Social media has changed the beauty industry rapidly from the rise of beauty influencers to the new forms of online marketing and advertising strategies. During the pre-social media era, brands relied on PR press releases and magazines to target customers, as this was where most consumers went to be updated about beauty related content. Fast-forward to the social media era and consumers are exposed to a wide range of content, which targets different customers needs, indicating how inclusive and accessible beauty has become. With the increased exposure that social media has offered brands, consumers have begun to question how inclusive their favourite cosmetics brands really are and have been able to respond to advertising campaigns in more direct ways than ever before.
Over the years the usage of social media platforms to view beauty content has increased dramatically. A research study conducted by Lightspeed GMI/Mintel in April 2015 indicated that 57% of people used Facebook to view beauty content, 14% used Instagram and 41% used Youtube compared to the 30% who did not view beauty content online highlighting how using social media to view beauty related content was popular in 2015 just as much as it is now in 2018. Another research study conducted by Mintel in 2017 reported that 31% of beauty product buyer’s research beauty products online before purchasing them underlining how the Internet has changed the consumers buying journey.
Social media has allowed every day consumers to engage much more closely with products and as a result it has given rise to careers in content creation in the form of make-up gurus and make-up artists. Make-up gurus review products and record tutorials whereas make-up artists promote their artistry services online. Many people benefit from using social media to promote their make-up artistry services such as 19-year-old make-up artist and aspiring fashion stylist, Hannah. She promotes her make up artistry services on her Instagram page and states how the platform has increased her engagement rate and has allowed her to gain clients,
“Social media has definitely helped me with gaining clients as it has made it easier for me to put my work out. It has helped me with booking client as well, instead of being emailed or called, clients are able to book a date and time via my website, which takes 2 minutes to fill in.”
The social media era has also influenced what is trending in the make-up industry, whether that consists of make-up looks, new make-up tips or the hottest new products, which is hot. Consumers have realised their power in the advertising world of beauty and cosmetics. It is the conversations and trending topics on social media that dictate what products and services will be successful online and brands are pressured to follow these trends closely through analytics and a dedicated social media team. Meaning that consumers have more power in terms of the content they choose to digest from media companies, what one ends up realising is that you find an unspoken narrative amongst communities on major social media platforms, even if you are trying to deliver a certain message if that is not what your audience is talking about or are interested in then they will not be interested in it. Make-up artist, Hannah states,
“I definitely feel like make up brands do look at social media for inspiration as many trends are set on social media. In order for brands to know what customers want and are into they look at social media and incorporate these trends into their new products or products that they currently have.”
The Power Of The Influencer
Brands have also started to take inspiration from social media and what beauty influencers are doing; they try to incorporate these trends into their campaigns to increase their engagement rates and following. They target beauty influencers such as 23- year- old, Faduma, who is also an MUA. She states that social media has helped her with gaining clients and her make-up tutorials on Instagram and Youtube have increased her Instagram insights and following. She also mentions how influencers are now the ones, who dictate trends,
“Make up brands are looking at social media for inspiration as that is what people want. Social media shows what people are looking into, what trends are trending, so whatever is trending brands need to come out with, because if brands are not growing then they won’t make money if they are not able to do simple supply and demand.”
Brands also utilise beauty influencers by sending their products to a variety and wide range of influencers in order to tap into different audiences. Consumers enjoy content by beauty influencers, as they want to know whether a product would actually work for them and consumers take their word due to being able to relate to them. The yearning for reviews has increased the success of beauty influencers with their followers tuning into their content to learn about the latest trending make-up products. Undeniably, a large percentage of consumers look for influencers who look like them. Mintel reported that 15% of women aged 16-24 years old who view beauty content online prefer content created by someone who is from the same ethnic origin as they are able to purchase the same products as them, in turn making the buying process easier and quicker. Well-known beauty influencers such as Jackie Aina have collaborated with brands to help them with advertising their products to her millions of followers. Aina recently launched an extended foundation range with Too Faced. The Born This Way foundation range introduced 11 new colours, 9 of which Aina helped develop, increasing the total number of shades to 35. The new extended range is aimed at people of colour who find it difficult with finding their colour at make-up counters.
