Superdrug’s marketing director on championing Zoella and why vloggers are ‘not a fad’

Social media influencers and vloggers are “not a fad” and will remain an integral part of Superdrug’s future marketing efforts, according to its marketing director Matt Walburn.

Superdrug Zoella

Last September, the health and beauty retailer aligned itself with perhaps the biggest vlogger of them all, Zoella, with her exclusive make-up range subsequently breaking Superdrug’s internal sales records.

And Walburn says the tie-up with the YouTube star has had a transformative impact.

Speaking at an event previewing Superdrug’s Christmas range, Walburn told Marketing Week: “I think what we’ve done with Zoella has shown the brand at its very best as our competitors did not react to the movement as quickly as we did.

“Identifying the vlogger trend and putting it into product form has helped to significantly boost both online and in-store sales. I think the work we’ve done with Zoella has transformed the business in a way. Vloggers will be an important part of our marketing mix for the future, I’m certain of that.”

Superdrug, which is owned by the A.S. Watson Group, announced a 31.3% rise (to £38m) in its pre tax profits for the year ending December 2014. The health and beauty retailer, which also saw group sales rise 4.8% to £1.06bn, is aiming to open up to 100 new stores over the next three years to add to its current total of 800.

Going for a broader market

Acknowledging that Superdrug still has an image of being primarily aimed at teenage girls, Walburn said the brand is now aiming to use marketing to communicate its broader appeal.

“We are proud that the brand is attractive to younger girls and that cosmetics is a big part of what we do but 30% of our shoppers are over 50 and 15% of our shoppers are men,” he explains.

“We want to communicate that Superdrug is aiming to sell products to the broadest range of people possible.”

Superdrug, which currently has five stores in Ireland, is soon to launch an ecommerce website in the country and Walburn says online is becoming a crucial part of the business.

“We have seen nearly triple digit growth on online sales in the UK over the last three years. We think online can peak to be around 15% of all sales,” he adds.

“At the moment, 30% of all online orders go on to be picked up in-store – it isn’t about separating shoppers into brackets but making sure that each part of our business compliments the other. I think the fact that we managed to refresh our entire estate during the recession has also helped our brand.”

Walburn is also proud of Superdrug’s health and beauty card. He said the loyalty card now has 6 million registered users and that Superdrug is tracking 8,000 products a week to ensure its prices remain competitive and see off competition from the supermarkets.

He rejected recent claims from Les Binet of renowned ad agency adam&eveDDB. Binet said that all price and loyalty based marketing is “nonsense”, and that brands should focus on emotive messaging like John Lewis instead.

Walburn countered: “I disagree with those comments. I think the majority of retail brands need a mix of price-led positioning, which can simultaneously layer in emotion. It shouldn’t be that price or loyalty is treated separately to emotional messaging – you need to combine all, that’s what has worked best for us.”



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