variety of individuals with differing interests and tastes have access to the products. The diversification also makes it clear to potential customers that the brand is diverse enough to meet their needs no matter what they may be. This focus on ensuring everyone can find something, and that the brand is present in a variety of unique locations means that Bobbi Brown is reaching the largest possible audience of potential customers.
Bobbi Brown is a company which was started by a make up artist of the same name. The company is the result of her extremely successful career spanning more than two decades. To her credit Bobbi Brown was also able to create a unique line of make up products which individuals who might not be able to book her services as an artist might still be able to enjoy the experience of looking like the who’s who of fashion and celebrity personalities.
A large amount of Brown’s success is that her direction was completely different from the extreme looks of the 80’s. This is vastly important in developing a successful company. Brown was interested also in making a product which appealed to all women, not only those who were able to afford the services of a make up artist or who were likely to wear an acid orange lip color regularly. This bold direction which she took established her as a figure head which pushed her brand into the houses of both magnates and mail clerks.
In 1995 cosmetic giant Estee Lauder purchased the Bobbi Brown make up line but allowed Bobbi to retain her position as CEO. In conjunction with the development of several ranges of brushes, make up lines, and a successful career as a celebrity make up artist, Bobbi Brown is also an author. She has written five books detailing a variety of make up application techniques and has in many people’s opinion developed a distinct “look” which helped revolutionize the fashion aesthetic of the 1990’s and is still a major force for change in the fashion world now.
Brown’s success in large part is attributable to her uncanny ability to self-market as well as determination and a unique perspective on a product which can become passe nearly as quickly as it is stocked. Because she was able to make herself a household name as well as situating herself as both an advocate and educator to her target consumer audience, Bobbi Brown was able to become a highly lucrative brand which commanded a multimillion dollar acquisition price from Estee Lauder.
The online business is focused primarily on educating customers as well as giving them access to the latest releases from the makeup and accessory lines. This is a two fold approach which draws in more visitors to the site because it also attracts people who do not necessarily have the intention of buying Bobbi Brown products but may become more inclined to do so having watched one of their instructional videos. Another tool at the disposal of the company is the connection to related media sources. Magazines, photo shoots, campaigns, fashion shows, and major events have all been associated with Bobbi Brown make up. This indirect marketing reaches virtually every individual who watches television, reads magazines, or goes on the internet.
While the majority of Bobbi Brown customers are women, it is still important to remember that women do not all necessarily receive media information from the same sources. Through generating careers in a number of different fields including; education, entrepreneurship, artist, and advocate the most significant motivating factor compelling potential customers to buy the product is in virtually all forms of media from talk shows, to fashion magazines, to CNN Money and the Wall Street Journal.
Though the production of print material is not specifically germane to a discussion of the Bobbi Brown website, it is essential in the discussion of the Bobbi Brown marketing strategy. By writing books, Bobbi Brown is making her product available and usable to the masses. While she does have a make up artistry school, she also effectively teaches women how to “empower” themselves by simply enhancing their natural beauty.
The specific features of the website itself also make it extremely user friendly without removing the human element of the company which is the primary reason for its success. The website opens with a video featuring the latest campaign which urges women to simply enhance their existing beauty as naturally as possible. Also available on the site are several tutorials, a full listing of all available ranges, accessories and brushes, the story of how Bobbi Brown achieved such success, what is currently happening with Bobbi Brown as well as the company, and a section specifically targeting those customers looking to buy gifts. One rather unique feature of the site is the ability to chat live with a Bobbi Brown makeup artist. This is essentially individualized expert advice available twenty four hours a day. There are also a wide range of exclusive offers and bargains which make the shopping experience appear to be entirely more personalized and valuable. The whole of the website is rich with interactive formatting and uses bright colors and upbeat music to make the experience of visiting the site as pleasant as possible.
Within the company, Bobbi is the brand. In order to ensure the continued success of her business, she must as she has done throughout her career keep always in the headlines as a pioneer and an innovator who has the ear of style icon and designer alike. Bobbi is rather adept at this self-marketing and has in the course of her more than twenty year career managed not only to become and remain a big name in the world of fashion and photography, but also in the publishing, and print media industries as well.
