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Q&A: Promoting beauty with Joann Marks of Cosmetic Promotions
Joann Marks, Cosmetic Promotions
The beauty category at retail drug stores has been turning more toward sampling with kiosks, apps, events and beauty advisers. Drug Store News recently spoke with Joann Marks, founder and CEO of the 25-year-old company Cosmetic Promotions, to discuss beauty sampling and experiential marketing.
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DSN: Congratulations on your company’s 25th anniversary. To what do you attribute your longevity?
Joann Marks: Thanks! I can’t believe it has been 25 years. I think we are still a force and growing for two main reasons:
- We’re exclusively dedicated to improving the sell-through and brand recognition of mass beauty products at retail — and by concentrating on that very niche market, we’re the go-to choice as a partner for brands and beauty departments.
- We go over and above with our service, and don’t charge by the hour. Once you’re a client, we provide as many free consultations as needed. We always receive compliments on our attention to detail and follow-through.
DSN: What products and services does your company offer?
Marks: We create customized experiential marketing tools for the introduction, sampling and training of beauty and personal care products to retail employees and their customers. We design and run in-store makeup artist events, direct sampling, live training, point-of-purchase events and displays, and sweepstakes and contest events on regional and national levels.
In addition, we manage and facilitate customized programs for chains — acting as extended staff to increase their sell-through, but not their workload.
Since 1990, we’ve saved our clients more than $20 million and thousands of man-hours as their execution partner — with 98% client retention and a 100% on-time delivery record. We’ve distributed over 70 million samples, trained more than 50,000 store associates in live training sessions and completed more than 38,000 in-store events.
DSN: What are some of the brands you’ve worked with?
Marks: We’ve worked with pretty much every retail beauty brand from Almay to Unilever, as well as such store brands as Jesse’s Girl, Studio 35 and Salma Hayek’s Nuance.
DSN: How does your pricing model operate?
Marks: Normally, our services are covered by the vendors. We work with them to secure “over and above” funds from their marketing departments or get projects funded through chain co-op money. The chains tell us they receive tremendous value for these small investments.
DSN: What is your biggest point of differentiation?
Marks: Our business model is unique. Once a chain gives us the go-ahead on a program, we do everything — including procuring the vendor participation. Leveraging our global relationships across all of the beauty manufacturers, we find ways to get our clients into shared programs that save them money and increase their individual ROIs on the project — providing tremendous bang for their buck.
Another huge difference is that we are the only marketing company with our own staffing agency — with more than 3,000 professional makeup artists on call across the country. We also have another 5,000-plus Beauty Experts on call. Our in-house art department and 24/7 warehouse team enable us to deliver in amazingly short turnaround times. We’ve never missed a deadline in 25 years.
DSN: What kind of ROI do you typically offer retailers and suppliers?
Marks: We create almost a half million interaction kits a year that store associates use to engage customers. The kits average a 25% coupon redemption rate compared with only about 2% on an FSI. Before we came along, vendors all shipped their kits direct to stores — a very costly and logistical nightmare. Our program combined kits into a consistently timed box, and by sharing the outer box, the warehouse prep and shipping costs, they save significant money that can be reinvested in other revenue-producing vehicles. One chain also saves 340 man-hours annually since they turned their beauty box program over to us.
During one customized teen back to school event, the participating vendors showed a 14% to 25% lift in sales, and the chain saw a 150:1 ROI on the money invested by the vendors. This project included everything from in-store signs, magazine ad creation and placement, social media, and procuring and shipping the gift-with-purchase to facilitating all the aspects of a nationwide model search. Our event provided more than 54 million total impressions at less than half a cent each.
We also consolidated a training program, which saved a chain and their vendors almost $3 million a year, cut weeks off their previous training schedule and delivered better results.
DSN: Can you describe your live training program?
Marks: Our staff of professional beauty trainers performs live trainings nationwide. We coordinate all the moving parts — which is like planning 300 weddings. Plus, we produce a bilingual training guide for each attendee, and we enhance training by including an audience response system that allows us to quiz the students and provide real-time feedback. This device makes the training fun and really improves retention of the material. During our in-store events, our makeup artists also train the store associates on the products. This continues to boost sales long after the event.
DSN: What are some of your best sampling programs?
Marks: One of our most popular programs is an in-store sampling four to six times a year that moves over a million beauty samples direct into consumers’ hands at each distribution. We also have a variety of targeted sampling events that cost the vendors about 28 cents to get a sample into their target market’s hands. We distribute these sample bags in colleges, at community events and festivals, including focused programs for teens, seniors, Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans.
DSN: What do you see as a growing trend in beauty?
Marks: I see chains putting beauty advisers and testers back into the stores to help customers make informed choices and shape their purchase decisions. I also see even more direct-to-consumer “beauty boxes” on the horizon; these are especially popular with millennials. With delivered-service models reducing actual store visits and brand loyalty, it is more vital than ever to have in-store sampling and demonstration events that draw them out of their houses and into a fun place to shop. Remember, 89% of all first-time purchases are the result of trial, so it’s imperative to get samples/trial into the hands of customers.