The Beauty of Social Media

Looking at my Facebook news feed, pushing their way in next to my friends and family are the brands that I also share special relationship with. Often you will find that they are the brands you don’t mind being associated with, the brands that have satisfied us so much that were willing to share it publically with our friends. The explosion in social media has given the opportunity to reach consumers directly, create brand personality and strengthen brand loyalty. In the past, marketers have utilized various means of maintaining brand loyalty (Kotler and Keller, 2007; Keller, 2008) so why should this be any different for social media and what does this mean for the world of cosmetics…

“Can you all hear me?!”

Well, let’s first of all, look at why we interact with them. Mintel Oxygen recently created a report (Social Media: Beauty and Personal Care, 2012) showing that internet users (aged 16+) who liked a beauty brand wanted their friends to know they liked it as the main reason for doing so. This creates a massive social spin on branding, showing that actually people do it so that friends can not only know you like the brand but associate you with it also. In actual fact almost four in ten of us Brits have interacted with beauty and personal care brands online according to Mintel, this equates to a huge 15 million people. Alexandra Richmond, Senior Social Media and Lifestyles Analyst at Mintel explains that people use social media as a means to share thoughts, which illustrates the power of word of mouth. She also goes on to say that the internet plays a key role in influencing other people’s purchases, while at the same time providing the brand with valuable feedback.

“Tell me, too!”

Mintel argues another reason for our interaction with beauty social media sites is down to our ‘voucher culture’, where it was found that 33% of internet users interacted with beauty brands to take advantage of special offers (2012). Additional research by Mangold and Foulds, 2009 suggests that consumers go to social media sites to keep up with a brands products and promotional campaigns.

So what does this mean for the beauty brands?

Well, Erdoğmuş and Çiçek (2012) found that social media can have a positive effect on brand loyalty when a number of conditions are satisfied. To achieve this positive result, brands must offer advantageous campaigns, offer relevant content, offer popular content, and appear on various platforms including applications.

Mangold and Frauds (2009) state that social media is the new hybrid element of the promotional mix because ‘in a traditional sense it enables companies to talk to their customers, while in a non-traditional sense it enables customers to talk directly to one another. Therefore it can be argued to be the most radial form of communicating to the customer.

Stelzner (2011) briefly notes that there are many benefits of using social media marketing in the ‘Social media marketing industry report’ including new business partnerships, improves search ratings and improved sales.

Mintel (2012) explains how social media gives opportunity to raise the awareness of brands finding that the most talked about brands were Vaseline, Chanel and Boots accounting for one in four (23%) mentions online between Nov 2011 and Jan 2012.

“So what?…Facebook said it was okay!”

Increased sales, loyalty and awareness as a result of social media marketing in the beauty industry makes me ask ‘why the hell wouldn’t you go online?’ Well, it turns out that there can also be negative repercussions for such freedom of expression amongst consumers and this has also been noted in research (Ward and Ostrom, 2006). These new channels of communication allow for people to openly express dissatisfaction which can leave negative influence on existing and potential customers similar to that already experienced by the cinema brand, Odeon. This kind of dissatisfaction has led some 25% of beauty brand enthusiasts to unfriend or unlike a brand on Facebook (Mintel, 2012). One person now has the ability to influence hundreds of close friends and family’s buying behaviour with one bad experience which, to me seems quite dramatic.

What do you think about the boom in social media marketing and the impact it can have on a beauty brands customers’?


Insecurity Sells

I’ve touched on it before, how we are continuously faced with unrealistic images in the field of beauty, but only in the context of airbrushing. I for one have, fallen victim to buying a product because it has made me reconsider what I perceived to beautiful on a few occasions. Not only did I waste my money on a product that made me revaluate myself but I actually considered it to be a treat too. (What a lemon!) Of course I’m wise to these strategies now and have decided to share with you my findings behind beauty advertising that causes such buying behaviour.

I would first like to begin with a statement by Richins (1991) arguing “the marketing concept espouses creation of consumer satisfaction as the central goal of marketing. However, study findings demonstrate that marketing activities can, in some contexts, do the opposite”. It isn’t anything new, the beauty industry has been repeatedly criticised for creating a “cult of unrealizable beauty” (Lakoff and Scherr, 1984).

