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Beauty brands are using experiential marketing to fight fear of the new

This article was originally featured in Beauty Business Journal.

With 53% of Brits afraid of trying a new beauty product, brands are increasingly turning to experiential marketing to encourage them to make the leap. Sense London’s Diana Petre-Mag looks at the factors in play and how to deliver the most effective beauty experience to attract new customers.

Beauty products are a highly personal purchase. Once someone finds a brand that they like and that works for them, they tend to stick with it. This is illustrated by recent research from, which reveals that over half of UK consumers (53%) are afraid to buy new beauty products. This figure rises in specific categories, with 68% of Brits saying they would always buy the same perfume because ‘it’s part of their identity’, and 66% repurchasing the same mascara brand, making beauty one of the strongest categories in terms of customer loyalty.

Although of course important, beauty brands can’t grow through loyal customers alone – they need new product launches to draw attention to new and existing products. So how can beauty brands win over new customers and accelerate the adoption of new products?

In a category like this, it’s all about building trust in new brands and products. If consumers can be convinced a new product is ‘sensational’, according to the study, 78% of people will switch to it. One of best ways to prove this is by giving out free samples, which 33% of consumers say helps them adopt something new. However, even more important is a friend vouching for the product, which 52% of people believe will influence them. This indicates that, although free samples are effective, they are not enough. Beauty brands can significantly increase their chance of winning people over if they can generate a product experience that people then want to share with their own network.

This realisation in brand behaviour is driving an increasing number to take product sampling beyond simply handing freebies out in store, attach them to a magazine or place in event marketing goody bags. From Revlon to Molton Brown, beauty brand experiences are proving to be a successful way to engage directly with consumers to drive more convincing trial as well as encouraging new customers to spread the word and purchase.

Benefit are a prime example of a beauty brand that has wholeheartedly embraced experiential activity at the core of their marketing strategy. From their vibrant pink Roller Liner Diner on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles that ran for two weeks to their Benefit Ship on London’s Southbank and drive-through on the way to Glastonbury 2018, they are feeling the benefits away from store and continue to launch products with pop-up brand experiences that are shared through PR and social. Revlon, meanwhile, recently opened a 24-hour beauty salon to celebrate its best-selling colorstay foundation, with Max Factor unveiling its Facefinity gallery.

But what factors are key to maximising the effectiveness of these real world beauty experiences? Here are four essentials:

1. Focus on a product or engaging theme

Beauty brand experiences work best when they train consumers’ attention on a single product, or focus on a theme. This year, L’Oréal is pushing its Lancôme fragrances for Christmas by erecting a 36-foot Eiffel Tower at St Pancras International station made from 1,500 bottles of its La Vie Est Belle fragrance, with a pop-up shop at its base. A great twist is that the bottles will be donated to the international cancer support charity Look Good Feel Better.

2. Deepen the trial experience

Use marketing tools to create an environment that allows consumers to try out the beauty product as thoroughly as possible. Ideally, this should include experts at hand that can offer guidance and demonstrations to help people get the most out of the product. Last Christmas, The Body Shop created a sensorial Enchanted Forest pop-up experience in Shoreditch, London to promote its green credentials and the new Christmas collection. It included a programme of free events, including makeovers, workshops, panel talks, and yoga classes. This year it is running the ‘Dream Big’ beauty experience, bringing the brand to a younger, eco-focused audience in an environment that promises to ‘pamper, inspire and inform’.

3. Make it personal

Tap into the highly personal and intimate nature of beauty products by tailoring the experience to each visitor as much as possible. MAC’s Studio Fix experience offered each consumer a ‘Shade Match’ consultation to identify their unique foundation colour codes. These were then applied to any product they purchased on the day at a #GetYourFix personalisation station.

4. Include a spread-the-word mechanism

Extend the reach and influence of each activation to visitors’ friends and family by including techniques that enable people to post their experiences of the product or brand through their social media channel – or channels – of choice. Use a driver such as a prize draw or freebie to incentivise this vital process. For example, visitors to Benefit’s GlastonBrow pit-stop on the road to Glastonbury 2018 who shared a picture of themselves at the festival with their gift from the drive-thru using #BenefitBrows were in with the chance of winning a year’s supply of Benefit’s cult brow products.

5. Use data to grow your customer base

Incorporate ways to capture the data of pop-up visitors and getting their permission to send out information, such as offers, free samples and beauty tips, and guidance. Brand trial is a great way to drive sales and more importantly loyalty beyond the life of the activation.

Managed in the right way, beauty experiences are a key weapon in the battle to quell consumers’ fear of trying new products in this category, while also capitalising on the importance of friends and family influence in encouraging people to switch brands.


Whether it be Festivals, Trade Shows, PR Stunts, Installations or Pop Ups to name a few, we believe brand experiences are one of the most powerful forms of marketing to impact consumer perception and attitude towards a brand. They can create real behaviour change when born out of a deep consumer insight allied to a compelling idea. And it’s these fundamentals we look to get right whatever the live, virtual or hybrid task in hand.


Sampling is all too often perceived as an unsophisticated, somewhat ‘blunt’ marketing tool. Over the last 16 years Sense has pioneered a set of strategic principles which underpin our unique approach to sampling and which are highly measurable from both an ROI and consumer behaviour change perspective. We will happily guide brands through the myriad of sampling channels and products available so whether it’s mass face to face sampling, in offices, digitally, at home or just a strategic framework that you are after, we can provide a blend of tactics to fulfil both brand and sales objectives.


With many clients now focused on activating in channels more closely associated with a sale, our heavyweight retail experience closes the loop on a typical shopper journey by encompassing the moment of truth in store. Be it prize promotions, shopper toolkits, key visual creation, path-to-purchase communications, category strategy, B2B campaigns or Amazon optimisation, our goal is to create forward-thinking retail experiences that deliver demonstrable brand value. We aim to make ‘retail fail’ a thing of the past for ambitious brands looking to thrive is an ever-competitive landscape and believe our streamlined team is perfectly placed to do this.


Knowing what will keep a brand bright, exciting, and vital means we need to keep one step ahead of the curve. Our thought leadership hub, The Futures Lab, helps us to understand the marketing trends of tomorrow. It’s also the origin of strategies and methodologies which have created over 65 award-winning campaigns. 


Creativity is nothing without results. And we know that commissioning bold concepts, capable of changing minds, requires reassurance that it’s the right thing to do. 

Data, insights, and research precedes every campaign we do, and our proprietary measurement tool, EMR, gives us a decade of campaign performance metrics. Which is why we’re proud to have been recognised as industry-leading by brands like The Economist, Coca-Cola, and Molson Coors. 


We believe brand experience is inherently more varied than other forms of marketing. No formula, no template, no cookie-cutter approach – and often no precedent. 

That’s why, Sense places trust at the heart of its business – grounded in teamwork between our people and yours. Our processes are efficient, our senior team stay involved and our partnership mentality had helped us sustain powerful client relationships, some lasting over 10 years.