‘It’s a step above Google’: Why beauty brands are investing in Pinterest

SkinCeuticals, L’Oréal’s medically-derived skin-care brand, has had a Pinterest profile page since 2013 that sees about 88,000 monthly viewers. But the beauty company only began investing in the social platform in the fourth quarter of 2018.

After dedicating media dollars to Facebook and Instagram beginning in 2017, Christina Fair, SkinCeuticals’ general manager over the U.S, said Pinterest — which boasted $750-plus revenue in 2018 and filed to go public on Friday — was an obvious next step for building brand awareness last quarter.

“Before, we were largely focused on talking to doctors’ offices or skin-care professionals because we are predominantly a medical-dispensed brand; it was more B2B communications. But we wanted to start that conversation to speak directly to consumers, and we started looking at Pinterest,” said Fair.

SkinCeuticals — which holds the No. 1 position in professional skin-care sales in the U.S. and helped L’Oréal’s Active Cosmetics Division (the parent company’s dermocosmetics sector) increase by more than 9 percent in 2018 fiscal results — is not the only beauty brand to hone in on Pinterest as a brand awareness and conversion play. Inkbox, Covergirl, Nest, Burberry and Guerlain have all been investing more in the platform since 2018 and will continue throughout this year to tap into Pinterest’s 52 million-plus monthly pinners who are engaging with beauty content. According to Pinterest, 250 million people visit the site every month.

“Beauty is one of our top-four use cases,” said Vikram Bhaskaran, Pinterest’s head of market development. The other three are food, home and style. “We are a visual medium, and beauty lovers are visual. They are coming here to be inspired and learn about something they already love or something they want to know more about.”

Though Pinterest does not have a dedicated beauty team within its large agency team that handles brand outreach, Bhaskaran said beauty brands are coming to Pinterest for three reasons: to accelerate their e-commerce businesses (according to the platform, 86 percent of pinners have made a beauty or personal care purchase based on something they’ve seen on Pinterest), to double down on Pinterest’s existing search capabilities and to create trend-specific products using Pinterest’s insights. Pinterest would not detail the size of its agency team among its 1,500 employees, but Scott Hannan, Pinterest head of product marketing said it was one of its largest departments.

Pinterest’s Audience Insights Tool, which debuted in June 2018; its annual trend report; and its new max width video format that launched in August 2018 have been particularly helpful in getting brands to pay more attention. For SkinCeuticals, Pinterest’s max width video (a 400 percent larger unit than the version prior, spanning across Pinterest’s two-column grid) was the impetus for the brand to put paid media dollars behind the platform. In the fourth quarter, the company launched a video campaign around its antioxidant products, including its best-selling CE Ferulic Vitamin C serum. Fair said the video drove a 130 percent quarter-over-quarter increase in traffic to SkinCeuticals.com and a 38 percent increase in sales on its antioxidant products. Though Fair would not detail exact dollar spend on the campaign, according to a Pinterest pitch deck obtained by Digiday, at minimum, max width video ads cost $9 per impression, depending on the time of year.

“Our messaging is very scientific and medically-driven, so to have a video format where we could tell our story helped customers engage with us,” said Fair. SkinCeuticals said it is planning a similar video campaign around its new Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight Treatment, which is a cell turnover and exfoliating product that launched in March. According to Pinterest, liquid exfoliators are a top trend within beauty for 2019, with searches up more than 58 percent. Fittingly, Fair said SkinCeuticals is quadrupling its spend with Pinterest this year.

Hannan said Pinterest is working on another performance-based video unit to be released later this year. It has a direct call-to-action to buy on brands’ respective sites, based on recent demand.

Temporary tattoo body brand Inkbox, which sees 20 million organic Pinterest profile visits per month, has also scaled its interest with the platform. Brodie Mazurek, Inkbox performance marketing lead, said Inkbox was approached by a Pinterest brand rep detailing the organic search volume around tattoos. According to the platform, semi-permanent tattoo searches have increased by 538 percent since 2018, as of February data. Inkbox started with retargeting campaigns on the platform in the second quarter of 2018 and, following its July 2018 $13 million Series A funding round, it increased its spend by 1,000 percent. Mazurek would not disclose total dollar amount spend on Pinterest for 2019, but said, on average, Inbox is spending $1 to $2 per 1,000 impressions.

“Our traffic on Pinterest increased without putting any paid advertising toward it when organic reach was diminishing on Facebook and Instagram,” said Mazurek. “When Pinterest optimized toward conversion within search and full video ads, we knew we could get more than brand awareness with it. As a start-up, what really matters is converting.”

Inkbox has seen conversions increase by over 8 times since amplifying its spend on Pinterest last year, and 2018 revenue increased by 250 percent year-over-year. Inkbox recently developed an in-house team of 12 employees to create more brand content for Pinterest, which includes videographers, graphic designers and photographers.

The next phase of Inbox’s relationship with Pinterest is actual product innovation through the platform’s Audience Insights Tool. The brand’s recent Ornamental tattoo design is proof of that, said Sarah Harvey, Inkbox creative curator. Detailed botanical and floral designs have been trending on Pinterest for the last 6 months, according to the Insights Tool, and Inkbox has developed products based on those trends.

“We definitely use Pinterest as a tool to stay on top of what’s trending in tattoos, as well as a source of general inspiration for new design styles and concepts,” she said. “We also love using it as a source for where to place our tattoos on the body.”

SkinCeuticals’ production timeline is three years, so it is largely unable to tap into product trends in the same way. However, Fair said the brand does look to see overall beauty market trends. “Vitamin C continues to trend in Pinterest SEO, and that’s a good thing for us because, as a brand, that is core to what we do,” she said.

Mazurek sees Pinterest’s value add as different from other social or search platforms in that it connects Inkbox with customers in its orbit.  “You’re finding people already in your market on Pinterest, so it’s a step above Google,” he said. “You get to connect to your audience in a way that feels more organic, and that’s better for both growth and awareness.”

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