Do people buy to become, or do they buy to enhance? That is the central question currently redefining beauty PR and marketing. The debate is raging online, on social media, and in malls across America, with adherents on both sides digging in and planting flags in what they call “the right answer.”
The “traditional” approach, which has been dominant for decades, appears to assume people buy because they aspire. They purchase beauty products to attain an otherwise unattainable level of beauty. They want to become. They see a supermodel in a magazine or on a billboard and assume this model represents the ideal of beauty to which they should conform. Then they look in the mirror, assess how far away from that ideal they currently are and go buy beauty products to close the gap.
This way of thinking about beauty PR is under a full-scale attack in all forms of media. Thanks to brands like Dove and Aerie and Nike — as well as tens of millions of women voting with their wallets — the traditional approach is losing ground in the battle for beauty PR success. In place of the traditional “becoming” mindset, millions of women have begun to, literally, buy into the “buy to enhance” mindset. They are looking in the mirror before shopping, liking what they see and looking for beauty products that enhance those features, rather than transforming them.
This approach to beauty PR takes many different forms. Some call it “real beauty” or “authentic womanhood” or “celebrating the feminine,” but, regardless of the descriptive terms, the bottom line is the same the old methods of marketing beauty products need to be re-evaluated and re-tooled for a shifting market.But consumer tastes are not the only factor to consider. How customers are using beauty products is also shifting. Increasingly, beauty consumers are interested in creating spa experiences at home. That means they are, at least in their thinking, combing health and beauty products more than ever before.
This is an opportunity for brands to cross-market health and beauty products as part of brand-specific beauty systems. This is also an opportunity for brands that have earned consumer trust on one side of that market to entice consumers to try other product lines. Luxury is also become less of a definitive selling point. While some brands are still very popular because of their luxury status, successful marketing pushes by brands like Dove, as well as the introduction of online or direct sales products in the marketplace, have consumers re-thinking their priorities where health and beauty products are concerned.
More and more, consumers are thinking: “If I can feel beautiful in my own skin and still save some cash, why pay the luxury price?”
That’s not to say marketing as a luxury beauty brand is dead. Prevailing trends have not eliminated the market for either traditional approaches to beauty PR or the effectiveness of pushing luxury as a selling factor. There are still plenty of buyers that appreciate these selling points. The key is to realize the market is slowly diverging into cohorts for whom traditional beauty standards and luxury pricing are selling points and cohorts for whom those factors are either turn offs or non-factors, and to do the research necessary to decide which segment of this diverging market your brand should target.