Over the past decade, society has undergone a series of unprecedented cultural shifts. From increased minority and female representation in politics, to the legalization of gay marriage; the increase of transgender voices in pop culture to the rebirth of (fourth wave?) feminism – the progress has been astounding.
Apart from the significant impact this transition has had on our broader culture, the societal change has also held meaning for marketers and advertisers, especially in the realms of beauty and fashion. Brands’ customers now expect more than just a product: They want the brand from which they’re buying to reflect the culture in which they live, the diverse people that surround them, and the causes they support.
Perhaps no industry has been thrust into a cause-related culture more than the beauty business. For beauty brands, their products, and the general measurement of “standards of beauty,” customers are emphasizing the need for representation across a number of categories. The good news? Brands are listening, and embracing diversity has moved from a fringe trend to the norm.
Check out some of our favorite brands showing us how beauty has changed to embrace every customer and society’s changing expectations.
Dove was on the natural beauty train long before many brands were even thinking about it. For over ten years, the Unilever brand has pushed beauty boundaries. From its first study that found only 2% of women surveyed found themselves to be beautiful, to its award-winning “Real Beauty Sketches” advertisement, to its most recent #MyBeautyMySay campaign, which encourages women to define beauty in their own terms, Dove has pioneered a beauty movement for acceptance. Since making that headway in 2004, many brands have found their own voice in empowering women through marketing and have seen results from making this natural shift.
Nike may not be a beauty brand, but as an athletic apparel company it’s been taking great strides to promote the beauty of female athletes. Serena Williams is a great example of a woman who, despite her talent and grace, has continued to receive criticism over her beauty and her body in the media. In spite of these body-shaming challenges (and there have been numerous accounts), Williams has stood out for her class in the face of negativity and her ability to perpetuate the notion of beauty through strength. As a Nike-sponsored athlete, the brand has given her, as well as other models and athletes, a platform to transform the perception of a singular kind of beauty and champion body-positivity.
While a heavy-hitting athlete and celebrity like Williams is mutually beneficial for Nike, the brand has also forayed into inclusivity of all body types in their advertising and social media efforts, which seems to be paying off (as you can see from those almost 78K likes and plethora of news coverage).
In addition to their above campaign, the brand also released a YouTube vlog series targeted at diverse millennial women to reach them wherever they are in their fitness journeys. This makes sense when according to Fortune, Nike sees its women’s business growing from $5.7B in annual sales to $11B in the next five years. What better way to help perpetuate this growth than by showing women in all their glory, shades of beauty, and strength?
Through continuing to create content that resonates with a diverse range of women, Nike will also likely see a growth in women contributing their own authentic stories through user-generated content. Earned content is one of the best ways that a brand can see, in real time, what type of consumers they’re reaching, what they love about a product, and what inspires them to share the brand message.
The (still) young skincare and makeup brand hit the scene earlier this year with a bang, asking women to go “back to the basics” and use products that help them show off their unique beauty in the way they feel most comfortable. Before even releasing their makeup line (lipstick, concealer, and the like) they released a skincare set, encouraging women to ensure that they love themselves in their own skin, and then if they feel so inclined, they can give their makeup line a shot.
Given that Glossier was created by beauty editors, from the blog Into The Gloss, the company has made it abundantly clear that they are (and have been) listening to what customers want – it’s the foundation on which they built their brand. Moreover, they are a hit with the millennial generation according to Adweek because they are filling a need in the market to “democratize beauty” and also know how to reach the younger consumer, digitally (their products are exclusively sold online).
Additionally, given the popularity of the glossier hashtag on Instagram, with almost 25K posts to date, the brand might also want to consider showcasing their consumers’ photos to drive home their message of supporting women’s unique beauty with earned content. By meeting millennial women where they are (the internet) and reminding them the importance of a basic skincare routine to showcase their beauty, whatever type it may be, Glossier truly emphasizes the power authenticity can have in a brand’s messaging and imagery.
A photo posted by Glossier. (@glossier) on
Last but not least we have Aerie, an American Eagle brand, which in 2014 ditched Photoshop in their ads and in-store marketing, diversified their models, and started perpetuating the importance of representing women’s real beauty. Almost immediately the feedback was extraordinary, and now two years since launching the campaign it’s paid off in dollars.
According to The Huffington Post, in 2015 the retailer’s sales grew 20% – simply for challenging “supermodel standards,” and representing women’s beauty in an authentic way. This says a lot for beauty and fashion brands looking to connect with women or grow their women’s business.
Aerie now has almost 40K posts on Instagram under the hashtag #AerieReal. Looking at this content, it’s clear that the brand’s fans appreciate the body-positive message, and are even likely to share their own stories of what being real means to them.
Whether a female is Gen-Z, Millennial, or Boomer-aged, all women want to see themselves depicted accurately in advertising and marketing: They want to see the curls, the scars, the imperfections, the sizes, the colors, and everything in between. We’ve written before about why authenticity matters for female shoppers, and now more than ever, the beauty and fashion industries seem to be listening.
As exemplified above, brands that represent women may also see a return in the content they earn. With a campaign like #AerieREAL, or #MyBeautyMySay, brands aren’t just championing the women in their ads, they’re encouraging consumers to share how they fit into that brand message.
Many of these campaigns prove not only that definition of beauty is changing, but also that real women, however they define their beauty, are worth investing in. Transparency and adaptability to the ever-changing cultural tide is necessary for brands that want to reach their diverse audiences moving forward – what will your brand do to ensure your consumers’ voices are being heard and reflected in your marketing?