Close your eyes and for a moment, imagine your most indulgent shower with your head full of foam and bubbles. Do you associate this foam with better cleansing? If yes, you are like most of us. This belief led generations of personal care purchases in India until one brand busted this myth in 2016 – The WOW Skin Science.
Sulphates that produce the foam in shampoos cause the most profound cleansing but can be harsh on sensitive skin or dry and frizzy hair. Consumers were unaware, so WOW took up the challenge to educate them by reshaping their beliefs to change behavior. Today, it is a part of a new league of D2C brands which is changing the way Indians shop for their personal care needs.
Launched as a health and wellness brand, WOW Skin Science is a Bangalore-based brand that came up with affordable natural toxin-free products to create a niche sub-category within personal care. It scaled up quickly to cross Rs 500 cr turnover in the year ending in March 2021 and was valued at Rs 900 cr by ChrysCapital in Apr 2021.
The WOW portfolio now has more than 200 products sold through its website and app and significant eCommerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Nykaa, Grofers, and Bigbasket. It is also available in more than 5,000 department stores and pharmacies across India. 93% of sales in India came from the online channel in 2020.
The early marketing strategy of WOW Skin Science focused on analyzing consumer decision-making journeys and using tools of persuasion. The marketing strategy of WOW Skin Science can be best explained through a framework called AIDCAS, a modified version of the popular communication model, AIDA. AIDCAS stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Confidence, Action & Satisfaction.
How WOW Skin Science Marketing Strategy leveraged the AIDCAS Framework?
Attention – What is it?
The two key elements that attract attention are the product and the medium. WOW chose a digital-only omnichannel medium to target internet-savvy millennials and Gen Z. Any brand’s first encounter with the TG is through its name, logo, color, and pack design. WOW used interesting shapes to make the packs appear luxurious and minimal. The cap with a brush was a novel concept that immediately caught consumer attention.
WOW shunned traditional media & chose a host of micro-influencers & macro-influencers who already had the relevant TG in their fan base on Instagram, Facebook & Youtube. The influencers would upload engaging product videos on their channels.
The brand also targeted its audience through personalized messages based on their specific stages in the buying process. In one such instance, WOW used web push notification to achieve a 22% increase in AOV & a 103% increase in CTR with segmented campaigns.
Other mediums like paid search, email marketing, website displays, etc were also used effectively. The digital efforts successfully led to a spike in google search hits for WOW shampoo in India, as shown below.
Interest – I like it.
Interest can be evoked through novelty, problem-solving, storytelling, or personal connection with the audience. WOW, hit the right chords on each of the four parameters. Shampoo, the largest sub-category for WOW, was traditionally advertised with a focus on benefits by large FMCG brands in India. Beer shampoo and a few ayurvedic shampoo brands tried to create ingredient stories but with limited success.
WOW introduced Apple Cider Vinegar, a traditional favorite of Americans, to Indians in a novel & refreshing manner to establish a deeper connection. The ingredient was subsequently used to launch other products in haircare and skincare, which continued to intrigue millennials. The novelty of Traditional-Scientific spaces & Indian-American formulations delighted consumers.
Problem-solving would always follow ingredients for WOW Skin Science. Its website is replete with detailed information about the products & ingredients to sustain consumer interest.
The brand’s social media team would frequently respond to user comments, thus making interactions personal and intimate. The astounding storytelling is depicted in the below snapshot from the homepage of www.buywow.in and it aptly captures the brand imagery.
Desire – I want it
Desire is the force behind chasing a goal. To convert interest into desire, WOW applied both functional and emotional aspects of communication. The most crucial functional lever which no other brand could pull off till then was its pricing strategy. While the competition charged Rs. 1299 for a 200ml bottle of shampoo with Apple Cider Vinegar, WOW started selling it at Rs. 399.
With this move, the product became mass-premium instead of premium, thus creating a solid craving among the middle class. The stories around paraben-free, sulphate-free, cruelty-free, and eco-friendly products further built the desire. A separate tab on visually appealing ingredients on its website describing the goodness of each served the growing curiosity well.
