We are kicking off 2018 with a weekly series of interviews with creatives, innovators, and small business owners focusing on the transformative power of social media and digital marketing for their brands and businesses. Our first interview is with Catherine Williams, Founder & Brand Manager of ''My Natural Hair''. Catherine's passion for natural hair and beauty can be traced back to her time as a flight attendant in the Middle East, where she spent significant time traveling the world and subsequently discovering natural hair products and learning about the beauty revolution. Upon returning to South Africa, the lack of such products inspired her to launch a locally produced beauty brand for natural hair.
You are one of the innovators in the hair industry in South Africa. How did you get to this point and what was the inspiration behind ''My Natural Hair''?
I have naturally curly hair that comes with a story of having my hair relaxed from the age of six. Curiosity of my authentic self and a new found gym routine at the age of 21 saw me stop that routine and grow out my own hair. This was prior to any knowledge of the natural hair movement. It was only once I moved abroad to work as a flight attendant in the Middle East that I came across natural hair products on a layover in New York. Since that day, I was a product junkie, trying every US natural hair care brand and nurturing my passion for this category. The challenge that sparked my journey into My Natural Hair came about when I returned to South Africa to discover that there were hardly any suitable product ranges available for natural hair. There were two brands in retail and I felt that we needed more. I was also perplexed that there were no South African brands in retail. This brought me to the point of presenting my initial brand idea to the FMCG company I was employed with in a marketing role, in 2014. They didn’t quite understand or feel that it was an opportunity at the time, but asked me to present again in Dec 2015 and I got the go ahead to start in Jan 2016.
When you were looking to launch a new line of products in the beauty industry, how did social media play a part in launching these successfully?
Launching on a digital platform made the best sense at the time and I continue to leverage the power of digital platforms today. I’ve done marketing research and found that the target consumer is a digital native and the natural hair movement has grown because of the sharing power of social media. Technology and media are constantly changing - just a few years ago hardly anyone would’ve thought that apps and social media would transform consumer behaviour with brands and that smartphones would replace TV screens and desktop computers as the main source of searching for information. Attention is still on screens but now it’s the screen in the palm of your hand.
What are some of the challenges for marketing beauty products using social media?
The main challenge is reaching all our potential consumers and standing out in a world overloaded with digital content. Content management has been key in our online success. With big international competition and budgets to compete with, we needed to be very creative with the campaigns we run. We’ve chosen to be authentically South African and try to stay away from using stock images. This is just our strategy but for beauty brands, my advice would be to understand your consumer to the finest detail and find out what would capture her attention for your product or service. Create content that is different to the mass of standard content being thrown at consumers all day. While we may think that everyone has a smartphone and surely
consistent access to the internet. Data remains a problem in South Africa. Data prices and internet access are still core issues in South Africa and the rest of the continent. Because of the shift to video content online, these factors need to be seriously considered when creating content for your audience.
Which social media channel was the most integral in achieving your marketing objectives?
For My Natural Hair, the most integral channel has been Instagram because it is so visual making it the perfect beauty brand partner. We’ve observed a high level of engagement from the right audience and have gained strong influencer relationships from this platform. That said, I can’t fail to mention the power that Facebook still has as a strong social sharing platform, especially for video, maintaining brand exposure and targeting a specific audience, particularly the older market. Both Instagram and Facebook are powerful channels for pushing your customers down the sales cycle as well. I am excited to see the new developments on the Instagram platform. I am an advocate for leveraging the power of social media marketing and will always keep up to date with fast-moving changes in digital. The beauty industry has become increasingly complex for long established brands, they either choose to adapt or they will be left out. For new brands, barriers to entry have been reduced because of digital and we start on this path giving us great opportunity to succeed alongside giants.