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Ulta Beauty trains sales associates to help them (and customers) ditch negative self-talk

When advising on a new lip color or brow gel, sales associates at Ulta Beauty regularly hear customers speak harshly about their own appearance. To understand how negative self-talk can get in the way of experiencing wellbeing and joy, the retailer launched The Joy Study, asking YouGov Panel to survey 5,000 US teens and adults aged 13 and up. 

The study found that 91% of respondents identify negative self-talk as a key obstacle to joy, and — alarmingly — 67% are unaware when they engage in the habit. The number is even higher for Gen Z, 74% of whom don't notice when putting themselves down. And only one in three of those surveyed reported feeling joy in their daily lives.

Aiming to help boost everyone's state of mind, Ulta Beauty worked with author and podcast host Mel Robbins to initiate a comprehensive program dubbed The Joy Project. Robbins developed a Toolkit for Joy: a set of mini-courses equipping Ulta's 53,000 associates with strategies to help them counteract their own inner critics. Subsequently, Ulta will encourage staff members to integrate those learnings when they notice customers disparaging their looks.

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More than a skin-deep campaign, The Joy Project is reengineering Ulta's customer experience, starting with internal employee training. By trusting that associates will extend their new-found knowledge to the customers they interact with, Ulta is creating a ripple effect of healthier self-talk. With 53,000 shop-floor workers, the impact could be substantial.

Michelle Crossan-Matos, chief marketing officer at Ulta Beauty, says: "Tackling the inner critic is only the beginning, but an important step to bringing attention to an issue that has long been a source of people's inability to experience the joy they deserve. It's our hope that by addressing this now and working together we can positively shape how future generations see themselves."

If you're in retail, how could your brand similarly shift from transactional retail experiences to transformative ones, helping boost the wellbeing of both your employees and your customer base? And what would you need to put in place to ensure a program's long-term efficacy?

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Spotted by: Pablo Riquelme