Benefit Cosmetics (@benefitcosmetics) is a remarkable case study to consider when thinking about brands that have benefited (!) from influencer networks, without actually having to pay them anything. This is primarily because they do not restrict themselves to paid collaborations or influencers, but rather open up their social media efforts to include everyday users of the product, regardless of Instagram following. This is what fundamentally distinguishes a brand ambassador strategy from an influencer marketing one.
If we look at their Instagram bio, Benefit incentivises buyers to use the product and to post it on Instagram, thus giving the brand creative license to repost these images and use them as marketing collateral. This not only makes the consumer feel like they are a key part of the brand image (which they are), but it also helps brands to save on their marketing budget.
Benefit has had a long history of catchy hashtags that we have now come to associate with their vibe: from #gimmebrow, to #POREfessional, to #cheekleaders, they’ve always found a way to ensure that their products are easy to find within the all the content on Instagram.
Majority of these posts are actually reposted from users of the product, and here we also see that Benefit’s most-used hashtag is #regram, which means that most of the content on their social media is taken from their pool of consumers & ambassadors.
In this article, I want to focus on one of their earlier hashtag ventures for #rollerlash, which was released in collaboration with Elle Magazine back in 2015. This effort was two pronged: (1) it sought out potential brand ambassadors via the magazine readership, and (2) it encouraged these ambassadors to post pictures online by including a selfie frame in the magazine.
By collaborating with Elle, Benefit disrupted the sampling model in print media. It allowed readers of the magazine and patrons of the brand to test the product before it launched in stores. By allowing people exclusive access to a certain product, the value of the product increases and people want to find out more about it online. By including a selfie card, Benefit also made sure that people who chose to post pictures online could do so in a uniform manner unique to the brand.
By including #ROLLERLASH on the frame, Benefit was not dependent on consumers actually using the hashtag in their caption — either way, people knew what product was being advertised. According to Marketing Week, this effort led to “7,000 selfies using the Roller Lash, with the selfie frame technique resulting in 38,000 tweets about the product and 7,129 hashtag uses in total.”
Benefit also managed to get unpaid posts from @zoesugg, who posted before and after pictures of her eyes with the mascara. For such a highly popular influencer, this was an immense steal for Benefit.
It isn’t difficult for brands to leverage on fans of their product in order to generate buzz about their products. Brand ambassadors are generally more than happy to talk about products in exchange for samples or a feature on your brand’s Instagram account. It is important to capture this audience to bolster marketing efforts, especially because they stem from organic and honest perspectives by real users.