#MARKiesAwards 2021 case study: NARS hands out 'Orgasms' using 90s inspired chatrooms

Cosmetics brand NARS worked with agencies CPR Vision & Access Comms to tackle its challenge of building brand affinity with its new product, Orgasm X. The challenge involved launching the new blush shade for its product and promote it without a physical event. The campaign struck a chord with consumers and according to the brand, there was aggressive growth in its database. The campaign ran for a little over a month and ended up bagging the gold award for Most Effective Use - Launch / Re-Launch at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s recent MARKies Awards 2021. Havas Media Singapore was also involved in the campaign. Here's the secret sauce behind NARS' winning initiative.

Challenge 

NARS was faced with the challenge of building brand affinity with the new Orgasm X product line, especially during a time when physical events were not allowed. The original Orgasm product line continues to be one of the key product pillars for NARS, with the brand celebrating the original shade every year. NARS understood that the online scene was a highly competitive space last year. With everyone staying indoors, every brand was fighting for a share of voice online. However, its competitors’ investments were heavy on ATL, and their strategies were strongly tactical and promotion-driven.

To pivot in the new normal, NARS and Access Comms needed to stimulate interest and create buzz in a manner that was not only creative and innovative, but also retained NARS’ unique storytelling and education. The objectives were to grow the brand’s database, keep leads warm, and convert to purchase on retailer.com.

The Singapore brand team was inspired by this call to-action to “Text XXX for (an Orgasm)” and elevated this idea into an experience where consumers are invited to participate in a provocative interaction in the form of a chat. Drawing inspiration from the classic choose-your-own-adventure, the experience was an interactive story where you could participate "anonymously". In the XXX CHAT, one got to choose who they wanted to be. Inspired by the chatrooms of the 1990s and 2000s, participants could choose their username, go according to their mood and desires and chat with the chatbot (Pleasureseeker). Participants got to redeem an Orgasm blush sample at the end.

Watch this video to see how the gameplay worked.

When personifying the two shades Orgasm X and Orgasm, questions such as "Will you be 'Orgasm', or the more intense 'Orgasm X?'" was asked. Each personality prompted a different response from the chatbot. The personality mirrored the actual intensity of the Orgasm versus the Orgasm X blush shade. Users got to decide how far they would like to take the conversation and experience the bestselling Orgasm in return.

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Known for its provocative shade names such as Orgasm, Deep Throat, G-Spot, all NARS products are named personally by makeup artist François Nars, to give the product personality. The brand described Orgasm X as a deeper, more intense version of the original Orgasm. When individuals experience the chat with both usernames, they learnt that Orgasm is the "bolder" twin. 

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At the end of the chat, the chatbot assessed if users would like to find out what was the key to ecstasy and suggested sending them a surprise. Users were then asked to give their contact information, allowing for the successful conversion of the user into a lead. The campaign ran from 7 August to 30 September last year.

Strategy

Now that users have shown interest in the brand, its aim was to keep them warm as a lead. To complete the experience, users received the physical Orgasm sample within seven working days. And as a little incentive to persuade them to purchase, they were also rewarded with a surprise code to shop on the retailer's eCommerce platform. To bring this to life, NARS understood that CRM was key. CPR Vision played a key role in this stage. The next part of the consumer journey began with an automatic "Thank You" email that was first sent to them automatically when they signed up. In total, there were three dynamic electronic direct mailers put in place. They were strategically timed at:

Touch one - Thank you: Day zero
Touch two - First reminder: Day seven (The samples were estimated to arrive within seven days)
Touch three -  Second reminder: Day 10

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To grow the brand’s database and keep the leads warm, NARS amplified it with shareability through social sharing buttons at the end of the experience via messenger platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram. It also encouraged consumers to share the campaign with their social network via email to send them an Orgasm sample as well. It also allowed for "gift a friend" in an electronic direct mailer after the consumer completed the game to easily refer another person. This allowed consumers to easily share the experience with their friends via email, Telegram or Whatsapp.

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Execution

The bigger marketing goal for the brand was to ultimately drive sales of the blush on the retailer's eCommerce platform. Hence, it partnered with Havas Media Singapore to make sure the campaign got enough eyeballs. New forms of media buy optimisations were also explored, and expanded audience sizes were achieved by expanding on targeting strategies for Facebook Link Ad and S4M. According to NARS, the media buy campaign exceeded the number of page lands by more than 30%.

These counts helped optimised the top of the funnel so that NARS could effectively automate the consideration, and importantly, the conversion part of the consumer journey.

It also tapped into unconventional sampling with a mail-to-door execution. When it comes to sampling, most beauty brands on the market either work with influencers or utilise lead generation, both of which drive customers to the store for the collection, and this usually results in a high drop-off rate. To solve this, NARS mailed the sample directly to their homes, successfully trialling 100% of the leads. The physical Orgasm sample was mailed to consumers within seven working days.

It also tapped into personalised and dynamic trigger electronic direct mailers. In the first part of touch two, the EDM was sent to normal and friends with SG$5 discount code. The second part of touch two saw EDMs being sent to those who have referred a friend and did not receive a sample with SG$8 discount code, and touch three had an incentive that was sent to all users.

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The choice of platform for the XXX CHAT was on NARS website allowed it to springboard to the retailer. Besides adding authenticity to the campaign, the website satisfies campaign objective to drive traffic, and springboard consumers to NARS' eCommerce platform to shop.

Results 

According to NARS, the campaign achieved a speedy expansion of the database. The campaign's goal was to collect new leads in the two-month-long campaign. Not only did it achieve this goal in one month and at two times the speed, it also overachieved by bringing 8% more new leads at the end of the campaign. This was especially notable considering consumers had to go through the entire chat to be converted into a lead. NARS had expected higher drop-offs as it was not a convenient form-filling process. According to the beauty brand, this result led to aggressive growth in database for the brand.

It also achieved high consumer referrals. The virality was also driven by the action of consumers, who referred their social circle or network to participate in the XXX CHAT. Strong engagement metrics such as open and click rates, were noted for all touchpoints. It only saw a slight dip in engagement from touch two to touch three, despite touch three being 10 days since the lead has last engaged with it on the XXX CHAT, which the company said was very positive to see. The results translated into sales, ranking NARS at the number one brand in the blush category a retailer's eCommerce platform, the brand said.

The XXX CHAT demonstrated creativity and agility in pivoting in a dynamic COVID-19 situation by launching a first-of-its-kind digital activation, an original idea created in Singapore. Beyond awareness, NARS encouraged consumers to actively participate and effectively built brand affinity through this campaign.