An inside look at Allergan’s billion-dollar aesthetics marketing engine

An inside look at Allergan's billion-dollar aesthetics marketing engine

Allergan and its flagship product Botox have reigned supreme in the medical aesthetic market since the injectable product was first approved for medical use in 2002. But as the aesthetics market has grown, Allergan has had to find more innovative ways to stay top-of-mind for current and potential customers.

To wit, Allergan developed the internal Allergan Data Labs, a team of over 100 people across the U.S. and Europe who develop and drive Allergan’s technological and marketing projects. Allergan Data Labs, which previously operated in stealth mode, was built out in 2018 to modernize and relaunch Allergan’s consumer loyalty program, called Brilliant Distinctions. The 9-year-old loyalty program became Allē, which arrived in Jan. 2020. It currently has 3 million active members and 17,000 providers using it, according to data shared by Allergan. Allergan Data Labs is also responsible for social media marketing, the creation of gift cards options for Botox and Juvéderm, and the marketing holiday “Botox Cosmetic Day,” which falls on Nov. 17.

“Our brands are pharmaceutical and medical devices, but our consumer market opportunity is not limited by diagnosis codes like other pharmaceutical products,” said Carrie Strom, AbbVie svp and Global Allergan Aesthetics president. “To grow the market and educate consumers about our brands, we needed to expand from traditional pharma marketing into the modern tactics employed by beauty and consumer companies.”

Allergan consistently launches new tactics and digital products to stay ahead of the competition. In June 2021, the brand shifted its marketing and advertising to use “real” Botox users, as opposed to celebrities and spokespeople, in TV ad spots for a campaign called “See Yourself.” Before this, in 2019, Allergan focused on reaching consumers under the age of 40 in a campaign called “Own Your Look.” The developments follow Allergan’s integration in biopharmaceutical company AbbVie, which announced the acquisition of the company for $63 billion in June 2019.

But not all of Allergan’s past digital products have succeeded. In Oct. 2018, Allergan launched its first editorial website called Spotlyte, followed by an on-demand booking site called Regi in April 2019. Spotlyte and Regi both shuttered in 2020, with the content and booking features incorporated into Allē.

Allē itself has several new features compared to its predecessor. Every aesthetic procedure at an Allē provider accrues points, even non-Allergan aesthetic products and services. In addition, Allē offers other deals based on interests such as vacations and theater tickets. The idea here, according to Jasson Gilmore, Allergan Data Labs co-founder and svp of global consumer and digital marketing, is to drive retention from providers and encourage consumers to come back for additional procedures.

“My job and my team’s job are growing the aesthetics category, and not just explicitly for Allergan products. The market is under-penetrated. In a high growth market like [aesthetics], we need to grow the market overall,” said Gilmore. “For providers, [Allē] is a tool to retain their consumers and bring them back. It creates an opportunity for them to grow their business.”

The aesthetic market is generally underpenetrated. A 2019 report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found there were just under 9 million Botulinum Toxin Type A and filler procedures in the U.S. carried out in 2019 — but Botox has the most brand awareness, when it comes to the Botulinum Toxin Type A procedure. AbbVie reported in its second-quarter earnings in July that the aesthetic division earned $1.4 billion in net revenue, a more than 100% growth year-over-year.

“By far, the highest brand awareness among patients comes with neuromodulator injections, known commercially as Botox. Around 90% of first-time patients come to us for these types of injections,” said Lisa Goodman, GoodSkin founder and physician assistant. “Brand awareness of filler injections, known commercially as [Allergan-owned] Juvederm, are slightly less prominent, but still high at around 70%.”

Aside from Allé, Allergan Data Labs works on software engineering, data science and consumer marketing. Coming up before the end of the year, Allē will add a new feature called Flash Rewards to receive targeted and personalized promotions for other Allergan procedures like Juvéderm and Kybella. It works by scanning a QR code at an aesthetics provider’s office. From there, a pop-up will display any current or ongoing promotions.

“[Allergan] has always invested rigorously into consumer marketing. As we started looking at other ways to engage consumers, [we found that] personalization and technology are increasingly important in the way that consumers make purchasing decisions,” said Gilmore. “Our No.1 source for new patients is still word of mouth, but our No.2 is social media.”

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