SARAL Forensics

SARAL Forensics: Sephora Brand Ambassador Programs (Full Breakdown)

In 2019, Sephora Ambassador Program amassed over 70,000 Instagram Stories and more than 10,000 in-feed posts. How does Sephora create such viral loops? Find out in this post.
Posted on
October 18, 2022
9 minute read
Priya Nain
Marketing at SARAL

Sephora is a French company that was founded by Dominique Mandonnaud in France in 1970 to let consumers try products before they buy them - it was a new concept back then. Now the company has retail stores in 2,500 locations globally & stocks personal care and beauty products from 340 brands along with its private label, Sephora Collection.

The company started its ambassador program in 2019, which is quite late in its journey. But it made up for the years lost by executing a unique ambassador program. The program gets covered by popular magazines around the world and draws a lot of attention to the brand every year. In 2019, the application process amassed over 70,000 Instagram Stories and more than 10,000 in-feed posts about the program. (source)

In this post, we've broken down how Sephora runs its Brand Ambassador Program, where it could have done better, and what you can take away for your brand.

Sephora Squad Overview

Sephora's Brand Ambassador Program is officially called Sephora Squad. It's a yearlong, paid partnership with Sephora. People get selected to work with Sephora on a variety of campaigns and marketing initiatives. A new set of creators are selected each year and they use the hashtag #sephorasqaud on social media to identify as Sephora's brand ambassadors.

In 2022, there are 70 brand ambassadors spread through the US, Canada, and the Middle East. To celebrate its ambassadors, Sephora has a dedicated page linking to the creator's profile on Instagram.

A Dedicated Landing Page Website

They have a dedicated website that talks about everything related to the ambassador program.  This show how important this program and squad members are for Sephora.  

Above the fold part is classic — a headline, a small description, the main CTA, and a picture that resonates with people passionate about beauty, makeup, and skin care. You can copy this format when you are creating a landing page for your ambassador or affiliate program.

If you don't have the design capabilities or bandwidth to design a beautiful landing page, you can also go for a simple page like Notion to promote the ambassador program. Simple is beautiful too! But definitely have a landing page for your program where creators can learn more or apply.

Just like selling a product takes social proof to convince the right audience, selling the idea of this ambassador program also takes social proof. Hence, Sephora has included testimonials from its past ambassadors on this SephoraSquad website.

There is another dedicated website, particularly for the middle-east audience. This helps Sephora create different strategies according to each location. Prospective ambassadors from each location also get to see the messaging & images they can relate to.

Further down the page, they've explained the kind of creators they want to target. Let's look at that in detail.

Attract the Right Type of Creators

Sephora's mission statement is — to create a welcoming beauty shopping experience for all and inspire fearlessness in our community.

We can see this mission statement being carried in their messaging for the kind of creators they want to attract. They invite people who would be able to connect with their target audience and yet come from diverse backgrounds.

They've outlined 3 selection criteria in simple words without sounding arrogant or judgmental. They have focused on getting the attention of people who are:

  • Good storytellers — Stories are a powerful medium to spread a message
  • Creative — they want people who keep themselves up to date with the latest trends
  • Authentic — they want people who speak about the topic because they have a genuine passion for it.

Here's a lil homework for later — what would be 3 key criteria for choosing creators for your brand?

A Unique Application Process

Unlike other brands, like Lululemon, where the opportunity to become an ambassador might be open throughout the year, Sephora opens up its application process only once a year.

This allows them to focus on quality rather than quantity. They are able to work closely with the selected brand ambassadors to create content. Onboarding, creating swag bags, introductions, etc. — everything is easier to handle from an operations point of view since everyone is getting on board at once.

Because the applications open up only once a year, it boosts people's sense of urgency to apply for the program. In 2022, they received ~9000 applications, which is the highest number of applications received since 2019.

Their application process has 3 steps — creating an account, filling out an application form, and gathering testimonials from their followers.

While the first two steps are pretty clear and the same as any other brand the third one is unique and the reason Sephora is able to recruit authentic ambassadors. Let's find out in detail.

Testimonials to Judge Authenticity of Connect

Once people fill out the brand ambassador application form, they’re given a custom testimonial page. On this page, the soon-to-be ambassador has to collect testimonials about their content from their followers. Basically, followers have to vouch for them. Testimonials compliment performance data with social proof, leaving no doubts about its authenticity.

To manage the collection and analysis of testimonials, Sephora uses a tool called Fohr.

Creators log in to their profile on Fohr and copy their unique testimonial link. It usually looks like this in the case of Sephora — https://www.sephorasquad.com/testimonial/lushiousmassacr (not active now, in case you try to see what's behind it)

They can share this link with their followers. When clicked, it prompts the person to answer a few straightforward questions about the creator. Testimonials can be viewed by the creator and Sephora's team.

