Miss Chic Tonique: Key Ingredients for Creating a Successful Web Series

Does Miss Chic Tonique ring a bell to you? If you’re around young teenage girls, chances are they are hooked on this series of short capsules that are both fun and charming. It’s an overwhelming success for VRAK and the community is now well established on Facebook and Instagram. Marie-Philippe and Simone—the young hosts who form the Miss Chic Tonique duo—accompanied teenage girls throughout the fall despite being absent from YouTube and television.

Marie-Philippe, Simone and their Chihuahua Nina all three became instant stars on VRAK. In the space of only a few weeks, they fully merited their place on the red carpet at KARV, the anti.gala, as well as with their fans looking to get autographs and their share of excited admiration. The project consisting of capsules presented exclusively on VRAK’s web platform was piloted by Bell Media’s Isabelle Sullivan and produced by Toast Studio. Launched this year, the series’ capsules have each been viewed an average of 25,000 to 30,000 times and it’s far from over… Youth continue to discover the capsules, which are viewed thousands of times each and every week to this day. Encouraged by this success, VRAK commissioned Toast Studio to produce a special Christmas television show.

It all began with the Chic Tonique blog

At the outset, the project was a blog and a brand name: Chic Tonique. Catering to young women in search of health and beauty tips, the original blog held by Marie-Philippe Jean and Simone Fortin has been very popular since 2012. Toast Studio producers discovered the two bloggers during the Grand Défi Pierre Lavoie of which they are participants faithful to their readers to whom they offer first and foremost pleasure, energy, simplicity and humor. Accordingly, Toast proposes a declination of the brand (as well as the Miss prefix) to VRAK in order to reach the Toniques’ “younger sisters.” The key is to work with attention to detail and precision on the values that founded the original brand, i.e., a predilection for useful and dynamic content, a natural complicity and straightforward language.

The blog’s content is naturally echoed in the capsule format and the tips and finds are adapted for a younger audience in a universe that bans advertising and marketing: hair and makeup ideas based on DIY, home cooking, resourcefulness, chatting and physical activity… not to forget tips on how to prevent boredom. Seeing as the hosts were unknown at the time, Toast and VRAK rested their entire strategy on the generic quality of the content as well as the overall efficiency of the channel’s platform. Script writing and production modes were kept as agile as possible and social networks were used to amplify the exchanges with fans.

A success story driven by a core of diehard fans

After a few weeks, the diehard core who kept coming back week after week to view new capsules counted 15,000 fans (the average number of views over the ten days following a video’s release) and that number continues to increase with each passing week. More than 90,000 unique visitors have viewed at least one video from beginning to end. In organic terms (no purchases were made), mentions of Miss Chic Tonique on VRAK’s Facebook page reach an average of anywhere between 50,000 and 80,000 people on a weekly basis each time the channel promotes a new capsule. Typically, mentions receive 215 “Likes,” are shared ten or so times and are the object of 20 something comments. In certain cases, the unveiling of a new capsule on Facebook can lead to over 200 comments and hundreds of “Likes.”

More interestingly, in a formidable spirit of mimicry that characterizes web success stories like Miss Chic Tonique, some fans began “playing Miss Chic Tonique” and the most diehard among them began uploading their own creations—of surprising and touching quality.

Producers who develop content for children and preadolescents are faced with a host of challenges when it comes to relevance, coherence, proximity and community moderation. To date, the VRAK, Toast Studio and Miss Chic Tonique teams have risen to these challenges with candour and sensitivity. One of the pillars on which the strategy rests is the ability to identify users who are just beginning to discover social networks without parental supervision within a fan community. Another one is to avoid swiftly punishing the hacking and copying of content.

VRAK unilaterally applies two very simple measures: it does not create specific web pages for shows (to avoid compartmentalizing the content) and it does not distribute its capsules on YouTube or through other external platforms. The forum hosted by the channel and made available to fans who have not reached the minimum required age to participate in social media exchanges allows younger fans to exchange among themselves. To date, the forum has hosted over 85 fan-initiated conversations on Miss Chic Tonique and fans also use the forum to launch their own discussion topics and threads. More than 1,000 comments have been posted to date.

A surprising number of Facebook pages bearing the names of Simone and Marie-Philippe have appeared and they are all managed in a courteous and personalized manner. A simple search on Instagram using the #misschictonique hashtag eloquently demonstrates to which extent this photo sharing platform has become a highly popular social network and the team monitors it assiduously.

The images uploaded to Instagram form an excellent qualitative analysis tool for the channel’s producers and programmers and play a crucial role in terms of quality control and validation for the fans also. Emulation undeniably has a multiplier effect. Indeed, the “recipes” and “results” that are photographed and uploaded are very similar to the versions proposed by the stylists-hosts. Each image therefore becomes an irrefutable demonstration of feasibility. The producers had decided to focus their efforts on the “useful tip” niche – high participation rates among users would appear to have proven them right.

Suzanne Lortie
Suzanne Lortie holds a diploma in production from the National Theatre School of Canada as well as a MBA from HEC Montreal. She became a professor at Université du Québec à Montreal in July 2012. She has also worked as a production manager and line producer for television since 1992 (major variety and cultural series that won several Gémeaux and ADISQ awards, documentaries) and is a consultant in new media strategies.
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