RoC Skincare’s Commerce Marketing Strategy Goes More Than Skin Deep

Startup ecommerce brands are struggling to get by without the Facebook advertising engine. Legacy brands are flummoxed by the ecommerce evolution.

One company that’s hoping to split the difference is RoC Skincare, a brand that spun out of Johnson & Johnson and was acquired by the private equity firm Gryphon in 2018. RoC was first acquired by J&J in 1993.

It was Gryphon’s bet that split from the somewhat staid J&J brick-and-mortar focused organization – J&J products are carried in Walmart, Walgreens, Target and CVS among other mass retail chains – RoC could modernize its marketing to drive ecommerce.

RoC’s first two employees were CEO Fernando Acosta, a former senior marketing leader at Unilever and Avon, and CMO Hillary Hutcheson, a marketer from L’Oréal and Walgreens-owned brand No7 Skincare.

Back in 2019, after RoC was acquired from J&J, it took “the brand and all the assets of the brand, but they didn’t bring any people, any marketing plans or any innovation strategy,” Hutcheson said.

Free of the legacy marketing mentality – J&J’s version of the product hadn’t even bothered with a site or Instagram handle – RoC is now redefining itself around younger, skin-savvy customers. (“Skintellectuals,” as Hutcheson puts it).

AdExchanger caught up with Hutcheson to talk about the brand’s revamp and her marketing strategy given the clean slate.

AdExchanger: What are your sales channels?

HILLARY HUTCHESON: RoC is a mass-distributed brand. We’re in Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, Ulta and other stores.

When we bought the brand, RoC didn’t even have a digital presence. We launched Roc.com and enabled ecommerce direct to consumer in June of 2020.

And then, of course, we have ecommerce with our retail partners. Ecommerce has become a big driver for RoC, especially with Amazon.

How big is Amazon as a share of overall sales?

It’s definitely one of our top retail partners.

But in-store sales are still the majority?

Yes.

We have a very established business from a brick-and-mortar standpoint, but that has evolved in the past couple years. A significant portion of our business with our retail partners is now done online as well.

Some big retailers have launched online ad platforms. Do you use any of those?

Retailer-owned media networks has definitely been a big trend in the past couple of years. And yes, we have experimented with some of the bigger ones.

As an example, we’ve done some fairly big programs with the Target group Roundel, and we’ve seen great results. You can get really deep on the targeting.

What do you mean when you say you can go really deep with targeting?

it goes back to our overarching targeting strategy.

When we took on the brand, we conducted a massive segmentation analysis to narrow down our target, which we call the “skintellectual.” That’s a beauty consumer who is very category involved: She uses seven or more skincare items per week in her routine, spends significantly more than the category average on skincare and is ingredient savvy. She knows about retinol, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. She visits the dermatologist.

These are some of the specific attributes that we’re going after.

And on the retailer-owned platforms like a Roundel, we can laser target to speak to this specific consumer: this is a woman who buys multiple skincare products, including higher-priced items or those branded with “hyaluronic acid”

What does your media mix look after launching social and ecommerce?

One tactic we use to drive the overall funnel, whether it’s awareness or consideration down to conversion, is linear TV and OTT.

Then we complement that with significant investments in digital, including paid social, which is a big topic for us. We’ve seen a lot of success with Instagram and Facebook, which have remained tried and true over the past couple of years, despite the iOS updates. TikTok as a marketing lever has also worked quite well for us in driving awareness and sales and helping us recruit a new consumer set.

Social channels are good, too, because influencer is a huge one for us. We partner with many influencers who themselves are skintellectuals and can speak to the efficacy of the product and our clinical proof, which are core to the brand.

Programmatic is a core component of our media. We’re a brand competing in heavily saturated markets, up against brands with huge budgets – and we don’t have a huge budget. We have to make our money work harder for us. Programmatic is a way to reach targeted consumers in a more flexible way while controlling the cost.

We also run Nielsen media mix model studies at a regular cadence to check in on ROI and to see that we’re spending efficiently.

Do you have a programmatic vendor?

We use an agency called Empower. They’re well-versed in the research we’ve done and our target consumer. Before any programmatic campaign kicks off, they take that information, map it onto the campaign and make sure it fits our targeting profile.

With programmatic, do you send traffic to Roc.com, Amazon.com or another retailer site?

It’s a balance. We’re consistently reevaluating and divvying up our spend, because we want to make sure that we’re supporting all channels holistically.

There are two main campaign approaches that we take. One is more of a national campaign lens that supports all retailers that carry the brand, including Roc.com, as well as Amazon.

But we also run more evergreen online channel tactics. On Roc.com, for example, we have an always-on strategy as it pertains to Google search and Facebook paid social. We have some direct sales on Facebook, but it’s more about trying to drive traffic to our DTC.

Finally, Amazon is the other place we have an always-on evergreen strategy. But we have to decide whether the Amazon ad platform should serve ads that keep people on Amazon or send them to Roc.com. If it’s an Amazon shopper, is that where they’ll actually convert?

Our other retailer ad platforms link directly to their product pages.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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