At an emotional level, WOW promised healthier skin & hair with its natural ingredients, implying improved health & appearance sustainably. This would lead to higher self-esteem, a fundamental human need.
Its in-house marketing team would track consumer trends & latent demand on social media & other digital platforms to regularly reflect consumer values in its communication. For instance, WOW stirs consumers ‘vocal for local’ sentiments by highlighting ‘100% Made in India’ to forge stronger connections. These powerful connections with customers play a vital role in the success of marketing strategy of WOW Skin Science.
Confidence – I trust it.
According to the co-founder, Manish Chowdhary, a consumer comes back to interact with the brand seven times before making a buying decision online. Hence, each step in the buying journey can build a favorable consumer attitude leading to confidence in the brand.
Social proof in product ratings, reviews, and comments is the most significant source of building confidence. Comments on popular websites like Amazon provide word-of-mouth publicity. A rating of 4.1 by 27000 Amazon users instills great confidence in the product.
Action – I will buy it
Once consumers feel confident about the product, WOW creates a strong call-to-action by offering limited-period offers, exciting bundle offers, and gifts through its website and partner e-commerce websites, along with a smooth checkout process.
On its page, it aids the buying process by offering interest-free installment options & freebies. The number of customers viewing the checkout page through social proof reaffirms consumer beliefs.
Satisfaction – I will buy it again
Consumer satisfaction leading to advocacy and repeat purchases is the hallmark of great consumer brands. WOW achieved this feat by being authentic, promising modestly, and delivering what it promised to its audience. Great marketing starts with extraordinary product quality.
One of the co-founders visited the US nine times to perfect the formulation of their first Apple Cider Vinegar shampoo. ‘Health & beauty’ was one of the top keywords searched online in 2015, and team WOW understood its TG very well from the beginning. The data-based customer-centric approach adopted by WOW has been its greatest strength.
A digital-first approach allowed the team to innovate faster. New launches could happen in less than six months versus two years for large FMCG brands. The shampoo was a variation of its original Apple Cider Vinegar beverage as people demanded a product for their hair & skin.
Even the large 500ml bottle was introduced in the US on popular demand. Customer centricity is so high that once when a 30-member team insisted on changing a label for the US market, they surveyed 1,000 customers to arrive at a decision.
The WOW Skin Science India Instagram page has more than half a million followers to date. Having acquired the initial set of consumers through intense targeted digital campaigns, WOW decided to expand and capture a broader audience base.
Hence, in 2020, WOW announced its first brand ambassadors, Disha Patani and Bhumi Pednekar, for the haircare and skincare range, respectively. OTT influencers Pratik Gandhi, Shreya Chaudhary, Jasmin Bhasin & Aly Goni were also onboarded to drive brand equity among millennials.
This followed ATL & BTL activations. Billboards were installed for the first time. While WOW is a famous challenger brand in the US, it is expanding further into other regions like APAC, Middle East & Africa in its bid to become truly iconic.
For its product line extension, WOW acquired the rights to “Justice League” from Warner Bros Media to launch kids’ personal and healthcare products in 2020.
In Aug 2021, the brand launched its new proposition, ‘Be WOW, Naturally,’ with the promotion of its Onion Black Seed haircare range
In its latest ad campaign on the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, WOW featured Bollywood celebrity couple Riteish Deshmukh & Genelia D’Souza to reiterate its commitment to eco-friendliness.
Lessons for Marketers
The unique playbook on marketing strategy created by WOW Skin Science can be summarised as follows:
1. Be the first in the market,
a) Apple Cider Vinegar introduced to Indians
b)Traditional-Scientific, Indian-American spaces created
c) Early e-commerce wave in India leveraged
2. Forge right partnership: Early partnership with Amazon Global Selling drove customer-centricity due to shared values.
3. Find a Hero Product: Apple Cider Vinegar shampoo created expansion routes
4. Leverage digital: Connected with core TG through storytelling
5. Faster turnaround time: Faster product improvements delighted customers
6. Offer the right value: Won the consumers through affordable pricing
7. Be authentic: Built TRUST by delivering the promise
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