Mecca creative director Marita Burke said the beauty giant’s open physical stores would be transformed into ‘Tilbury Town’ for the next month. After all, this is the most-requested brand by Mecca’s customers in its 24-year history.
“The partnership between Charlotte Tilbury and Mecca is an entertainment strategy as well as retail,” Burke told Inside Retail. “An enormous amount of work has been done to launch the brand with real excitement and engagement within the beauty community and it’s about offering customers entertainment when they most need it.
“What Mecca enjoys the most is really bringing brands to life, as opposed to just putting product on a shelf…To launch a brand like Charlotte Tilbury in this market, it was so clear to us that we needed to really drive innovation and create moments of real magic and impact for customers.”
Within Mecca stores now open around the country, there will be Charlotte Tilbury-themed windows and a month-long program of events, services and workshops centred around the products, such as exclusive luxury facials, make-up applications and 15- and 30-minute classes on brows, skincare and lips.
Influencers, press and VIP customers have been invited to take part in a virtual masterclass on Thursday, hosted by Charlotte Tilbury herself. Within 24 hours of releasing news of the event, there were 35,000 registrations, making it Mecca’s largest virtual event ever.
Live-streaming workshops and digital experiences will continue to run throughout the month; Mecca has tripled its virtual expert staffing levels to accommodate. And, of course, there will be a glamorous ‘Tilbury tram’ weaving through the streets of Melbourne, like a roving Charlotte Tilbury billboard.
While Burke has a great love of physical stores and events, the rise of virtual initiatives has made events much more accessible and democratic than before.
“If Charlotte was here and we held an event in Sydney at our flagship store, we could get 2000 people there, but through our virtual reach, we can actually access 8 million. Someone living in regional New South Wales or Victoria has the same access as anybody else now,” she explained. “Our customers can’t get to us, so how can we get to them?”
To further celebrate the release, the team at Mecca worked with TikTok to launch an innovative livestream campaign on the platform. This week, customers will be able to shop directly from the videos of six TikTok creators, who will be fashioning looks with Charlotte Tilbury products from Mecca. By tapping on the videos, TikTok users will be able to visit the Mecca website, where they can shop the products the influencers used.
Depending on the success of the TikTok initiative, Burke has not ruled out its continuation in the future.
“The Mecca strategy is to test, test, test, try, try, try and learn, learn, learn – then apply. It’s very much an iterative approach,” she explained. “I think initiatives like this are a great way to continue to delight the customer. How do you stay three steps ahead of the customer? At Mecca, a lot of our time goes into thinking about that.”
How to woo Charlotte Tilbury
When Burke was asked to describe the process of bringing Charlotte Tilbury to Australia and New Zealand, she said, laughing: “It’s been long and liberating!”
After all, it’s been eight years since Burke first came across the brand’s week-long Rock ‘n’ Kohl beauty festival at London department store Selfridges and was wowed by its innovative approach to customer engagement.
During the festival, three windows of the department store were transformed into a celebration of Charlotte Tilbury products; each day of the event, Tilbury herself shared her expertise and make-up tricks with customers through demonstrations and personalised consultations. At night, she hosted intimate discussions on a red lip sofa with high-profile celebrities, including British supermodel Cara Delevingne.
“This is where it’s been so liberating when you have someone like Charlotte, who is genuinely most interested in educating and empowering customers with beauty,” Burke explained. “She has made herself unbelievably available to make sure she can reach customers without being here.
“The other area we’ve spent enormous time on and that has been a key motivator for Charlotte Tilbury to come to Mecca, has been our teams. We call them the Mecca Army. We’ve spent hours training them with virtual sessions with Charlotte and her team. We have Charlotte Tilbury modules on Meccaversity, our online learning program. She has been incredibly generous with her time because she recognises the power of the in-store teams to really bring the brand to life for customers.”
In fact, Burke believes Tilbury is one of the most engaged founders Mecca has worked with, given the high levels of involvement she has had in the details of the launch.
“Equally, she’s looked to Mecca as her retail partner to show how to best bring her brand to life in a market like this. That’s where this incredible synchronicity has come from,” Burke noted. “On one hand, you’ve got a really powerful brand, on the other, you’ve got a retailer with a very strong physical presence that can bring that to life. It really is a great partnership.”
The lightning rod
In the past few months, Mecca has brought to its customers some of the world’s most sought after celebrity-led brands, from Kylie Cosmetics to Goop, Rose Inc and Gisou. Burke’s role involves working with them to create a bespoke launch strategy, while keeping an eye on emerging brands and trends in the market. “A lot of love” at Mecca is invested in propelling these brands into Australia and New Zealand, Burke said.
“We describe ourselves as the lightning rod between them and our customers. We take the responsibility for building the brands in the market very seriously and it informs how we go to market, how we structure our business, train our teams and build our marketing programs. All of that is built very much with the needs of the brands in mind,” she said.
“Different brands have different marketing models, different areas of focus, different levels of training. We’re constantly adapting and evolving the strategy of the brands based on what their specific needs are.”
For example, while the Charlotte Tilbury brand strategy is all about entertainment, education and empowerment, the Goop skincare brand (founded by Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow) is centred around its ‘clean beauty’ philosophies, values and ingredients, Burke said. Fragrance brand Diptyque, on the other hand, needs to be positioned very much as a luxury brand in-store.
Humanising the digital experience
Like so many retailers these days. Mecca has also sought to create new ways of connecting with customers virtually through the pandemic. Shortly after Covid hit last year, the retailer launched a Facebook group for its customers, Mecca Chit Chat, added live chat and video customer consultations to its site, and began live-streaming events, including its annual Beauty Election awards.
Last month, it launched its app and monthly podcast, Mecca Talks, hosted by chief marketing officer Kate Blythe and head of content, Zara Wong. Its first episode included a 45-minute interview with Mecca founder Horgan and since then, the podcast has featured discussions with its in-house beauty experts as well as chats with its high-profile brand founders, including LoveSeen founder (and former J.Crew president) Jenna Lyons and celebrity hair stylist Sam McKnight.
“Being able to humanise our digital comms has been a real focus for us. We’re not there yet, we’ll continue to evolve. But I think our virtual service – where you just click on a screen to access a Mecca host – is a far more human digital experience than just shopping online. That’s what we really want for our customers,” said Burke.
“I think that customers look to brands like Mecca to guide them through challenges like the pandemic. The role of a brand now is to be really in touch with your customers in a way like never before. I think we need to deliver on optimism during these times. We need to deliver on ‘edu-tainment’, deliver on information and be there when they need you. We hope that our virtual services over time will be available 24/7. The customer’s expectations are greater than ever before; therefore, the responsibility of the retailer is much greater than ever before.”