Unrealistic expectations to meet social norms are argued to be a result of high exposure to the media. Eisend and Möller (2006) state “the results show that TV viewing biases social perceptions of body images” going on to explain how TV viewing increases the ‘real-ideal self discrepancy’ which results in consumption behaviour with the aim of achieving ideal bodies. Today, we can see that body images are based on cultural ideology that underlines body satisfaction (Thompson and Hirschman, 1995). Now, we see many influences and images from the media that deviate from the population average (Silverstein et al., 1986) especially with average body sizes growing. However, the result of this deviation can actually cause a shift in what is perceived to be average by those who are heavily exposed and so, females in particular feel pressure to conform to those standards (Milkie, 1999).

This theory of a shift in idealized bodies and beauty has been seen in a number of studies. Kenrick, Gutierres and Goldberg (1989) found that nude females of ‘average attractiveness’ were rated lower after male and female subjects had viewed ‘Playboy’ and ‘Penthouse’ nudes than after viewing abstract art. In an earlier study, Kenrick and Gutierres (1980) found that males watching ‘Charlie’s Angels’ rated one female who was normally considered of average attractiveness a lower rate than the males who were watching a different program.  Richins (1991) also suggests that females make regular comparisons to the models in ads. Richins recorded several comments during a focus group that proved this to be the case, including “God! I wish I looked like that” when one cosmetic ad was shown.

It is interesting though, that male’s are regularly noted to have different reactions to women from viewing such advertisements (Eisend and Möller, 2006; Hendriks, 2002; Spitzer et al., 1999. This is because men and women construct and maintain different self –construal’s (Cross and Madson, 1997). Men tend to develop an independent self-construal that is characterised by the need to be individualistic, autonomous and independent while women are characterised by interdependence. With this, Cross and Madson (1997) argue that women with an interdependent self-construal are considered to be more attentive and sensitive to others, looking to form intimate connections with other people. This information certainly gives reason why one woman out of every two is dissatisfied with her body (Hendricks, 2002).

I think there’s an important message to take from this research; to not let the media re-evaluate what we as individuals perceive to be beautiful. We are not all the same so we shouldn’t strive to become to the ‘average’, a herd of sheep following the same mundane path. The media has in effect, taught us to hate ourselves and give them our hard earned cash to improve the insecurities that they’ve created in the first place. To me, this seems like complete madness.

A Sweet Treat, Theme for The Skin

One afternoon this week, I was relaxing, watching some well-deserved television when a cosmetic advert was shown with bouncing jelly cubes in the background (to be shown later). Maybe it was my addiction to all things sweet that caused me to notice it, or perhaps it was the movement that caught my eye. Anyway, it made me think about how colours and themes are used in the cosmetic industry and how they influence us.

When seeing an advertisement, we often pay much of our attention on the product and branding. In actual fact, we take in more than we know, especially when it comes to the theme and the use of colour in the advertisement. They are used to represent a symbol or message and are so, an important area of communication (Hasty, 1983). Hasty (1983) explained that “while spoken and written words are perhaps the most commonly used symbols, people often employ many other symbols in order to enhance communication” and later adds to “produce meaning”.

Much research has been emphasised on the use of colour in advertising showing that it influences us both, physiologically and psychologically. Gerard (1957) found that exposure to the colour red had a number of effects on participants, which included increased blood pressure, heart rate and respiration rate. These effects were found to decrease with expose to a blue light. In psychological studies, Aaronson (1970) found that red was associated with rebellious moods. While on the other end of the scale Schaie and Heiss (1964) found that “low wave length” colours are associated with “sedate” moods.

Upon doing my own research, I found that the use of confectionary and sweet fruit as a means of promotion was actually a recurring theme in cosmetic ads. The variety of background colours had a tendency to specifically relate to the product, then creating a young and fun feel to the adverts through the association of “treats”, also of relating colour. This appeared to be the case in both lowbrow and highbrow cosmetic brands, which effectively attract younger markets while also creating a nostalgic feel for its other, target markets.

