As it celebrates its 150-year anniversary, Shiseido is currently in the middle of a 10-month-long YouTube test via an unpaid series, with the goal of eventually building out a successful paid strategy on the video platform.
The 24-episode original series features broadcaster and wellness influencer Candice Kumai as she details the brand’s history and that of J-beauty overall, and interweaves stories on her own experiences with her Japanese heritage. Shiseido’s paid media strategy is 100% digital, and this is Shiseido’s first dedicated unpaid YouTube series on its U.S. channel.
Jessie Dawes, vp of integrated marketing strategy and consumer engagement at Shiseido, said the reason for this approach is to test the momentum of the videos before investing in paid ads and putting promotion behind them later in the year. At that time, ad expenditures will focus on YouTube’s TrueView ad platform and will include calls to action to visit the Shiseido e-commerce site.
Ahead of the series launch, Shiseido compiled key beauty search terms across YouTube, Google search, retail partners and Shiseido’s DTC e-commerce. Terms like “foundation,” as well as Shiseido’s hero franchises “Benefiance” and “Waso,” were most popular on its own website. Dawes noted that seasonality plays into popular search terms, with sunscreen beginning to trend in April. On YouTube, where Shiseido’s USA channel has approximately 53,000 subscribers, a 5-year-old video titled “The Japanese Art of Layering” has 445,000 views, outpacing most of its videos where there are only a few thousand views at most.
“By leveraging all of this search query volume data, we can then create the content that we know is mapped against the highest-demand topics. We feel confident in our approach,” said Dawes. “It’s almost a Netflix-like approach [of] leveraging consumer data on viewing habits [to serve up content] that people respond to.”
So far, Shiseido is seeing its efforts pay off. The first video, published on March 18, has been viewed 2,000 times on Shiseido’s YouTube channel, but it experienced 52% more views and a 578% longer watch time compared to the average for organic videos on the Shiseido channel in the same timeframe. The second video, published on April 4, has been viewed 1,400 times but experienced 88% more views and a 340% longer watch time.
Kumai is not a typical influencer choice fr beauty brands. Her professional background is in the culinary arts and broadcast journalism, and she currently has less than 3,000 YouTube subscribers (though she does have 184,000 Instagram subscribers). Dawes said that Shiseido was interested in working with Kumai precisely because of her atypical influencer background, as well as due to her Japanese heritage. What’s more, she drove “success” for the brand when she mentioned it while discussing beauty products on the “Today Show.”
The series with Kumai is broken down into sections, with the first two episodes focused on the Japanese approach to layering. There are also videos about sun protection, skin-care ingredients, sustainability and Shiseido’s refillable products, among other topics. There are also appearances by Kumai’s mother and sister in videos discussing her Japanese heritage.
“I never had a desire to walk on set with a ‘pre-written’ concept or show,” said Kumai. “This realist approach to my directing and storytelling has enabled [Shiseido and me] to create the J-Beauty series… Shiseido was open-minded and fresh in their approach.”
The Shiseido team has several goals in mind for its YouTube series. First and foremost, Shiseido is trying to reach a broader and younger audience, including men. The brand also wants to attract more subscribers and get them to watch several videos on its channel. And it wants to drive year-over-year increases across organic video views and engagement via likes, shares and comments.
Shiseido’s unpaid efforts to drive viewership focus on cross-promoting the videos on its owned social media channels, as well as Kumai’s. The videos themselves have been search engine optimized and have been reformatted for YouTube Shorts, as well. Furthermore, Shiseido will include the YouTube series in its own email marketing.
There is potential for this unpaid YouTube series to influence Shiseido’s overall YouTube strategy down the line. Dawes said the continuous publication of new and educational videos is a strong possibility in the future. Factors Shiseido is monitoring to inform its YouTube approach include video view length, where viewers are dropping off and what they’re commenting on, among others. Dawes said video as a format is a central part of Shiseido’s digital strategy, especially as a means of reaching younger consumers.
“We’ve looked at the [search] data and mapped the content plan for these episodes for the rest of the year,” said Dawes. “But if we [see a new search term] that’s statistically significant — something big that’s emerging — we are able to pivot and make updates [to our content plan] as needed.”