Biotech Meets Beauty

See how we partnered with Virtue Labs to bring their revolutionary hair care technology to market—and to scale.

Summary

With 6+ years of research and 18 patents, startup Virtue Labs developed a breakthrough technology for haircare called Alpha Keratin 60ku™. Based in a proprietary method of extracting keratin from human hair, this first-of-its-kind ingredient was poised to disrupt a $68 billion industry—if Virtue could get it in the hands of a captive audience. Virtue came to AMP to establish a true day-to-day partner in creative, media, and technology for their brand launch and continued growth. Since 2016, we’ve been there every step of the way.

Here’s how AMP Agency developed a go-to-market strategy to launch Virtue as a disruptive force in beauty, and scale their direct-to-consumer ecommerce business.

Our Roles

  • Strategy
  • User Experience
  • Creative
  • Technology
  • Social Media
  • Email
  • Analytics
  • Display Advertising
  • Media Planning & Buying
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Programmatic Media

Challenge

The beauty industry is an already competitive market undergoing massive growth. However, in the hair care space, the model for distribution has remained relatively traditional. Virtue aimed to disrupt that model by bringing a fresh, direct-to-consumer approach to their sales model, but needed a highly targeted strategy to communicate their point of differentiation—a powerful but somewhat complicated science story. With a premium price point, they needed to prove the value of their products, which lives at the intersection of results and a sophistication comparable to other luxury beauty brands.

Insights

Most competitive brands live in one of two camps: either in the premium category or rooted in science/technology with a strong ingredient story. In contrast, we saw an opportunity to position Virtue in a unique space of ownership at the intersection of both technology and luxury. We knew filtering communication through these lenses would allow us to gather audience insights and optimize continuously past launch. To effectively partner with Virtue, we set out to meet and exceed their business objectives and, ultimately, scale their business over time.

Solution


Introducing Virtue to the world required a multi-phased strategic approach.

We developed a holistic go-to-market strategy for the brand, incorporating e-commerce strategy, a website build, shipping experience, media plan, and creative content to support the brand launch. As the brand continued to gain traction and grow year over year, we remained a nimble partner. We drew insight from digital media performance and developed additional successful programs for the brand, from digital campaigns to product positioning to new technology builds.

Understanding the Audience: Pre-Launch Insights

To ensure Virtue reached the appropriate audience, AMP led in conducting research to gain understanding of the consumer landscape. Our insights allowed us to establish a core demographic, niche audiences, and cohort groups for the brand. To get smart on the target audience, we conducted three research studies, including an in-depth consumer survey, creative concept testing, and focus groups with stylists.

Through both our external and internal research, we developed a demographic for our core consumer—aged 25-44, HHI of 75k+, college educated—and strategically bucketed the consumer into four psychographic profiles based on her shopping and content consumption habits: The Style Star, The Culturista, The Millennial Mom & The Beauty Guru.

These audience findings empowered AMP to craft personalized and targeted problem/solution-oriented messaging. The goal: always speak to the right audience in a way that resonates authentically with their need state.

 

Getting Tech-Savy

Virtue always knew they wanted to launch their business solely on an e-commerce platform. AMP was there to both strategically recommend the tech platforms they should use to build out their e-commerce business and implement them. With this, we developed the website and full e-commerce experience.

Based on Virtue’s needs, we selected the Magento platform for its flexibility with content management capabilities. Virtue knew that they needed a site that could provide customers with a personalized e-commerce experience. Magento’s system allows for ample customization, so both the AMP and Virtue teams could make simple changes to the website without needing the help of a website development team. 

 

Going Social

Armed with ample social media expertise in the beauty industry, AMP got to work building a strategy to bring Virtue’s brand to life across social. Our priority KPIs were:

  1. Awareness

  2. Consideration & sales

  3. Equity

 Through these lenses, we aimed to build awareness of the Virtue brand at scale while highlighting the unique benefits of Alpha Keratin 60ku™, drive purchase of the full product line, and establish Virtue as a legitimate player in the category with a value proposition that set it apart from competitors.

We established channel-specific KPIs, channel purposes for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter, and a community management plan. Instagram, for example, served as a hub to introduce users to the brand’s aesthetic and a place to showcase brand love, user generated images, and influencer content, which we know are all-important in the current beauty marketing landscape. To date, we’ve helped the channel organically grow to 17K+ followers. Complementing our organic approach on Instagram, Facebook serves primarily as a channel for paid media and customer interaction.

Once the strategy was in place, we curated, concepted, and produced creative content on a monthly cadence for the first year of Virtue’s time in market.  Today, we continue to support Virtue with paid social advertising and social campaign work.

 

From Research to Reach: Our Consumer to Buy

Launching a brand required a highly strategic media plan. Our biggest effort was dedicated to paid social, which brought us the most efficient conversion. This proved to be key for a young brand without massive awareness because it allowed us to be specific with targeting, test different messaging, and reach varying audiences with customized creative. As part of this effort, we were able to hit +19% greater customer acquisition than forecasted in the first year.

We chose to advertise with media entities like Refinery29 and Midroll that both reflected Virtue’s core values and fit with the defined audience’s consumption habits. AMP developed a comprehensive media plan that included programmatic, branded content, podcasts, and dynamic retargeting, with the goal of sustaining engagement with both prospective and existing customers through sequential messaging. We prioritized content and storytelling as a medium for women to engage with the brand and reinforce Virtue’s strong voice and unique point of view.

 

A Bold Beauty Partnership

We worked with Refinery29 to build a multi-touch, yearlong brand story with a flagship media partner to introduce women to Virtue. Refinery29 was a compelling partner for us. We started our relationship at a time when they were specifically seeking new beauty brands to help tell their story and skyrocket their business. This strategic and successful partnership resulted in custom content, onsite media, page takeovers, and sampling.

 

Launching New Products

Virtue defined their Restorative Treatment Mask as a key new product launching in April 2018. We developed a comprehensive campaign to support its debut and drive sales, producing all content in-house. The creative assets for the Mask launch were specifically developed for the brand with social acquisition in mind.

Virtue_NextToCopy

Based in the product’s superior power claim—3 minute application for healthier hair—and user reviews anchored in efficacy, our creative highlighted product benefits, showcased before/after transformations, and demonstrated our point of differentiation in the hair mask category.

In our first year working with Virtue, we also uncovered that our initial projected purchaser data skewed younger than the actual consumer buying the product. We used that insight to inform both our casting and targeting for the Restorative Treatment Mask campaign. We casted models diverse in hair type and age to resonate more authentically with our audience, for example prominently featuring a model with gray hair.

We also explored some new platform features for the first time, including Instagram Stories, which drove impressive results for the campaign. Overall, the campaign performed incredibly well and drove stronger than anticipated sales for the product.

 

Results

Since launching, Virtue has gone from fledgling beauty brand to cult favorite. Garnering recognition from press, beauty insiders, and fans alike, the brand continues to gain momentum at an impressive rate as they bring their business to scale and their technology to the masses.

Stats

24% over projected sales for year one

36% repeat purchasers

19% greater customer acquisition than forecast

15k Instagram followers

8 Awards from major beauty publications

Find out how we can put solutions like these to work for you.

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