Coty Professional’s Global VP Influencer Marketing, Randall Chinchilla, explains how its world-renowned salon professional brands scale influencer marketing by placing community at the heart of everything they do.
Coty is the largest fragrance company in the world and one of the largest beauty companies. Split across three divisions: consumer beauty; luxury cosmetics, fragrances and skincare products; and professional beauty, the firm employs over 20,000 full-time staff across 46 countries. Its annual turnover is $9 billion.
Randall Chinchilla leads influencer marketing for Coty's Professional division which services beauty and nail salon professionals. Randall is responsible for setting the division's influencer marketing global strategies across the brand portfolio which includes leading salon brands such as Wella Professionals, System Professional, Sebastian, Nioxin, Sassoon Professional and O.P.I.
He oversees partnering with local markets to activate the global influencer marketing vision. His role is to define strategic plans that enable the activation of the right influencer audience at the right moment, with the right brands—to match the right products with the right stories.
[RC] The hairdresser is the number one influencer for the salon professional. Normally you find that friends and family top the list for influencing decision making but if someone is changing their hair colour or hairstyle they will go to a salon and take the advice of a professional. In turn, influencing what products and techniques these professionals use, and how they’re trained, are important for brands building relationships with these professionals.
The salon professional segment is a very tight-knit community; a close tribe, very much based on relationships. Social media has scaled those relationships. Professional beauty has always been an industry of influencers; it’s just that now social media adds an extra layer. Those networks happen across time zones. Hairdressers from around the world follow other hairdressers on social media to track trends, to learn and to share new techniques.
Of course, we collaborate with a strategic mix of personalities from celebrities to lifestyle and beauty influencers as well as with hairdresser networks. Recently we partnered with Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones, for example.
[RC] I personally follow hundreds of hairdressers and industry-related influencers on social media. I look at the work they’re producing and how that fits with our vision for the brand. In some cases, I’ll personally DM them. Depending on the need we will work with agencies but increasingly we’ll use tools, like Traackr, in-house to identify and nurture relationships with influencers. No one knows our industry better than our own people.
[RC] We work across all social media channels. However, hairdressers are visual artists so Instagram is a particularly important platform for us. Facebook also plays a role especially in terms of community building. Our focus when working with influencers is on building communities not ‘using’ them as a marketing play.
[RC] For us, it is all about community. We nurture the community. The reality of a relationship is that it is a two-way street. It is not take, take, take. It’s about sharing. It’s about collaborating. It’s about having an authentic voice as a company; showing up and being part of the community. Your presence can be physical through industry events but it can also be digital. Just by following the artistry of some of these hairdressers on Instagram you’re signalling that you value the work they are doing. This can mean a lot to them.
[RC] We train roughly two million hairdressers around the world every year and that happens in multiple ways. It can happen in the Wella studios. It can happen in person or online. This is important because this is how we build face-to-face relationships with our subject matter expert influencers.
We also nurture long-lasting relationships by offering unique experiences. In the past, we have provided special opportunities like going backstage at London Fashion Week to spend some time with Eugene Souleiman, Wella Professional’s Global Creative Director and ghd Ambassador, as he pulls together shows.
There are only a handful of mega-successful hairdresser influencers. Most of the people we work with to influence our customers would be called micro influencers. These people are primarily hairdressers. That is their craft; their passion. They are subject matter experts sitting at the top of their field.
Some of them have embraced Instagram as a way to grow either their client base or their personal profile within the industry. For the most part, these people would call themselves hairdressers, not professional influencers.
Our aim is to form an authentic relationship, one where our influencers feel appreciated. Many are social media savvy. But, they may not have many social media followers comparatively. Their audience size may not be in the hundreds of thousands. It might be in the low thousands and that’s okay with us. If they have two thousand social media followers but those followers are all hairdressers and engaged with that person, they are highly influential for us. If that one person is using our product and genuinely loving it and sharing that fact on social media that goes far, far further than an influencer reaching 500,000 consumers where we don’t know if they even like the product.
[RC] There is no cookie-cutter approach because our brands behave differently in different markets. For the most part, we establish a global influencer marketing strategy centrally for our jewels the brands which are global category leaders such as - Wella Professionals, O.P.I. and ghd- and most of the rest of the Coty Professional portfolio. The local markets ensure they support and amplify those strategies through local knowledge and expertise.
