From team to metrics, top of the funnel & bottom of the funnel are kept separate at SUGAR: Kaushik Mukherjee

Kaushik Mukherjee SUGAR

Kaushik Mukherjee of SUGAR Cosmetics shares how all their marketing strategies are less short-term sales oriented and more long-term brand oriented. We deep dive into the brand’s marketing & communication footprint.

Kaushik Mukherjee COO & Co-Founder, SUGAR Cosmetics talks about the cosmetic brand’s 7-year journey, how the brand’s marketing strategy in its initial days looked like, breaking stereotypes in the beauty industry, and more in a chat with Social Samosa.

Edited Excerpt:

How has brand building changed in the past 7 years that SUGAR has existed?

Before the age of digital first brands, the recipe for building brands required a huge sum of money which in hindsight acted as an entry barrier for a large population to continue to build brands. Young brands could only invest in small unit productions. But this entry barrier has now actually gone away. Because in some categories like nail paint creating a small line of production works as well. This has given rise to a lot of new brands.  

This entire funnel starts at building awareness. Thankfully, there are other ways to build awareness apart from television and print. Instagram and other social media can grab an equal amount of eyeballs as well. Today, because of this many brands are continuing to do great work and in the future digital media is going to grow further.   

SUGAR being a PAN-India brand, what are some different strategies in place that cater to the different audiences throughout the country? 

Learning how to build out the brand has been a process for all of us. SUGAR never had a blueprint that we could follow. Over a period of time, we learned that there’s always a lot of pressure to confuse marketing with sales. When you talk to a lot of people about marketing, the conversation is always steered towards discounts and promotions, which is a very weak plank for us. Something that worked for SUGAR is staying true to ourselves, irrespective of who is pressuring us.

Talking about themes, there’s a huge risk of being called out if the brand actually doesn’t believe in it. The first theme we picked up was being inclusive of all skin tones. As in India, none of the brands had more than 12 shades of skin tones; we came up with 22 different shades in our foundation sticks. We also educated out staff in store about shade matching and not just sticking to the lightest shade in the collection. This has helped us over a period of time, as this product isn’t an inexpensive product but despite that, it’s one of our top ten products.

All our marketing strategies are less short-term sales oriented and more long-term brand oriented. 

Also Read: Consumers look for brands that deliver authentically & not just for sake of authenticity: Deepa Krishnan, Starbucks

In SUGAR’s digital marketing strategy, which platform has worked the best in reaching the audience? 

SUGAR has experimented with multiple platforms, but somehow Instagram worked the best. Also, we have noticed that short form videos, whether it be reels or YouTube shorts, work the best. With YouTube as well, with it working amazingly and we are looking at working with other channels like Josh, Moj, and TakaTak.  

Earlier the audience was curious about these products and they had the time to read long-format blog posts. But now the scenario has changed, people don’t have enough time to invest in them. They started focusing on video format content, hence came YouTube. But then 7 minutes YouTube videos became longer, and audiences shifted their attention toward reels and short-form posts. 

While content gets bucketed under one generic word, this is the place to push entertainment and educational value. This is why SUGAR’s social media will always have educational content but with an underlying fun tone attached to it.  

How has SUGAR’s social media presence played a role in reaching its TG? 

There are opposing forces when it comes to SUGAR’s TG. With each passing year, the age at which consumers are getting curious about using makeup is starting to reach a younger audience. The reach in Tier II and III cities retail is expanding as well. To create awareness we try to connect with the audience, whether it be with inclusive skin tones or the long-lasting factor of the product. We try to move from attention to interest, and once the interest is nailed you enter the consideration stage. Where the audience automatically thinks of your brand when buying products. These steps are crucial for the conversion stage to happen. 

For SUGAR from the team to metrics, we have kept the top of the funnel and the bottom of the funnel completely separated. 

Please take us through the fundamentals of your communication strategy for the beauty and healthcare communities

SUGAR’s costumer communication team is very universal. We use technology to drive our communication behind the scenes. Our community knows that they can have complete trust in the brand – we have a system, wherein if a customer doesn’t like the product – whether it be because of the unmatched skin tone or the texture doesn’t suit them – we urge them to donate the product and in return, we send them a replacement.  

As long as we build a community and don’t force them to shop in a specific place – the community is bound the grow.  

With the beauty community not only limited to one gender, how does inclusivity play a role in SUGAR’s marketing strategy? 

Anyone who is in a professional setting they are bound to have a ‘touch-up’ done. Many men still call it touch up and not makeup, though men using makeup isn’t something that is openly talked about still. Five years back grooming for men, whether it be as basic as the cologne they were using wasn’t necessarily talked about. But that scenario has completely changed.

SUGAR as a brand from its initial stages has always spoken to a niche set of audiences very deeply. Our coupling with our target audience is so intensely close, that to add the burden of building a separate brand has never happened. Right now, we are very much focused on catching up to other brands, nothing of that sort is on the cards.  

What does SUGAR’s roadmap look like for the future? 

Initially, SUGAR was derived from the backbone of the product. After which came content. Content that was made around the product, pushed our brand towards a larger audience. Today, we are at a stage where we are looking at bringing this product and the digital content across the length and breadth of the country. We see the scaling of our own stores further.  

A lot of Tier II and III cities have started shopping with us online and the study in finding a solution to reach them better is underway. Distribution, getting working with our working capital, and making sure our partners continue to grow with us, is something which we are working on constantly.