Ulta: A PR Analysis
Even beauty giants need a little touch-up
By: Christina Soto
I remember being a young 13-year-old trying to navigate the world of makeup for the first time. I hated walking into beauty stores, always feeling judged by the workers and immediately walking out because I had no clue what I should be buying. That all changed when I discovered Ulta. The bright orange and pink store layout was welcoming compared to the sterile white stores I had previously visited. It was easy to feel comfortable there, and this atmosphere is why I still choose Ulta to this day. On a grander scale, Ulta has managed to maintain this positive interaction and resonation with its consumers through its corporate philanthropy, social response, and crisis communication.
One thing that Ulta takes seriously is working to create a positive impact on the world around it. The four main focuses to its corporate responsibility are people, product, community and the environment. Ulta works to help its employees, ensuring that they are well taken care of and in a place with potential growth. When it comes to product, Ulta is dedicated to providing a variety of products for everyone, highlighting “clean beauty” brands. To help its community, the Ulta Beauty Charitable Foundation was created to support female based nonprofits, such as the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, since most of its customers are female. When it comes to the environment, Ulta is doing its part in cutting down on environmental waste and use green energy sources.
In times of crisis, Ulta tries to be there in any way for those affected. When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, there was a lot of uncertainty as the world shut down. As Ulta began to close down its storefronts, the company reached out to its employees and also sent out a press release to communicate how the situation was being handled. Ulta made it known that grants were available to eligible employees from the Ulta Beauty Associate Relief to aid them through being furloughed. To help ensure that there would be enough grants to give out, Ulta’s CEO at the time, Mary Dillion, donated $500,000 to the relief fund. Dillion also decided to give up her salary during this time in support of employees. This continued outreach to employees depicts Ulta’s effort and care for this audience.
Ulta went the extra step and reached out to consumers in this crisis as well. At this time, healthcare workers and nurses were sometimes working overtime to take care of the overflow of patients from COVID-19. Many times, these workers would end their shift and have marks on their face and skin from having to wear their mask during this extended period of time. Ulta saw how this was taking a toll on these workers and their health and sent a donation of 10,000 bags of skincare products for workers at a medical center in Fresno, California.This act of kindness helped emphasize Ulta’s value of their community.
It is also important for companies to be in tune with current societal issues. Ulta has always promoted diversity in its stores, but when discussions arose in social media after a Black woman was told by an Ulta employee that her skin was “too dark” for the store’s product, people began to question its values. This occurred in 2020 and coincided with the Black Lives Matter movement and diversity in the workplace grew as a prominent
issue. It sparked a discussion about whether the company truly supported their Black audience or not. Ulta listened to the concerns of its audience and wanted them to know that it backs up its beliefs with actions. Ulta employees were given inclusion training and were educated on artist education of makeup and hair products to satisfy every customer’s hair or skin type. Ulta continued in this effort, releasing the MUSE campaign in 2021. MUSE stands for “Magnify, Uplift, Support, Empower.” This is an initiative to promote diversity and inclusion to its consumers and uplift 100 rising Black beauty influencers and brands. Each of the 100 are given a platform on Ulta’s website and in its stores to spread their message in addition to a $10,000 grant. This helps to ensure that every customer will be taken care of at Ulta.
According to Rebecca Poynter, Instructor in JOUR 4460 at the University of North Texas, the definition of public relations is "Positive, proactive strategic public relations actions by an organization which build goodwill with audiences, support the brand and maintain a positive reputation." I believe that Ulta is a company that effectively demonstrates this definition of PR. It demonstrates a proactive strategy with employee training and the MUSE campaign because it recognized its wrong and went above and beyond to fix it. Ulta also builds goodwill within its community through its corporate philanthropy and continuation of its four charitable focused efforts. I believe that Ulta also maintains a positive reputation through how it continues to treat its employees and customers with respect and back up its words with actions. Ulta has managed to be an example of positive use of PR in a company and will continue to be if it keeps this up.
About the Author
Christina Soto is a senior at the University of North Texas and is set to graduate in May 2022. She has worked on a bachelor’s degree majoring in journalism with a focus in public relations. Soto is excited to begin her professional career in PR after graduation.