Measuring the ROI of social media may not yet be an easy way to track sales. But when it comes to word of mouth, social is a great way to see who is talking about and sharing information online.

That’s something beauty brand Estee Lauder learned last year when trying to spread awareness about breast cancer during its World Pink campaign.

Estee Lauder spends a lot of time marketing its products to women, but
the company has also invested heavily in cancer research. Senior corporate vice president Evelyn
Lauder actually helped develop the pink ribbon that has become a staple of
breast cancer awareness and founded the Breast Cancer Research

Estee Lauder worked with Attention! PR to create its “World Pink” campaign, which set out to spread awareness and facts about breast cancer worldwide.

They launched the effort with a party at the company’s headquarters in New York. Such parties may be a common occurence at beauty brands, but they changed the audience in this instance. Rather than invite editors from top women’s magazines, the company enlisted beauty bloggers for their cause.

According to Marisa Thalberg, VP of global digital marketing at Estee Lauder, this was a “milestone of corporate change.”

The party created a lot of good will. Bloggers tweeted about the event and took pictures of themselves in the space. One blogger took a photo of herself behind Mrs. Lauder’s desk.

According to Dina Fierro, executive director of beauty and fashion at Attention!

“This event gave bloggers real access to the Estee Lauder companies. The advocacy we saw from this event laid the groundwork for the outreach we did later in the campaign, by starting to create early education and advocacy.”

It also was a way to work around the size of the budget for this effort.

Thalberg says, “We’re a big company, but we often don’t have big
budgets. It was a lot of hat in hand, asking for favors.”

The company used Brickfish to create The World PINK Mosaic, “a virtual tapestry of faces.” Survivors, supporters and those “touched” by cancer uploaded profiles.

Estee Lauder has a wide line of products that donate some proceeds to the The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. But the goal of this campaign was not to move product. It was to see how far a message could travel and how often it could be shared.

According to Fierro:

“To supplement the effort, we tapped into the influencers, telling them “We want you to be the first to upload your story.'”

The company created a viral map to see who was sharing and contributing to the campaign, and saw that it had travelled to unexpected places like the Maldives, Camaroon, Nepal, Slovenia and Pakistan.

According to Thalberg:

“In less than ten days, we hit more than 3/4 of the world’s nations. In places where you think women don’t have internet access. This is a cause where prevention and education is so critical. If you’re aware and educated, breast cancer is 98% preventable.”

Thalberg didn’t say whether the campaign increased sales. Likely it did, but the campaign subject matter went far beyond the Estee Lauder brand. However, it started small, showing its success before rolling out elements that required more investment (like turning worldwide landmarks pink for the month of October). Says Thalberg:

“We had to start more modestly and prove success. It was all very trackable.”