Here’s the advert that I initially saw by Clinique (2012)

Interestingly enough that the video is named a treat for the lips as Mizerski and White (1986) made the observation “consumers’ emotions have a significant influence on purchase and consumption decisions for a wide variety of products. A good example of this phenomenon can be found in the candy and snack market, where consumer responses are a product of a sizable number of emotion-laden situations that may be exploited in advertising strategy”. With this, the paper goes on to say that candy is often used as a reward for good behaviour in childhood as well as a ‘positive message’ among adults such as anniversaries and birthdays. Does this mean that companies are actively associating their products with both positive and impulsive behaviour? There’s certainly room to explore this further.

Here’s another advert, which makes the similar associations, by L’Oreal (2012):

In this advertisement, we can see a rainbow of attractive pastel colours to reflect the variety of products and the sweet, treat theme. Perhaps, the mixture of beautiful colour was designed to gain the attention of the viewer. “Advertisers have for a long time been concerned with eye-catching advertisements” (Hattwick, 1950; Margulies, 1970).

The colours and theme have actually become so successful and widespread that companies are now adopting them within the design of their products. This can also be seen with such fragrances as DKNY ‘Be Delicious and ‘Nina’ by Nina Ricci. Also, in brands such as Bourjois where their bronzer is pressed and shaped into a four blocked chocolate bar.

I know that these ‘oh so sweet’ associations definitely have a positive influence on myself, to the extent that I actually want to taste some of the lip products in both the advertisements used above. They make me think positive, think of rewards I would like to treat myself, as well as the style and fun I would also like to include in my life…I guess they worked then.

Environments That Make-up The Money

There has been much research to suggest that how and where we place our products has a massive impact on our buying behaviour. The in store environment and product positioning demonstrates the marketing concept in action, shaping the way we view products and how we interact with them. You could even argue that the shopping environment and product positioning in the beauty industry has one of the most challenging jobs, getting customers to interact with products they don’t even need (Maslow’s Hierarchy 1943). As human beings, we get some satisfaction out of beauty products but not in the same way as we would in purchasing products that offer a higher value to consumers in fulfilling a basic need, such a buying clothing for warmth. This is why so much time and thought goes in to the product environment; so the consumer is encouraged to engage and spend more time with the products, without even realizing it.

From my own experience as a skin care specialist, I know that impulse buying plays a big part in pushing up revenue and meeting targets that have been set not only for you but your whole counter. Because of the power if impulse buying Tendai and Crispen (2009) state that most marketers have since tried to ‘influence the in-store decisions of their potential consumers through creating enjoyable, attractive and modern state-of- the-art environments’ which people enjoy spending time in. it was with this statement I came to realize that the environment in which the products are sold works hand in hand with the positioning of the products that are being sold. Have you ever noticed that modernized beauty departments use clean light colours? This is likely so that attention is drawn to the colours and branding of the beauty counters, giving our visual cortex of the brain less information to recognize and distract us from the environment they’re set in.  Open space is also used as a way of encouraging longer shopping visits and reducing unpleasant experiences such as crowding (Bateson and Hui, 1987).

Research by North and Hargreaves (1998) show that music is capable of evoking complex affective and behavioural responses in consumers. Another study by Millman (1982) demonstrated how shoppers spent more time and money in a slow music tempo retail environment. This is often a reason by beauty departments will play different music to other parts of the store. With such a department placed at the entry of the store music can be used as a tool to slow customers down in when both passing through and leaving the store.

