ULTA – Digital Marketing


ULTA is a highly successful beauty retailer known for having the widest selection of products available. Because of its unique offering of low- to high-end cosmetics, ULTA competes against mass retailers such as Target and high-end department stores such as Macy’s. As the lines between mass and prestige blur, ULTA has had a harder time differentiating itself.

Why? Despite their propensity to shop ULTA, women do not have an emotional connection with the brand. ULTA promotions and coupons are top of mind, but women draw a blank when asked about ULTA’s personality or reasons to shop the store beyond the transactional.

So, ULTA decided it was time to differentiate in a meaningful way: In an industry full of rules, unrealistic expectations of perfection and judgment, ULTA Beauty’s goal is to make beauty fun again. Speaking to women who delight in discovering new beauty products and styles, ULTA wants to be an approachable, welcoming place for that exploration.

Drawing from the insight that women rely on beauty advice and stories from other women, ULTA created Beauty LOLs, a program designed to celebrate women’s secret beauty tips and the pitfalls that result from learning how to navigate through the world of makeup and grooming.

At its core, Beauty LOLs allowed ULTA to help women find beauty in those less-than-perfect moments. From accidental hair color to botched bikini waxes, ULTA encouraged the sharing and laughing of a community of women, all relating to each other’s biggest beauty blunders in an engaging, positive way.


The goal of Beauty LOLs was to create familiarity of ULTA and what it stands for among women who may have heard of the brand but previously had no reason to shop there. To get there, we created an integrated campaign to create engagement with women through the sharing of their Beauty LOLs.


It’s a challenge for any retailer to launch a program that isn’t tied directly to immediate sales. In this case, ULTA recognized the opportunity to facilitate conversations about beauty among women as a means of creating familiarity and engagement with the brand. Taking the long view, ULTA invested in filling the top of the funnel.

Further, with the immediate feedback that social channels provide marketers, there is always trepidation that the user-generated content won’t come as hoped. In this case, ULTA stacked the deck in its favor with a celebrity endorsement by every-girl actress and comedian Wendi McLendon-Covey and a contest to provide incentive for participation.


Website Hub
A campaign site, ULTABeautyLOLs.com, was created to house all videos, photos and text submissions gathered during the campaign. It was populated not only by user-submitted content, but also with videos of Wendi McLendon-Covey (known for her roles in “Reno 911!” and “Bridesmaids”) spilling her juiciest and funniest beauty secrets and tips.

A section of the site was dedicated to Wendi answering questions from fans (prepared and recorded prior to live date). Another section of the site was dedicated to our Top Ten oft-quoted beauty blunders and sent users to ULTA.com for product solutions.

To encourage participation, we created a contest, asking users to submit a video, photo or story in order to win the Grand Prizes ($2,000 in ULTA Beauty gift cards) or First Prizes ($1,000 in ULTA Beauty gift cards) in each category.

Paid Media Support
Online display units, pre-roll and social posts prominently featured Wendi, along with admissions of embarrassing beauty LOLs, such as “I use a brown marker to color in my gray roots.” Ad units called users to submit their own LOLs for a chance to win or to view and vote on all submissions. The ad units aimed to create brand awareness and familiarity, contest awareness and familiarity, and drive traffic to the Beauty LOLs website hub.

Blogger Event Partnership
ULTA launched Beauty LOLs at BlogHer 2013, where 4,000 active and influential bloggers from around the country were invited to share their Beauty LOLs in a first look at the campaign.

The ULTA area of the expo floor contained five video booths prominently featuring our Beauty LOLs branding and the face of the campaign, Wendi McLendon-Covey. Bloggers roaming the event were invited to record and submit a video of a beauty secret, embarrassing beauty moment, secret makeup trick, etc.

In return, their video was entered to win ULTA gift cards of varying amounts. Videos, images and copy submissions were moderated, approved and uploaded to the hub within 24 hours of submission. Users could vote on all submissions once per day. ULTA ultimately chose the winning submissions, but those with more votes had an increased chance of winning, as public appeal influenced the final score.

Part of BlogHer, the ULTA-sponsored fashion show opened with Wendi McLendon-Covey sharing her beauty secrets and making the audience laugh. She then handed it over to the blogger hosts of the show and a parade of bloggers walking the catwalk with hair and makeup done completely by ULTA salon professionals. Each member of the audience took home an ULTA gift bag full of exclusive products sold at the retailer.

The agency and ULTA team members handpicked the most engaging and brand-right bloggers to meet Wendi after the fashion show. These bloggers recorded their interaction that was later posted to their blogs for all their followers to see. Wendi went above and beyond by tweeting back at these bloggers following the interaction, increasing the reach and impact of our influencers’ Beauty LOLs content.

The reception following the fashion show held three additional video booths, where bloggers continued to submit their hilarious beauty blunders.


ULTA Beauty’s Beauty LOLs proved to be more than just a contest. It was the start of a movement that encouraged women everywhere to embrace the lighter side of beauty.

BlogHer jump-started the conversation with social reach stemming from the conference, which amassed over 2 million impressions, eight blog posts from influential beauty bloggers, 92 Instagram images posted and 366 tweets using the #blogher13 hashtag and the @ULTA_Beauty handle. Over 700 blogger videos were submitted to the hub during the conference time frame.

The campaign resulted in an impressive lift across all brand metrics. We saw a +9.5% increase in brand awareness, +10% increase in ad awareness, +9.4% increase in message association and +11.6% visit intent. The campaign also exceeded insight norms for mobile campaigns across all brand metrics. Visits to the hub totaled nearly 270,000 and over 509,000 page views. ULTA saw a 19% increase in Facebook fans and a 16% increase in Twitter followers during the six weeks of Beauty LOLs. In total, we received 1,984 submissions and 7,849 votes from 134,414,529 media impressions.

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