How Estee Lauder Engages Customer Experience with Micro-Storytelling

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“Telegraph, telephone, tell-a-woman.” —Estée Lauder

Every brand has a story to tell, but just how many brands understand the art of storytelling?

Even before the rise of the internet and smartphones, Estée Lauder, the founder of Estée Lauder Companies, knew the importance and complexities of telling stories to connect and capture an audience.

At the 2018 CommerceNext conference, Tricia Nichols, Senior Vice President of Customer Marketing at Estée Lauder, shared how her team successfully harnesses the art of micro-storytelling to capture an audience, share brand values and create customer loyalty.

Micro-Storytelling and Brand Bonding

The goal of micro-storytelling is fostering brand bonding—the building of rational and emotional bonds between customer and brand as a part of the customer experience.

To foster bond branding, Nichols’ team currently leverages Lauder’s rule-breaker persona and legendary high-touch tactics to both inspire and connect with customers who also embody that spirit.

Lauder established herself as a rule-breaker, both in spirit and by the simple fact of being a female entrepreneur in that era. One rule-breaker themed micro-story originates from Lauder’s early days of unsuccessfully pitching well-established distributors to pick up her perfume. She knew if customers just smelled her fragrance, they would fall in love with the products and so would the distributors. Thinking outside the box, as she was wont to do, she deliberately broke a bottle of her perfume in one of the distributor’s stores. Customers immediately starting asking the sales staff about the fragrance they smelled. Distributors had no choice but to then give her perfumes a chance.

The philosophy of being “high-touch” is another foundational attribute of the company’s micro-storytelling strategy taken directly from Lauder’s own character. Lauder loved touching the faces of her customers to help them try on her products, believing that getting close was the best way to help customers use the product properly. Nichols found high-touch themed stories pull in a different segment of customers, those who like feeling connected with a company and its founder as a part of their customer experience.

“Rule-breaker” and “high-touch” are the two core values inspired by Lauder, woven into the original DNA of the company and now used to build emotional bonds with its target audiences.

Micro-Storytelling in Practice

Having two distinct stories opens up two different avenues through which to connect with two different kinds of customers: those who are rebels and those who crave kinship. The brand then pushes those stories into different customer touchpoints to help communicate the brand values and cultivate customer loyalty.

In addition to using the brand’s original DNA in its micro-stories, Estée Lauder also weaves in current trends and technologies to ensure maximum connection with its customers, wherever and whoever they are.

The brand built a voice application called Liv that can be accessed through Google Home or mobile devices. Liv engages customers by focusing on nighttime routines and self-care, both topics highly searched for online by Estée Lauder customers. To promote the app, the brand created micro-story campaigns that illustrated customers’ everyday beauty dilemmas. One micro-story features a woman applying various DIY face masks without success. After her third or fourth attempt, the woman finally asks Liv to give her advice on DIY skin care. The ultimate product combined current technology with Lauder’s keen understanding that women enjoy seeking beauty secrets from outside sources. All that’s changed is that now, instead of asking a neighbor for advice, customers could ask the Liv app.

Further harnessing technology to spread the brand’s high-touch DNA values through micro-stories, Estée Lauder works with Newscred to help its customers choose healthy lifestyle habits. The brand curated relaxation techniques, meditation series, nutrition guides and more for their customers to read and learn about through Liv. The idea is that making mindful choices, like eating well and getting a good night’s sleep, will help their customers feel more confident and beautiful.

For Estee Lauder, micro-storytelling has proved successful as a way to evangelize a brand’s DNA and core values, but it’s also an authentic, organic way to speak to (and gain trust with) various target markets.

Although Estée Lauder is an older, well-established brand, newer brands can structure their own micro-storytelling strategies by asking themselves, “What makes up my brand’s DNA?” That DNA can guide the brand in creating multiple storytelling pathways that can reach subsets of customers across various channels.

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