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Verdilab's Digital Strategy for Navigating the Saturated Beauty Market

Jonathan Elliott

Key Takeaways

  • The beauty and skincare industries are saturated with new products and intensive marketing campaigns, but there are alternative tactics for new entrants wanting to get a foothold
  • Specialist influencers and community-building are two digital marketing approaches that work well for small, boutique brands
  • A transparent communications ethic emphasizing solid scientific credentials is highly attractive for skincare consumers at the premium end of the sector
  • Consumers across all demographics are prioritizing sustainability and safety, especially since the pandemic
  • Customer loyalty is a long-haul process, but it can yield rich rewards if managed well

Jonathan Elliott: Verdilab is quite a new company, just two years old, but it draws on a long history of scientific research. Can you say more about that?

Victoria Neymann: I'm a third-generation medical doctor, and the story started more than 50 years ago with my grandfather, a cutting-edge scientist and a professor of microbiology, but he also was a pioneer in immunology.

In the 1950s and 1960s, immunology grew to become a major branch of medicine, and my father followed my grandfather and dedicated his professional life to discovering new immunological substances specializing in natural RNA molecules. He ran a substantial clinical as well as a theoretical research program and treated over 10,000 patients, many of whom had skin disorders.

His work led to the discovery of RNA molecules with immuno-modulating properties, meaning that they positively influence the immune system in the body. He also discovered that these molecules had detoxifying properties, meaning they could neutralize toxins threatening the skin from the outside. He was able to patent the synthesis of these RNA molecules, and I realized they could be applied very effectively in natural cosmetics.

Based on his discoveries, and with his support, I developed the technology for Verdilab, and it is patent pending right now. It works on our skin at a cellular level and boosts its immune capabilities.

JE: What are the marketing challenges you come up against that perhaps are unique to the beauty and skincare sectors?

VN: The beauty market is very saturated. So it's a challenging market. And it's changing rapidly because every day, literally every day, new brands appear, and you have more and more competition. And consumers have more and more products on offer from really great brands.

For brands like ours - more niche luxurious brands - it's about how to market intelligently rather than in a massive way. We can't compete with the big multinationals, who have a lot of money to make ATL and BTL campaigns in each and every market. What's essential for us is building our community of potential consumers who, we hope, will become loyal consumers passionate about our values and beliefs.

That means we've focused on raising awareness and offering education in different media - in the digital space, of course, because it's much more available, but also in the retail space. We've organized many events, and I've been sure to be physically present in the locations where I can meet our customers, whether it's Milan, London, or elsewhere, because it's essential to talk to people face-to-face and show the people behind the brand to explain and to educate about our mission.

We're also working with influencers who are well-known because of their expertise. They may have fewer followers, but this community is much more engaged, active, and responsive. We don't use big marketing agencies. All the content we create is in-house by people who have been engaged with Verdilab from the very beginning, and we're convinced this makes our message more authentic.

JE: How does Verdilab create loyal customers?

VM: Because of our message and because of the technology, our consumers have several touchpoints before they decide to buy. They're curious, and because of that, they need to ask us questions, sometimes many times, before they start buying.

The product sector we're in means that building repeat customers is a slow process as they get to know the product, often over several months, before it is time to buy a replacement. Consumers become more loyal as they see that these products work and they see the difference in their skin, but it takes time because they like to try out our competitors, naturally. But once they buy repeatedly, they then become engaged and responsive, and a lot of them send us opinions and reviews. And we hope to become brand ambassadors, of course.

JE: How does digital fit into your marketing strategy?

VM: In online premium skincare, the hardest part is getting the first-time customer, but we take great care of our customers once we engage with them. With that approach we're running ads, especially with content from UGC creators - people who record their opinion about the products - and they talk about it from a personal perspective, and that works very well in building our community.

We also use organic SEO - keywords ranging from different names of ingredients that people are searching for to specific products, like, for example, 'probiotic moisturizer' or 'moisturizing cream.' And we use PR, of course, not just traditional PR but also our partners who tag a lot of our content. And that, of course, is connected with developing the website blog content and the blog articles building links to the website. So, different high-quality links increase the authority of the domain. We also use newsletters for our membership community around the Verdilab Club, so you can join this club and get offers and information about the products, ingredients, and technologies.

In the messaging style, we're very focused on transparency. Consumers respond to authenticity and clarity in the way we communicate information with strong science content. I don't like mystification in science, baffling the consumer with incomprehensible acronyms. We don't have any secret formulae or mysterious ingredients. We're very open about everything in the product, and we think consumers respond well to that.

JE: Do you see yourself as standard bearers of trying to raise the game and raise awareness about how some products simply aren't delivering the care that people expect? Or if they are, does it come at a price that's not disclosed?

VM: Of course, many commentators have called us a disruptive brand. Even in one of our awards nominations, we were styled a disruptor in the skin and beauty market. But our mission is not to challenge others. We want to educate our consumers to ensure they are as informed as possible. We're saying, "Listen, this is the scientific evidence". There are no absolutes in 'clean beauty' - the term is very broad - there's no scientific body that says 'this is clean' and 'this is not clean'.

All we can do is present the facts and the science and highlight the fact that 'clean beauty' means avoiding certain ingredients that are perceived not to be natural for the skin or that are proven to be harmful to the skin in the long term. There are the obvious ones, like parabens, microplastics, petroleum derivatives for example, but also less well-known substances. We like to think we are thought leaders in the science of skincare.

So, yes, this is our mission to explain to people why we don't use these ingredients. Many big brands have limitations that come with their business environment, and that's okay; I understand that. Fortunately, we don't have those constraints and are freer to communicate issues that may have problematic business implications. Ultimately, what is most important is that people - our consumers especially - make informed decisions. And this is where we see our mission.

Victoria Neymann is a medical doctor, manager, and entrepreneur with over two decades of experience in the pharmaceutical and beauty industries. She is also the founder and CEO of an immuno-cosmetics company, Verdilab.

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