The general tone of the branding of Bobbi Brown is that she is a home grown “by her own boot straps” success story. It is immensely attractive to women particularly for the purposes of supporting another woman who was able to successfully develop her company essentially on her own. Where many cosmetics companies fall afoul of powerful feminist groups, Bobbi Brown’s commitment to enhancing natural beauty and her ability to remain CEO even following a major corporate merger sets Bobbi Brown apart from other cosmetics giants in that shopping for Bobbi Brown cosmetics of utilizing her instructional videos and books is not cognitively dissonant with feminist theory.
The Bobbi Brown aesthetic is another major branding point. Rather than working with over used extremely commercial looks, Bobbi has never been afraid to do something completely different than what all the competitors were doing with startling success. Following the acquisition of her company by Estee Lauder, the company began to suffer as a result of both extremely inexpensive reproductions as well as an imposing corporate structure which limited the ability of the creative team to work as artists and not simply as employees of a corporation. Sensing the decline in the brand Brown made the decision to move headquarters to a more artistically friendly environment. The move to SoHo, drastically changed the public image of the brand emphasizing a more liberal and artistic organization as opposed to just another branch of a large multinational conglomerate.
Brown’s commitment to independence from any aesthetic or image than her own has made her infinitely easy to brand. Her decision to move from a prestigious office building into a loft and her life in a New Suburb are fairly iconic for the image. She is an artist and a mother and she markets to “every woman.” As a brand, Bobbi Brown is not defined by age or by income level. Rather a commitment to natural beauty and artistry.
Bobbi Brown cosmetics is an innovator in promotional advertising. Throughout the course of the company’s history they have pioneered not only groundbreaking models they have also moved away from the more traditionally commercial look of print campaigns favoring a more artistic and editorial look. The website is relatively free of catchy slogans and more generic marketing tools and focuses on real feedback from industry insiders as well as creative use of color and video to highlight the diversity of their range of products as well as their commitment to artistic vision.
Bobbi Brown also has a number of different websites highlighting different aspects of the overall cosmetics company. These additional sites feature similr colors, songs, and interactive video and chat features which provide an easily identifiable continuity for customers positively linking colors and music to the brand which help to keep the brand as well as the websites in the forefront of people’s minds. The diversity of sites though all funnel customers back to the central cosmetics site which aids in increasing viewer spending. The close connection between all of the Bobbi Brown products and the marketing of Bobbi Brown as a lifestyle rather than a specific lipstick, blush, or book makes it much easier to offer cross product promotions which may result in an individual who would not otherwise have begun using either the books, the cosmetics, or the brushes and fragrances an opportunity to try them ultimately leading to long-term loyalty. The branding of Bobbi Brown as a lifestyle also increases the likelihood that if a customer is going to begin purchasing Brown cosmetic products, that they will be likely to begin using other products as well.
Bobbi Brown has syndicated columns in a number of international publications as well as fairly regular appearances on talk and radio shows internationally. By partnering with these other companies, Brown secured excellent promotion of her products both on the site (most of the product descriptiosn are accompanied by a testimonial from an industry insider) as well as in a variety of other publications with diverse viewer and readership. Further, as a result of these favorable partnering, Brown is able to offer not only cross product incentives but even cross company incentives as well as access to events hosted by the companies she works with. Simply being part of the Bobbi Brown aesthetic is an all inclusive lifestyle which gives customers a sense of personal voice as well as access to industries, individuals, and events they would not otherwise have had access to. Also, allowing customers to write reviews for products which will be published on the site is a fantastic way of making sure that the customers feel not only valued but actively involved in the company.
The Bobbi Brown website offers a number of ways for their customers to both advertise for the company and generate a continued buzz. Through the site they are able to post purchases and gifts through a number of social networking sites such as twitter and facebook. There is even an option to upload tutorials to youtube. This strategy allows customers to feel empowered as well as enjoying the relative prestige of being able to advertise their affiliation with such a famous brand. Further, these social networking sites allow Bobbi Brown to advertise effectively both in terms of cost and maximum visibility any upcoming events or product launches.
