Brands are not just the logo on a product or service.  The best brands are platforms, conversation starters and catalysts for change.  And lately, the fashion and beauty industry's makeup brands are leading that charge.  

At the center of lots of conversation is Rihanna's Fenty Beauty, sold at Sephora and launched in September 2017.  Fenty is noteworthy because by delving into the complexity and nuance of skin color, it has gone far beyond the superficial. Also, it is a revenue generator:  in its first month Fenty grossed $72 million and 132 million YouTube views.  Its foundation and concealer product offerings highlight the undertones of skin color, and have kicked off conversations and feelings of acceptance among African-American, Latina and Asian women of all hues who now feel special- and not just an after thought.  The world is diverse and the beauty industry is now investing the science into delivering product that is accurate to diverse skin types and affirming for all women. 

It turns out that inclusive business is big dollar business.  The global color cosmetics makeup market is a $68 billion market, and is projected to grow to $84 billion by 2024.  It only takes a quick perusal of YouTube beauty, hair and makeup vloggers to see the plethora of trend setters and brand loyalists who look nothing like the Top Model contestants in terms of age, ethnicity, or body type- but who are founts of expertise to big consumer products goods companies. 

The cosmetics industry, once guilty of being monolithic and driving a push marketing strategy models good branding behavior in the following ways:

A Source for Authenticity

On a recent public radio program 1A hosted by Joshua Johnson, women's appreciation for authenticity rang loud and clear. Entitled "Contoured, HIghlighted, and Bronzed: The Business of Makeup"  a range of women- for example, Indian women, albino women and African-American women - called in and commented on the deep and personal ramifications made by having access to a cosmetic product like a concealer that "got them".  Those makeup brands which ensure that their brands function well for a wide range of people, give those consumers a voice to share their story and connect with one another.

Experience Led by The People and For The People

One of the ways the cosmetics industry is surviving the retail decline (an article in The Atlantic actually referred to the slump as a "retail apocalypse") is embracing the pop-up and micro-environments for selling.  M·A·C, always a celebrant of diversity, has done this by launching smaller and approachable retail carts in some airport markets, focusing on one product, such as lipstick at the Philadelphia International Airport.  Glossier got inspiration from the circus when it extended out from its online channel to set up shop in a SoHo brick and mortar pop up in January 2017.

Embrace Difference

Ten years ago we would have thought it highly unlikely that a woman with alopecia or vitiligo could become a model.  And now Therese Hansson and Winnie Harlow have become iconic faces in glaour magazines.  By leading with their bold bravery, brands signal the rest of us to stand out in whatever ways we are different. 

Makeup is about reinvention- drag queen RuPaul once remarked, "Every morning, we all get dressed in drag." Therefore, it makes sense that the beauty industry has arrived at this moment to be a model to other brands to reinvent and connect to people: their raison d'être.

Published on: Jul 17, 2018
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