However, being inclusive is now viewed as being more than just a skin tone, which is why it is important that brands gain the beauty influencers trust. Faduma mentions how brands work with influencers with a small following to gain the trust of their audience,
“Brands utilise influencers by gaining their trust and going for influencers with a small following to show consumers that their products are good as someone with a small following is promoting their work. By sending it to small influencers it does help people look at the product being advertised to them and makes the consumers aspire to reach the same level as influencers.”
There has been an on-going debate about the inclusivity and the diversity of high-end make-up brands and high street make-up brands. In September 2017, Rihanna launched her cruelty-free beauty line, Fenty Beauty, which included 40 foundation shades. Her aim was to create a foundation line that could be used by people with a wide range of undertones and complexions. The foundation range resonated deeply with people of colour as it was the first brand that was able to not only target different skin tones but a broad range of undertones as well. After the success of Fenty Beauty, many beauty brands realised the gap in the market that could be developed and have attempted to replicate it. In September 2017, L’Oréal True Match foundation extended their foundation range to 29 shades in order to “celebrate diversity”, they also started employing a diverse range of models to boost their campaigns in being more inclusive to people of colour. Social media brands such as Pinterest have also monetised over the beauty industry. The platform has developed a feature, which allows users to narrow down beauty results by skin tone; it has also introduced a halal cosmetics sector highlighting how being inclusive is more than skin deep. Lush has also recently launched Lush Slap Sticks Solid Foundations. The range is 100% vegan and has over 40 shades, it consists of three undertones being cool, warm and neutral to compliment all skin tones. In addition, 10% of the profits are sent to fund literacy classes and dentist on the Indonesia island of Nias, demonstrating to customers how their money will go towards a beneficial cause.
In the current climate, both high-end brands and high street brands are starting to see that there is a huge demographic that is yearning for a wider range of foundation shades to be released. Even with the new range of foundation shades being released, it is evident that both high-end and high street brands do not provide a sufficient and wide range of foundation shades for people of colour.
However, between the two it is high street brands, which are appearing more inclusive, diverse and are catering to their audiences needs whether that is in terms of media representation or the range of foundation shades being sold. Make-up artist, Hannah believes that there is a divide between high-end brands and high street brands, she states,
“High-end brands do not include women of colour in their campaigns and they don’t really produce products for women of colour as that is what society wants from them. However high street brands include a wider range for women of colour. For example, Maybelline recently launched a campaign for a new foundation range which had over 30 colours.”
Social media has introduced a new form of advertising where existing make-up brands are able to build upon and transform how consumers view their brand. Whereas new make-up brands, or indie make-up brands as they are referred to online are able to fully utilise the medium by creating targeted content for those that they want to advertise to. The rise of indie brands has changed the beauty industry as it has made it more competitive. Compared to the high street and high-end beauty brands, indie beauty brands provide a wider range of pigmented colours and a selection of cruelty-free and vegan options.
Hannah mentions how consumers are more likely to purchase products from established brands as they have a reputation for being reliable and established. She believes that “There is a divide as consumers are paying for the more established brands and not helping the upcoming brands.”
Whereas beauty influencer, Faduma believes that, “Indie brands such as Anastasia Beverly Hills are doing really well compared to brands like MAC because we (MAC) are not supporting people with what they want, we are not coming out with what people need. ” Which is why established high-end and high street beauty brands need to start analysing what is working for indie brands and start incorporating it into their marketing and advertising campaigns.
Marketing and Advertising of Beauty Brands
Each advertising platform requires a different approach to employ when promoting content. Ultimately, social media can either make or break a beauty brands reputation. It has also made them realise that there is a huge market out there potentially for women of colour and have really changed their marketing gear. With a lot of brands now you are able to see the change that is occurring in terms of what they release to the public to the models they hire in their campaigns. The profit that comes with diversity is forcing brands to realise that there is a bigger market out there and they need to play to this bigger market. Tria Beauty’s International Sales Manager, Barbara Hutton Mills has been working in the beauty and sales retail environment for the last 24 years. She started in Clarins as an international Trainer, Lancome as a Merchandiser then went onto work at MAC as Artist Relations. She states that she can definitely see the changes that are occurring in the beauty industry,
“The way brands market themselves on social media is definitely changing, I can see in how they advertise, I can see in the models they use, I can sometimes see in the language they use, they are being a lot more inclusive to everyone.”