We set KPIs globally. Each market has a specific target and methodology for how the KPIs are to be calculated and which tools are to be used to measure them. But we also allow for local market expertise to complement the global indicators.
We think of influencers as part of our ecosystem. They are included in all of our strategies. Earned media is a strong proxy for success. We track the number of social media accounts speaking about our brands and the average size of followers for those accounts. We also look at the frequency of content posted and engagement rates. All of these elements are a strong proxy for how our brands are resonating with our core audiences. But, of course, there are other elements we track closely such as conversion rates.
[RC] It’s a mix. We work with influencers across the entire customer journey. We have some of the leading brands in the world under the Coty Professional umbrella. For example, Nioxin is the leading salon brand for thinning hair. ghd is the number one preferred styler in key markets. OPI is the global leader salon nail brand.
The power of those brands helps us attract great talent. A lot of professionals are already using these products; they already have an emotional affinity with them.
At the other end of the spectrum, we’ve just launched Seb Man which is a male grooming brand. As a young brand, it enjoys minimal awareness. So it depends on where the brand sits in its lifecycle as to whether we are driving awareness, consideration, purchase or repurchase. We partner with influencers in very different capacities depending on the requirement.
We also work with influencers to gain early feedback on new or updated products. We recently completed a major upgrade to one of our leading colour brands. We turned to hairdressers at the outset to gain their input on the enhancements. We know these hairdressers are influential. That is why we give them the opportunity to test-drive the product and to experience it. They become the critics and the advocates, providing testimonials but also boosting awareness. This is a really authentic approach because we’re not paying for their endorsement, we’re earning their trust.
[RC] We are adaptive. We don’t have a single approach. We are continually testing and learning. The marketing landscape is changing so rapidly. Even in the past 18 months, the changes have been dramatic. The types of tools, skills and agencies required are always changing. Sometimes companies are not 100% ready to absorb influencer marketing in-house. In these instances, agencies make sense but there is a challenge with scale.
There is an inherent tradeoff between scale and intimacy. The larger your audience; the harder it is to build an intimate relationship with them. This is a struggle for big brands. How do you make your audiences feel both delighted and part of a community?
This relationship nurturing is often best suited to sit in-house. Would you outsource your relationship with your best friend and your family? Of course, you wouldn’t! They don’t want to hear how you’re doing from someone else. They want to hear from you. So we use technology to scale but also to remain personal.
We have good agency partners to assist with the creative. It varies market by market as to how we work with these agencies. It’s a matter of scale and local knowledge.
We look increasingly at the specifics of the activity where we need assistance and who is best suited to help with those specifics. There is a big difference, for example, between hosting a major PR event with beauty editors and key influencers and managing an online community. These are two very different skills. They overlap in how you execute your strategies, but the reality is they require different skill sets. This adds to the complexity of working with multiple agencies whilst also ensuring we are developing skills internally.
[RC] Who owns influencer marketing? You know what? Within an organisation we all do. Everything is brand building. And anyone who’s a brand builder today should be proficient in working with influencers; social media, analytics and digital.
The reality is that your client doesn’t care how you organise yourself. They care about their relationship with the brand. This insight should inform how you approach influencer marketing internally.
Look at your client’s target outcomes and work back from there. Start to build internal teams more organically and cross-functionally. Let the resources follow client goals, not be led by department function. We’re heading towards better collaboration between departments to get the integrated job done. The core element of empowering internal teams is that they should share common goals and common measures of success. That eliminates the traditional barriers of ‘I run digital’ or ‘I run brand’ or ‘I do education’. More and more those lines have to be removed.
Scott is an independent influencer marketing consultant. Previous roles include overseeing influencer relations at leading agency, Ketchum, and serving as the newswire product manager, EMEA at PR Newswire. Follow him on Twitter. Read his influencer marketing blog, or watch “My Influencer Marketing Philosophy”.
Traackr has partnered with Scott Guthrie for the following interview. This forms part of our global series “Influencer Marketing at Scale”. Other companies featured in the series include How Meliá Hotels International Scales Influencer Marketing Across 7 Brands and 4 Continents, Sipsmith: Scaling an Artisanal Gin Globally Through Influencer Marketing and How The Body Shop Works With Influencers To Drive Both Social Change And Product Sales.