Playing the smarter consumer game: Palmer's Cocoa Butter on building its masterbrand strategy

Marketing manager shares the research and insights-driven approach driving the skin and haircare brand's first masterbrand campaign in Australia

Consumer segmentation, both demographic and attitudinal, is playing a vital role in maximising the effectiveness of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter’s first masterbrand campaign in Australia, its marketing chief says.

Centred around the moniker, ‘Find your formula’, the campaign represents the first major brand push for the skin and haircare producer locally in 15 years. The creative emphasis takes its cues from research undertaken by Palmer’s that found women universally suffer from ‘beauty chaos’ and are looking for a simplified and less expensive beauty regime than is often pitched by the industry.

Palmer’s Australian marketing manager, Hayley Bishop, told CMO the 175-year-old, family owned and US-based business has built its credibility by providing a range of products that balance natural ingredients with effective product formula. But while growth has historically come from a mix of distribution and general organic reach, the company recognised it’d hit a plateau and needed a fresh market approach.

“Our general manager [David Haskard] had the foresight to recognise consumer-first thinking was going to be key to unlocking that next phase of growth. It wasn’t distribution or organic growth or driving a particular product in market, he realised we needed to drive consumer demand and come at this at a different angle,” Bishop said.

“We needed a different marketing strategy that could drive consumer demand and reignite growth.”

This impetus led to Bishop being recruited and tasked with crafting a more deliberate strategy, moving to more of a market orientation, gathering learnings to make the best decisions and then executing the strategy with maximum impact.

Hayley BishopCredit: Palmer's
Hayley Bishop

The first step was implementing regular brand tracking. This highlighted decline in several key attributes along with receding awareness across several categories Palmer’s focuses on, Bishop said. To better understand consumers and the market, the team then embarked on a deep dive into consumer segments across its main categories to understand the both the full category plus Palmer’s part in that mix.

“It was about identifying which segments aligned to us and recognising what would be the higher value opportunities and segments to leverage,” Bishop explained. “What this highlighted was we had strong consumer base, but we had lapsed users as well as new users that weren’t aware of us and required greater engagement.

“Working with AnalogFolk, we saw a logical opportunity to better build the brand up for success by investing in a masterbrand campaign, while also continuing investment in that important product messaging and activity sitting underneath. It’s about reigniting that relevance and interest and creating a more emotional priming of those potential consumers over time to build brand equity and connection back up to hopefully deliver the long-term sales growth we believe we have a good, strong chance of achieving.”

The research was undertaken and the campaign creative shot in early 2020. At this point, Palmer’s was experiencing 10 per cent growth and spying a clear path ahead. Then COVID-19 hit. As a result, Palmer’s paused spend and focused on operational efficiencies.

“We were planning to go live as soon as we’d finalised the work, but this went on ice for the last year,” Bishop said. “As a brand, we grew share within the category in 2020, but it was a declining category, so not great for our sales. Being an established brand and having a grocery presence was important through COVID, as pharmacy was down dramatically while grocery was up, although net was down. Overall, we weathered it pretty well.”

What also became clear is that even though things have changed, the brand idea of solving ‘beauty chaos’ and ‘finding your formula’ is more relevant than ever, Bishop said. “We all had that reappraisal as a behaviour [during COVID]. If anything, this past year has made our approach more relevant and shows the strength of the idea,” she said.   

Having seen things coming back to some sense of normality, Bishop said it was time to continue with its planned trajectory.

As a medium-sized brand in a highly competitive category of 1000+ brands and 10,000+ products, Bishop has no illusions about the share of voice she could generally tap into. So Palmer’s instead has looked at how to max share of voice by doing things a bit smarter, she said.

Campaign mix

One aspect is to disrupt, via PR, using the findings of the brand’s ‘beauty chaos’ survey. This explored beauty product wastage and what’s in consumer cupboards. Bishop said her team is looking to build earned media off the back of the results.

“That allows us to come in and offer that solution to this chaos,” she said. In addition, Palmer’s has struck partnerships with Mamamia, Nine Honey and Married at First Sight. There’s also a huge amount of digital, which Bishop said was “done this in a way that’s quirky and a bit different to the typical beauty ad”.

“We have lots of placement and we’ll work to optimise based on the data as we go. Been live one week so far and we’re pleased with how it’s tracking so far,” she said.  

This need to maximise impact through data insight was a cornerstone of understanding the right audiences to reach, Bishop continued. “Given how broad the potential audience is, segmentation was so important,” she said.

“For a brand of our size, being clear on who you need to get to is so critical. It’s about trying to work out where your focus is and making a difference there. There are those people that don’t care about natural and are all about price, and you can understand who they are and what makes them different. There’s those with alignment to our products, proposition and values; then there are those organic purists that don’t necessarily align to us.

“Sometimes understanding what makes certain people tick was demographic, sometimes it was attitudinal. We analysed different things to work out the broader pool but also optimum segments to go after. Planning our game for them will have much great efficiency than trying to make some noise in the whole space.”

To further support the fresh brand push, Bishop has retuned the marketing team, breaking headcount up into category managers to encourage more expertise in each area, elevating brand management, and optimising digital as a key role. This will help ensure product messaging ladders up to the masterbrand, she said.  

“Now we have logic to do that and the processes. Everyone is clear on what we need to do,” she said.  

As to the message itself, Bishop said the core premise at the heart of Palmer’s is simple products that actually work, making affordable, effective beauty care accessible.

The initial burst of the ‘Find the Formula’ Masterbrand campaign will run until April. Product-based campaigns laddering into the masterbrand will also run throughout 2021, talking more specifically to functional benefits.

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