Avon is honing in on its ability to transform women’s lives, with a global campaign asking people to reconsider the 135-year-old beauty business. Its chief brand and beauty officer explain why now is the right time to “blow the dust off.”
When you think of Avon, you most likely conjure up images a of handbag-sized catalogue filled with scented pages and pictures of Senses bubble bath and Skin So Soft spritz. And possibly a neighbour armed with a bag full of miniature lipsticks and nail polishes who would regularly ding the doorbell.
However, over the past 12 months the brand has been looking to carve out its own place in the global $532bn beauty and personal care market, heavily investing in digital tools for its army of direct sellers. It now allows its five million representatives in 50 markets to run a business from their phone, create and share marketing content and personalise recommendations for regular customers.
Since the pandemic kicked off, the beauty brand has seen a 200% uptick to digital transactions. In the first half of this year, the number of Avon reps has also grown twofold as social selling becomes more relevant to people looking to embrace a more remote and flexible way of working.
Avon sells three lipsticks every second, seven bottles of fragrance every second (which it claims is more than any other brand) and two bottles of its Anew skincare products every second.
In a world of Glossiers, Beauty Pies and Drunk Elephants, however, Avon has an image problem. It’s failing to keep up with these ‘cool-girl’ brands and engage a younger generation of women. Even its chief brand and beauty officer, James Thompson, concedes that over the past few years Avon has been “underestimated” from a brand perspective.
As a result, its launching ’Watch Me Now’ a significant global campaign that will run in more than 70 markets globally calling on people to reconsider their views of the company.
The premise behind the push is that Avon has been transforming women’s lives by “doing beauty differently” for 135 years. The ads – which will run across OOH, digital and press – nod at Avon’s heritage as a purpose-driven business that gave women the power to make an independent income in the US before they even had the right to vote.
‘Watch Me Now’ underscores the power of beauty to create opportunities for people to earn on their own terms, and highlight’s Avon’s own support for causes including domestic abuse and breast cancer – with the business fundraising £20m for charities relating to the latter cause and teaming up with Coppafeel to encourage women to check their breasts regularly.
The hero ad celebrates the success of the underdog and highlights the unexpected and underestimated aspects of the Avon brand, its people, activism, and products – for which Avon has been granted more than 750 patents and 300 awards.
For Thompson, it’s less a campaign and more a “fundamental repositioning”.
“There’s a parallel with how Avon as a brand has been underestimated over the past few years,” he says pointing to the fact that the brand has 98% awareness but a “much lower” consideration among customers.
“We need to blow the dust off and reinvent ourselves for another generation.”
‘Watch Me Now’ was created in collaboration with Wunderman Thompson but restrictions from the pandemic mean the work itself was produced in-house. The ads are also being supported by an extensive identity refresh.
Avon’s network of reps will also be central to spreading the message. Influencers in their own right, Thompson says the brand’s sellers are its “first media channel”.
“We’ve equipped them with much better technology,” he explains, pointing to the Avon On app which allows them to do everything from invoice customers to built assets for Facebook or Instagram from their phone.
“In the first months of this campaign we’ll be sending them content on a regular basis that they’ll be encouraged to share with customers. Over time, we’ll be giving them tools and education on how to make their own content too within the framework of this campaign. It’s effectively the world’s most democratic marketing programme ever.”
All that said, the brand isn’t planning to ‘do an Argos’ any time soon and ditch its hallmark physical brochure.
“It’s still a really important part of our business. It’ll be updated to reflect our new positioning and we’ll be improving the quality but we’re an omni-channel business – we have stores in some countries, we’re online elsewhere. We need to be where our customers can find us.”