Three steps to a viral success

Earlier this year, Japanese cosmetics brand Shu Uemura rolled out a digital campaign to associate the artistic flow of the brand with local star Charlene Choi. The campaign saw immense success both online and on the retail front for the brand. Diana Ho, brand manager for Shu Uemura – Hong Kong, shared the three key steps for the video’s success during the two-day Shopper Marketing 2014 conference held in Singapore.

Step 1: Branding

Branding is vital when you wish to create a unique artistic approach and proposition for a brand. Ultimately you want to tell consumers a story. For Shu Uemura, the focus for this campaign was to emphasise the professionalism of its products and, more importantly, to come across as an artistic brand, said Ho.

Step 2: Have a big idea

Despite being taken over by L’Oréal, Shu Uemura is still very much known as a Japanese brand. To come across as an artistic brand and remain true to its Asian heritage, the art form of calligraphy was chosen as the brand’s inspiration for the campaign.

While the idea was bold, ultimately what the brand needed was for the campaign to go viral. Precise execution was thus necessary.

Here’s what the brand did next:

  • Pick the right celebrity: It comes as no surprise that celebrities make for great brand buzz and help in gaining public awareness of a campaign. However, picking the right celebrity matters. Asian singing sensation Choi was picked for this campaign because, much like the brand, she was also celebrating her 30th birthday. Shu Uemura saw this as the perfect opportunity to pair the two up. “We needed to pick a celebrity who would be relevant to the brand and whose passion would be in line with the brand. Choi at this stage in her career felt as though she is happy and satisfied and growing. All these qualities were in line with our brand,” Ho said.
  • Emotions matter: An emotional hook either makes or breaks a campaign. You either love it or hate it. But either way, it creates conversation. For a campaign to go viral, people need to feel in touch and connected to the brand. Shu Uemura – through the campaign – talked about Choi’s journey as an artist to try and reel in the consumers. “The public is always interested in a celebrity’s personal story and we built up the campaign using this story which resonated well with the consumers,” Ho said.
  • Play up the surprise: Any campaign which aims to go viral needs to catch the audience off guard. “We chose an artist who drew a big picture of Choi. After the entire painting, which was 10x10 metres, only one eighth of the eye liner was used. This shocked and surprised the public,” Ho said.

Watch the video here:

Step 3: Product and merchandising

No doubt, like any brand and marketer, the goal of the entire Shu Uemura campaign was to sell the product, said Ho. To sell a product, demonstrating its unique selling point through the campaign is a must.

For this make-up range, a body painting of Choi was done in detail to depict the versatility in the range of thickness the eyeliner can provide. Also the fact that only an eighth of the product was used, despite such a big piece of art work being created, added to the product’s wow factor.

Meanwhile, merchandising was also key. The retail stores ensured the online campaign translated offline. The beauty advisers in-store personally used the liners to show their creativity and more than 56 looks were showcased.

“Having the right channel is vital. It’s about having synergy and seamless brand expression for the consumer. While WhatsApp and online platforms like Yahoo and Google might have more mobile penetration, Facebook and Instagram were more in line with the campaign as it was so heavily focused on imagery. It made more sense to be on Facebook and Instagram and later translate that to offline,” Ho said.


According to Ho, the campaign created a lot of PR buzz. It resulted in almost nine times ROI and HK$11 million in PR coverage. The video also shot up to the second-most viewed campaign on YouTube, despite launching in mid-February. Meanwhile, it saw an overall 200% growth in the eyeliner range and a 30% increase in sales for overall eye make-up.

Shopper Marketing 2014 is a two-day event held on 25 and 26 June in Singapore at the Grand Park City Hall.