Procter & Gamble’s My Black is Beautiful booth at Essence Festival is a much-anticipated attraction at the tentpole, which celebrates Black culture through fashion, food and music. But with a 15-year run and reputation as a fan-favorite at the event comes the challenge of raising the bar and evolving the message in a way that translates into a meaningful physical experience that can accommodate thousands of consumers walking through.
The brand launched the My Black is Beautiful platform in 2007 to drive conversations around perceptions of beauty and to showcase diverse representations of beauty in the marketplace and in mainstream media. The booth at Essence Festival this year (its return to in-person) was built with the next chapter in mind for both the platform and the attendee.
“As we think about where the consumer is today, she’s really not looking to change mindsets or change the narrative. She’s creating her own space and celebrating her own beauty regardless of what the world thinks,” says Melanie Denson, senior communications manager-NA multicultural hair care at Procter & Gamble. “As we think about this next chapter, as a brand we’re moving away from trying to drive the conversation to asking: How are we elevating, uplifting and celebrating all things? [At Essence Fest] it was reintroducing ourselves, reintroducing our brands and using the moment to celebrate Black joy.”
In addition to a 40-foot by 60-foot booth in the Beauty Carnival at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, P&G street teams sampled products outside the center, and the brand screened original content during the film festival portion (more on that in a moment). Ultimately, the brand distributed more than 30,000 samples over the course of the festival, and racked up 300,000 organic impressions on social media in addition to experiencing a 66-percent spike in visitors surrounding its channels. Here, we present five ways P&G maximizes its long-running sponsorship presence on-site.
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1. A presence that is “felt.”
P&G’s booth theme, Black. Beautiful. Period., was reflected in a number of design choices that were bold black and white, and bright, and that tied into the “It’s the Black Joy for Me” theme of Essence Festival 2022. Key features included a floral photo moment that allowed consumers to “feel validated” and share that moment in front of the booth’s tagline. Signage on top of the booth promoted the #BlackBeautifulPeriod hashtag. And a dramatic wall with backlit cutout lettering that spelled out “Black” housed product and served as a backdrop for the line queue.
Consumers entered through the letter “A” into a mirrored “Tunnel of Joy” that featured lighting, sounds and video, and that “emoted Black joy, excellence and beauty,” Denson says.
2. Product showcases and demos.
Inside the booth, consumers explored products from Olay, and read about Black scientists who develop formulas for diverse skin tones, types and textures. They also were presented with information on P&G’s mission to double the number of women in STEM and triple the number of women of color in STEM by 2030.
There were product showcases from P&G’s My Black is Beautiful line, as well as the Gold Series by Pantene. Consumers could un-scrabble words in a hands-on physical game with the potential to win prizes ranging from t-shirts and wine to even tickets to one of the concerts taking place at Essence Fest. The beauty touchups station also returned, one of P&G’s most popular activations, with more than 500 consumers signing up for appointments. Overall, more than 6,000 consumers visited the booth.
3. A content platform supporting creators.
Another space in the booth promoted the Widen the Screen content platform by My Black is Beautiful and P&G Enterprise. Widen the Screen promotes Black creators, writers, directors and producers, and invests in Black-owned media, as well as produces stories and interviews that explore the Black experience.
During the first-ever Essence Film Festival, P&G aired short films and segments from the platform and afterward held a panel discussion featuring the creators behind the projects.
4. Market research and recruiting.
As Essence attracts half a million Black consumers, P&G ensures it has a mechanism to gather perspectives and opinions from them by conducting market research on-site. In addition, P&G promotes careers and walks consumers through opportunities to learn more and understand the process of applying to work there. The brand received 1,100 in-person and online survey responses, and had 106 inquiries on careers—with data still coming in.
“We’re not about just putting up beautiful advertisements saying we’re for women, we’re for people of color, we’re for people of certain backgrounds—we want the people behind the brands to be representative of that, too,” Denson says.
5. Handing over the keys to influencers.
Ultimately, one of P&G’s most successful strategies at the festival, and beyond, is its focus on people over product. Denson calls to attention the Aussie haircare line whose channels and content is all created by, or owned by, influencers. Authenticity is critical to reaching new generations of P&G consumers, she says.
“We like to balance meeting our marketing goals with recognizing that for us, being at Essence, it’s more than being there because our consumer is there and because it’s the No. 1 Black culture event,” she says. “It’s showing up in the culture and really walking the walk. This is why we started attending 15 years ago, because we know and we believe it’s important that our brand’s presence be felt to maximum impact.” Agency/Build: Vivi by Jack Morton.