Advertising project manager, Casey Nugent who has worked with brands such as Dove, Simple and Gillette amongst others mentions that make-up brands do not engage with their audiences and they prefer to act as fact giving pages. He says that many brands fail to realise where they are going wrong in their campaigns and they, “Struggle with what to do with social media, they just feel like that is where everybody is, that is where I need to be, but in the context of where does my brand fit into social media? And what is our role within that? Still, a lot of brands are getting this wrong.” He believes that brands need to start incorporating the same strategies as American companies such as Wendy’s where they feed off the banter that is happening on social media as this adds a human element to their brand and social media platforms, which they employ.
When social media is done right it can provide many opportunities. It allows you to touch customers at several points throughout the day. As well as opening up more channels to pull in customers if it is done right, it also allows customers to get to know brands a little better as advertising was mainly magazine based before and only the products being sold would be mentioned but not the brand’s story and values. Barbara mentions, “With the introduction of social media you can really delve into the brand’s story and find out what they are doing, it also gives consumers a little bit of insight into what the brand is about. Social media is really engaging the consumer like we have never seen before.” However, being able to know so much about a brand at the click of a finger can be detrimental. If a company was testing on animals it would spread like wildfire, which is why it is important that brands constantly check themselves and make sure that they are not offending any of their consumers, as people are able to find out about small details very quickly due to the Internet.
In order for brands to fully utilise social media, it is important that they listen and are present in the conversations that are occurring in different communities on social media. Project manager, Casey states that you need to find out how influencers are communicating with their audiences and then tailor your content for those audiences, “I think that brands need to move away from this one size fits all model where we have added every shade to this advert, therefore, it is applicable to everyone. Different communities have different struggles and are looking for different things from different brands.”
There are many problems that come with advertising on social media to promote beauty brands. Before social media it was easy as you had only traditional platforms to promote content, however now there are so many different avenues and platforms to use, which means that agencies need to train people to learn about different platforms and research the platforms, which will bring them the most revenue. Barbara says that with new bloggers coming out every day it has made the market saturated and makes it more difficult for brands to reach customers, “We are constantly challenged with how do we get customers to come to our Instagram and Facebook page? Whereas before we would put it on a magazine and they would come. Now we need to analyse the consumers shopping habit, where they get inspiration to shop at and what is influencing them. It has even forced a lot of brands to look within themselves to figure out how they can drive followers to their brand.”
The Future of Beauty Brands
The future of social media for beauty brands is going to be very difficult as the landscape is forever changing, the conversations are constantly progressing, the expectations are forever increasing and beauty brands need to accept these upcoming challenges. The future is going to move into a realm where consumers are going to be demanding 100% honesty from companies; they are not going to accept mediocre press releases for doing things a certain way as the bar has been set high. Brands need to understand that they need to take accountability for their actions. Casey states that “Brands need to be very active in terms of finding out what people are doing on these apps, how they communicate on these apps, and really base their social strategy around how to effectively communicate with them, in a way that is comfortable and natural.” Using this format will improve brands engagement rates and following, it will also increase the likeability of the brand, as consumers will feel that they are being directly spoken to and it adds a human element.
If a consumer has an issue with a product it will no longer be a letter to customer service, but a complaint on Facebook, which will eventually spread to other platforms and start a debate. Brands will be held accountable for what they put out and in the future and will be more aware of what they are putting out, as they are aware of the backlash that they will face. Barbara believes that brands will utilise the knowledge of millennials as they have grown up with social media and they know what consumers want when being represented with content online, she states, “You definitely get a lot of companies moving away from the traditional marketing route to now looking at getting young people to run their social media to be the voice of the company.” Brands will also need to familiarise themselves with the different social media channels that are constantly appearing and they will need to hire people who know how to use these functions and be able to train others to reach the same level as them. There will definitely be more targeted content being addressed to consumers and many brands have still not developed their social media platforms to hit their targets, a lot of brands are still working on reaching their target demographic. Social media reassures consumers that brands are conducting themselves in accordance with the values most important to them. The openness of social media allows consumers to seek the brands that best reflect their ethics.