The beauty industry is worth a staggering £17 billion in the UK alone, with consumers spending upwards of £9 billion each year on the latest cosmetic innovations.
Whether they promise to keep us looking young, cover our flaws or accentuate our favourite features, it takes a truly special product to stand out in such a saturated market.
The last century has seen a radical shift in beauty industry advertising and marketing campaigns. Not only are ads brighter, slicker and digitally enhanced, but the type of language used to sell beauty products has also changed dramatically. Marketing campaigns have become more sophisticated, often focusing on the science behind a product alongside its cosmetic benefits.
With that in mind, we’re taking a closer look at how marketing campaigns directly influence our beauty purchases, and how the art of language has helped transform the industry.
The science of beauty
Hypoallergenic, dermatologically tested, clinically proven – all are common claims put out by beauty brands in a bid to add weight to their marketing campaigns. As consumers become more aware of the chemicals and ingredients that exist within their favourite formulas, there’s been a steady increase in the amount of scientific language used to promote new and existing products.
It’s no longer enough for beauty brands to suggest that their product has benefits that are skin-deep. Audiences expect strong, scientific claims that demonstrate how and why formulas perform the way they do.
Decoding common product claims
While scientific language may be enough to persuade many of us to loosen our purse strings, it’s interesting to see just how few of these common claims are backed up by real science – many are little more than clever marketing tactics. To illustrate our point, here are just a few of the most-used examples of industry jargon decoded.
Cruelty-free – The cruelty-free label applies to any product that hasn’t been tested on animals. While this definition may seem clear enough, there are a few complications worth considering. For instance, a product can carry this label if it hasn’t been tested on animals in its current state, but it doesn’t mean that individual ingredients within the formula haven’t been tested in the past.
Natural/organic ingredients – ‘Organic’ and ‘natural’ are key industry buzzwords, with sales of organic beauty up more than 20% in 2016 alone. Many products carrying this label are also priced well above their ‘less natural’ counterparts. However, there is no legal definition of these terms within the cosmetics industry. Whether a product is derived solely from natural ingredients or contains 1% natural ingredients against 99% synthetics, this claim can legally be made in exactly the same way.
Dermatologically tested – As expected, any product claiming to be dermatologically tested needs to have been tested by a qualified dermatologist. Where the confusion lies however, is in exactly what the product has been tested for. These claims are commonly made without any further explanation, and even the most basic level of dermatological testing can warrant a product to carry this on its label.
Hypoallergenic – While the term ‘hypoallergenic’ may conjure up visions of teams in lab coats, this particular claim has roots in marketing rather than science. Products that carry the hypoallergenic label may stand a lesser chance of causing an allergic reaction, but there aren’t any guidelines in place to measure this. In fact, there are no specific standards that a product needs to meet in order to be marketed as hypoallergenic.
Clinically proven – Skincare products are often marketed as ‘clinically proven’, suggesting that trials have been conducted in order to confirm key claims. The fact of the matter is that a product can be labelled as clinically proven no matter how small the pool of testers has been. Even if one person has used the product under the guidance of a doctor, it can be identified as clinically proven.
Many common claims made by leading beauty brands are questionable in origin, yet they continue to draw in consumers eager to sample the latest cosmetic must-haves. In an industry that’s all about appearances, it’s perhaps unsurprising that such brazen marketing tactics have the power to capture consumer attention and influence our buying process.
The power of diversity
Despite its flaws, there’s no denying that the beauty industry has made some significant and positive steps over recent years. Many brands have shifted their focus away from the promotion of unrealistic beauty standards and towards themes of acceptance and empowerment. With that in mind, here are just a few of the campaigns that have influenced our purchasing habits and changed attitudes towards beauty for the better.
L’Oreal’s True Match Campaign
L’Oreal’s True Match Foundation went from strength to strength following its diverse advertising campaign, with True Match going on to become the UK’s best-selling foundation in 2017.
Alongside choosing an individual spokesperson for each of the 23 shades, the campaign marked the first time that a leading UK brand incorporated a male model into their advertising. Blogger and make-up artist Gary Thompson represented shade 9.C, encouraging people of all genders to be free to wear make-up in their own way.
Glossier’s Body Heroes
Few brands have made quite as much impact on the online beauty community as Glossier. The brand is the brainchild of Emily Weiss, who is also the Founder and CEO of leading online beauty publication Into The Gloss.
Glossier’s ethos is very much centered on real products for real women – using cosmetics as a tool to enhance natural beauty rather than cover flaws. In 2017 the brand launched its debut range of body care, aptly named ‘Body Hero’. Showing a commitment to inclusivity right down to their ad campaigns, Glossier used their online platform to showcase women from all walks of life as ‘body heroes’ in their own right.
Fenty Beauty’s New Generation
Developed by musician Rihanna, Fenty Beauty pioneered a “new generation of beauty” upon its launch in 2017, with cosmetics that promised to suit a broader spectrum of skin tones than competing brands. Fans celebrated as Fenty launched a debut marketing campaign with inclusivity at its core, and made steps to single-handedly address the lack of diversity in modern-day beauty advertising.
When implemented effectively, successful marketing campaigns have the power to convert, persuade and sell to the mass market.
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