- Coty is launching an accelerator program for technology startups with a competition focused on artificial intelligence innovations at its Quarterly Digital Accelerator Summit, per a press release made available to Marketing Dive. The new program, an extension of the Digital Accelerator the beauty brand introduced last year, will focus on a series of digital capabilities, with AI coming first, followed by augmented reality, voice and 3-D printing.
- Interested startups can submit AI pitches focused on one of Coty's more than 70 brands, including the beauty lines of Cover Girl, Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs, by March 12. Each submission should describe what makes the startup unique and demonstrate how a Coty brand would benefit from its AI technology and also the partnership model to drive "in-market trialing." Coty will choose up to eight startups based on project growth to present their ideas to its brand leaders at the summit on March 27-28 in London and New York City.
- A prize fund of up to $100,000 and prizes ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 will be awarded based on various criteria, such as brand alignment, growth impact and scaling upside for the winning startups, which will be judged by Coty's digital experts. Coty is partnering with media agency of record Zenith for the summit. Coty's prior partnerships with emerging companies helped it launch an AR experience for Cover Girl.
Established brands in the retail and CPG sectors are more frequently losing their share of the market to startups and digital-first companies that focus on agile supply chains and direct-to-consumer relationships, Accelerator programs are one way for legacy players to keep a pulse on emerging industry trends and seek out new means of innovation in technology areas that are only going to grow in importance, such as AI, AR and voice, but that can often be difficult or costly to develop in-house.
By essentially crowdsourcing ideas through the AI-themed Digital Accelerator Summit, Coty is demonstrating its commitment to such innovation as a way to drive growth across its brands. Startups that are particularly unique or appealing could additionally become acquisition targets. The cosmetics company recently bought the content marketing agency Beamly and hair product company Ghd, and has created partnerships with other agencies and beauty companies to better leverage its digital capabilities. Coty's investments in upstart companies like the social selling brand Younique have also bolstered its bottom line in recent quarters.
AI continues to be an area marketers are investing in as they look to deepen expertise in data management, programmatic ad buying, and digital assistants and chatbots. Last year, trade group the Association of National Advertisers declared "artificial intelligence" as the Marketing Word of the Year, pointing to how it's risen to the top of many brands' priority lists. Forrester predicts that 20% of firms will use AI in 2018 to make business decisions and offer customer service and sales support through automated communications.