The use of social networking tools on the website has more than simply the purpose of generating buzz about new products and the brand itself. It also allows researchers to collect data regarding the relationship between viewing and trending patterns. If say there is a major fashion event happening, and Bobbi Brown make up is being used in the show, researchers can see how significantly the amount of views the site gets as well as the increase in general spending on the site increases or decreases. This allows the marketing team to focus their efforts either on building stronger connections in certain areas or withdrawing resources from other already well established areas for reallocation. These sites also allow the company to track more effectively customer feedback on individual products following the purchase. In the process of research and development this information is invaluable. It is not enough to know that one product is not selling, the genuinely probative information is in the reason why the product is not selling. That information disseminated throughout the company can ensure that products will have a positive reception not only by listening to what the customers say they want but also being able to positively correlate a new product with an existing product.
Careful analysis of Bobbie Brown.co.uk website and associated literature has lead to several recommendations which may improve the overall traffic flow to the site as well as increasing the amount of business generated by the website. Though the site itself is very productive, contributing to the half billion dollars in revenue generated by Bobbi Brown cosmetics there are a number of areas which can be improved perhaps resulting in an even greater contribution.
Though it is quite novel to have the first page of the site be a video of the application of make up in keeping with the latest campaign, the immediate inundation of music which cannot be muted can be off putting to visitors to the site. It is also difficult to stop the video, needing to click specifically on another page of the site in order to navigate away from it. It might be more effective to have the video playing in a smaller box as part of a more unifying front page, with clearly visible controls to mute and/or stop the video at the viewers convenience. Because the visitor is forced to make an immediate decision about where specifically to go in the site, a great deal of potential business is lost in the inability to spend time browsing initially before navigating specifically to the desired product or product range.
The special offers available are also not capitalized on properly. The cosmetics and accessories ranges offered are fairly up market products. The average college student or young professional will not likely be able to afford to stock their make up bag with such products unless they are on sale or presented as part of a special offer. Because the majority of customers are part of the category of individuals who likely cannot afford to spend a great deal of money on cosmetics regularly more prominent placement of the “offers” section and re titling of the “last chance” to another less negative title may increase sales.
Finally, though the website offers “chat with an artist” it may be an idea to offer specific sessions where they are able to interact with Brown herself. Chatting with an artist is an extremely useful and novel approach as it helps make people perhaps less experienced with make up and the various products they might need feel more comfortable. However giving customers a chance to actually interact with the CEO herself would be an unprecedented level of access which will not only result in a great deal of media attention but it will also allow for the collection of completely original marketing research as well as allowing the company to maintain its image of being extremely customer conscious.
Ultimately BobbieBrown.co.uk is an excellently designed web site which is part of a much larger marketing package of like products which are all incorporated into an accessible yet elite life style aesthetic. Though there could be minor changes made to the improvement of the site, the annual revenue resulting from it indicate that it is already highly successful. The combination of lifestyle branding, a decidedly non-corporate image, and a concentration on artistic expression as opposed to commercial loss of individuality ensure that Bobbi Brown will remain successful.
1. Bobbi Brown available at http://www.bobbibrowncosmetics.com/home.tmpl
2. Brown, B. 2007. How I did it: Bobbi Brown founder and CEO, Bobbi Brown cosmetics. Inc. Magazine [online]. Available at: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20071101/how-i-did-it-bobbi-brown-founder-and-ceo-bobbi-brown.html [Accessed May 18, 2010].
3. Bobbi Brown Cosmetics unveils pretty powerful spring campaign featuring friends of Bobbi. 2010. [internet] Available at: http://www.mynewsdesk.com/uk/view/pressrelease/bobbi-brown-cosmetics-bobbi- brown-cosmetics-unveils-pretty-powerful-spring-campaign-featuring-friends-of-bobbi-377882 [Accessed May 18, 2010]
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