Ulta Beauty’s next big mission is to spread joy to its shoppers. The retailer has partnered with author and podcaster Mel Robbins (4.9 million Instagram followers, 2 million YouTube followers and 1.7 million TikTok followers) to launch The Joy Project, a long-term initiative through which the retailer will focus on helping its associates and customers find and embrace joy.
Ulta Beauty worked with Robbins to create a curriculum for its associates dubbed “A Toolkit for Joy.” The series of courses will educate them on strategies and tools to identify and interrupt their own inner critics. The plan is that the associates will then share this knowledge with their clients on Ulta Beauty’s store floors. The second part of the campaign will live on social media, where the retailer will enlist influencers to share their own “journeys to joy” and encourage their followers to do the same, with the hashtag #joyforward.
Michelle Crossan-Matos, CMO of Ulta Beauty, said the program was based on conversations she had with store associates across Ulta locations when she stepped into her role in January. Many spoke about feeling like “therapists” in their roles, she said. Through an August survey of more than 5,000 U.S. teens and adults, found through the YouGov Panel, Ulta Beauty concluded that the No. 1 obstacle to joy is one’s inner critic, something its store associates reported witnessing with their customers. “The heart and soul of this idea came from the associates — from their sense of purpose and what they put out into the industry,” Crossan-Matos said. Ulta has 53,000 associates across its stores.
“The associates believe that everything they do is to help beauty enthusiasts, predominantly women, live their best lives,” Crossan-Matos said. She said associates have reported spending half their time telling people, “You’re beautiful already,” as they’re constantly asked about ways to fix grays or wrinkles, for example.
Robbins said she sees it as her job to help the associates communicate in a way that gets through to customers. She said she signed on to the project because the idea came from Ulta associates. “This was not some campaign that some advertising agency came up with,” she said.
Ulta Beauty’s survey also found that 91% of people, including 93% of teens, rated the effect of negative self-talk on their ability to experience joy as “impactful.” And 67% of people said their negative self-talk is so common and natural to them, they don’t recognize when they’re doing it. Young people reported being the most unaware, with 74% of Gen Z saying they don’t realize when they’re engaging in negative self-talk. The areas in which negative self-talk was most pervasive were around “physical wellbeing and appearance” (82%), body image (79%) and “questioning their own worthiness of success, achievement or personal validation” (76%).
Robbins said that rather than turn associates into therapists, her aim is to “make a meaningful impact through micro-moments [between associates and customers], … which can change the way people feel, the way that they operate for the rest of the day and the way the rest of their week goes.”
For her part, Crossan-Matos said, “I want beauty care to be a tool that the next generation of little girls can use to dream and to achieve anything they want in their lives. Does that mean I sell more lipstick? Sure. That’s fine. But my brand mission is to make beauty a force for good.”