A marketer’s (and customer’s) love letter to Bath & Body Works
by Erin Hogan, on Feb. 7, 2020
A recent article in The Washington Post reported record sales for the popular beauty brand Bath & Body Works, which has enjoyed 40 straight quarters of growth. A rare bright spot among a sea of failing mall shops, the lotion and candle retailer has found a way to attract new customers while staying true to its brand, completely reshaping the way we think of brick-and-mortar retail.
The piece goes on to say that analysts are “flummoxed” by the brand’s power, its mass appeal and incomparable success.
Personally, I feel like this is a bit dramatic.
At our firm, my coworkers often hear me say “much of marketing is common sense.” That’s not to imply our jobs are simple (far from it), but more so that the simplest answer is often correct. If you assume an audience will react a certain way, you’re probably right. If you have a suspicion as to why one ad outperformed the other, go with your gut.
In the case of Bath & Body Works, I’m truly not surprised by their endless winning streak.
I’ve been a fan of the brand since I was a kid, walking through crowds of preteens spraying copious amounts of Cucumber Melon and Freesia “body splash” after basketball practice. Then as a college student, my friends and I used to compare our favorite scents in a nostalgic way until eventually we started buying the lotions again. Finally, when Bath & Body Works started its candle business, it was all over for me … and my wallet.
Today, I burn about a candle a week. In fact, it’s quite possible that I have singlehandedly kept their books in the black all these years. I stand in line on Black Friday for their “buy 3, get 3 free” deal, I scour my inbox for the $10 off coupons and stock up on all my favorite scents during the semi-annual sales.
And you know what … ALL of my friends do the same.
As a marketer, I feel compelled to spotlight Bath & Body Works for their achievements, but also highlight some of the seemingly simple and “common sense” tactics they’ve used over the years that serve as lessons for us all.
Play to your strengths
The internet is a beautiful thing. It’s changed the way we do business, how we store and process data, and has almost completely eliminated the need for modern malls with the advent of online shopping. But, of all the wonders and advancements that have come from the digital age, I have yet to hear of a computer that offers a scratch-n-sniff option.
Enter, Bath & Body Works.
Any expert in brick-and-mortar retail will tell you that focusing on shopping as an experience is the only way to keep physical storefronts in business. Bath & Body Works and its parent company, L Brands, know that people don’t want to buy something scented before they smell it. That’s why they make their store locations a scent-sniffer’s dream. Most have a new signature scent burning at all times, and the remodeled facades look more like a boutique shop than a traditional mall store. Employees are helpful without being pushy, and stores are arranged to subtly and conveniently guide shoppers toward the register. It’s a masterful combination of ingenuity and table-stake techniques that make for a truly unforgettable shopping experience.
Bottom line: Understand what your differentiator is and stick with it. Once you’ve mastered it, immerse your customers in your brand.
Don’t get too creative with your offers
I follow Bath & Body Works’ offers religiously — 2 candles for $22; 50% off all 3-wicks; buy 2, get 2 free — and let me tell you, EVERY ONE of them is the same deal. Somehow, it doesn’t matter how many coupons I apply, or how many different ways they structure the sale, I will still walk away with a candle that’s anywhere between $10 and $14 (down from $24.50). And that’s the genius of it all.
Marketers often struggle with crafting deals that are enticing enough to make customers act, but also keep a business profitable. Even with non-retail clients we represent, finding the right content download or service offer seems to present a major challenge.
Bath & Body Works reminds us to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes, and when we find something that works, stick with it.
Bottom line: Don’t overcomplicate things. If you have a specific campaign that’s working very well – do it over and over and over again.
Cater to your existing customers
I purchased a new candle one Christmas season and felt the scent just wasn’t as strong as I had hoped. On a whim, I brought the candle back to the store and asked if I could have a coupon to get another one. To my surprise, they let me grab a brand-new candle at no charge. Of course, after my experience, I quickly texted all of my friends to reassure them that our pals at B&BW were just as wonderful as always. And with those texts, our bond with the company grew stronger.
We’ve all heard the phrase: it costs twice as much to acquire a new customer than retain a current one. Unfortunately, even though we’ve seen this a million times, most marketers forget to keep their customers happy. In the inbound marketing world, we call this the “delight” phase. Simple things like giving your customers small perks or hosting an annual “thank you” event will keep your client/customer-base engaged.
Bottom Line: Don’t forget about the people who pay your bills, if you lose them, you will spend more to replace them.
You’ve likely heard enough of my shopping tales by now, so I will bring this to a close.
To Bath & Body Works, keep doing what you’re doing, I will be a customer for life.
And to all my marketing friends out there: “K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
– Michael Scott
– Erin Hogan