Sephora does look at the data, analytics, type of content one creates, etc., but testimonials are their deal-makers or breakers. Even if someone is a micro or macro influencer but isn't able to get testimonials, they would not accept their application.

This ensures that anyone Sephora recruits bear a legitimate impact on their community and boosts a trusted presence in the beauty space.

To get testimonials, creators rally their followers with requests across all social media accounts.

Welcoming Ambassadors

Sephora doesn't hold back when welcoming its Squad members. First of all, they welcome their ambassadors with a big swag box.

The packaging is customized for them, and the unboxing experience is designed to create a lasting impression.

They fly everyone down to a single location for the launch party. It's a 4-5 day event where they meet everyone, give goodies, and most importantly, create content.

What we could see from the numerous videos online is that Sephora creates temporary studios and 'content booths' with different themes so that varied & maximum type of content is created.

Content booths at Sephora Squad's launch party

Leveraging Content

The content created by the Sephora Squad members is used on the brand's social media to share valuable tips with the audience. The brand makes sure to tag the creator's account to give them a boost in followers too.

The content from creators is also used in ads that are run on Google or social media. Here's a detailed post on how you can do that without spending cash upfront or launching any ambassador program.

Sephora used the creator's content to experiment on TikTok with a

Leveraging user-generated content keeps things real. People get to see others like them sharing tips, showing make-up tricks, etc., and hence they are more likely to believe it and stay engaged. Most likely, people already follow the creator whose content is used in the ads or posts. So there's more trust because of already being familiar with the face.

While they might have a paid arrangement with the creator to get usage rights for the content, it certainly would be less costly with no time or effort investment involved compared to creating content in-house.

Perks for Ambassadors

Sephora has listed down 6 major types of perks a brand ambassador gets. Notice how these perks are more than the monetary benefits — which are harder to get!

And these are not mentioned just for the sake of mentioning them. The brand lives up to the promise.

They send free products from top brands to their ambassadors and give exclusive access to new products.

They've collaborated with brand ambassadors for their billboard campaigns. Here's an example from their billboard in the middle-east:

Here's another one from the US

Sephora shares ambassadors' content with their huge following ( 4.2M on TikTok & 21M on Instagram), which boots the creator's audience as well.

Ambassadors get a chance to meet the leaders, beauty experts, even superstars sometime.

Zoom session of Sephora Squad vibing with JLo.

They get to attend boot camp sessions where different brands conduct makeup and skin care sessions.

What Sephora Could Have Done Better

Sephora's Ambassador program is pretty amazing, but we could find two things they could have done better:

  • Some people who were part of Sephora Squad 2021 are again part of the Sephora Squad 2022. This might have been done to continue the relationship, but this means newer creators don’t get a chance to join.
  • In Sephora's terms and conditions for the ambassador program, it's mentioned that they would own the creator's content created on the platform they use to collect testimonials, even if the creator doesn't get selected to be part of the Sephora Squad. It's commonplace for platforms and brands to ask for usage rights of the content, but this seems a bit odd.

Additional read: Check out Lululemon's Brand Ambassador program breakdown.

Takeaways for your brand

If you run an ecommerce brand:

  • Having an application process helps you capture incoming demand instead of only reaching out to influencers cold.
  • Prioritize the authenticity of your brand ambassadors rather than just relying on the follower count. You do not need 1000s of ambassadors promoting you. Focus on working with a niche group of 100 engaged ambassadors.
  • Give the most benefits and perks to your brand ambassadors. This will incentivize them to stay loyal to your brand. It also helps build good relationships.
  • Opt for ongoing, long-term partnerships and not one-off campaigns. Ambassadors already love your brand and have likely promoted it already.
  • Try taking the relationship offline if you can. Online and remote is good, but offline is more “real”.
  • Delight your ambassadors with an exceptional unboxing experience. They will not only promote your products but also say good things about partnering with you to other creators.
  • Leverage IGC (Influencer Generated Content) on all other channels for growth, such as your own organic social media, content marketing, and social proof on your product page.

If you are still not ready to dip your toes into a complete brand ambassador program, it's not ‘the end’ for your influencer marketing dreams.

You can still get started by launching a product seeding campaign. In product seeding, you send free products to creators with no expectations upfront. If they like it, they may post about your brand, and a part of their audience will buy from you.

But ultimately, your goal should be to onboard them as your brand ambassadors. Here's a quick look at various paths your collaboration with creators for product seeding may go after you send the product to them.

Click on the image to download it and keep it handy for your next strategy planning.

If you a drip of all the things we at SARAL have learned over the past few years running influencer marketing & ambassador programs, signup for our newsletter now. Unsubscribe with one-click anytime you find it not worthy. Signup Now.