When it comes to displaying the products within this environment, Terrazas (2006) states that understanding the habits of customers’ is the most important part of in store displays. With this we can come to strategically place products that will increase sales. Tendai and Crispen (2009) argue that one strategy is to place complimentary goods next more common goods (which maybe why you will find perfume dispensers next to the perfume point of sale). Another strategy highlighted is placing more common or essential goods at the back of the store. This gives reason to understand why beauty departments are always placed at the entry of the store, so that every individual who walks into the store can be influenced in the process of getting to their destination. An interesting observation to add may be that during my time in a local beauty department, the counters closer to the main foot fall would make significantly more money (even on a daily basis) than those that were off the main foot fall path, in and out of the store. When trying to catch the attention of passers by, we’ve all heard of the saying ‘eye line is buy line’. We naturally notice the products that are at eye level and so it makes sense to place them at this level in attracting the attention of consumers who would normally just walk past such products. This is eye tracking image illustrates how we focus on certain levels more than others. (Click Image for source)

When it comes to skincare, especially in using a new brand, it can be difficult to know what to look for and if it’s right for us. This is actually why you might find the saleable items located behind the point of sale on cosmetic counters so that the customer must engage with the sales person before they make their purchase. This of course, raises the opportunity to understand the consumer’s needs and make further product recommendations. The issue with this is, that often people enjoy shopping without an overbearing sales person influencing their decisions (Jones, 1999).

It’s a topic that is being researched all the time and is ever growing. It gives reason why we spend so much of our time (and our money) in such environments. But even knowing about these strategies, we are still human and will always fall victim to them no matter who we are. It certainly makes me ask, do we even stand a chance in an environment built around the actions we don’t even realise we do?

Pour Homme

Having carried out some research into the men’s grooming market, I was surprised to see just how much growth it has experienced recently, which is now giving way to a new age of metrosexuals. In case you’re wondering what this term means, it was first used Mark Simpson in 1994 (Fang 2003) to describe a typically heterosexual, urban male who looks to enhance his appearance through fastidious grooming, beauty treatments and fashionable clothing.  Simpson later explains how “gay men provided the early prototype for metrosexuality, pioneering the business of accessorising and combining masculinity and desirability” (2003).

Evolvement in culture and attitudes to improve self-image has influenced more changes in the male grooming market than ever before. This is confirmed by Featherstone (1991) who states that men’s desire to create, develop and maintain their self-image will stimulate their consumption of male grooming products which can lead to market changes. The ‘Men’s Grooming Habits-UK’ report (2007) by Mintel Oxygen explains that, ‘In 2006, the men’s grooming market, including toiletries and fragrance, was estimated to be worth £781 million, almost a third bigger than in 2001’. With this ‘Men’s body lotions, body toning gels, depilatories and sun care sales (3% of the market overall) increased 77% in four years’ and ‘the facial skincare category has trebled in size between 2002 and 2006 to £55 million’. This is a massive change for the industry and markets must be adaptable to compete in such an environment.

An Emerald article, ‘Interview with Will King’ (2008) states how the founder of King of Shaves has looked to create a new range in recent years, launching into the cosmetics market to keep up with market diversification. He explains ‘we actually launched a range four years ago called XCD. The range includes tinted moisturisers, self-tanning products, camouflage pens and mattifiers. The market as you can imagine is incredibly small, although it is growing strongly, because men are different to women. They don’t necessarily either want to or need to wear make-up or cover up greying hair or spotty skin, therefore there was a language which we needed to create to talk to men about stuff like that. So we created XCD, which stands for ‘‘exceed’’. It’s all about enhance, camouflage and perfect’. In agreement with this Mintel Oxygen also states how ‘language is extremely important for the positioning of men’s products’, going on to explain how most successful brands are ‘those which keep it simple’.

A trend that also been noticed by Mintel is how sportsmen are increasingly used to shape men attitudes towards male grooming. Silvera and Austad (2004) suggest these celebrity endorsements create positive associations with the product. On the other hand Nizar and Miriam (2009) state that Metrosexual celebrities are endorsed to offset the negative attributions that are associated with metrosexual behaviour, also stating how the consumption of the male grooming products can enhance the values that are important to men. Could this be the reason why we increasingly seeing faces such as David Beckham, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer endorsing so many of the products on the shelves today? It’s certainly a trend that can be seen in from many brands in the market.  Here’s a Gillette advert that supports both of the previous suggestions:

However, one short fall in their campaigns might be their low appeal to women. After all this hard work to target men, Mintel’s research (2007) shows that ‘only 35% of men buy their own grooming products’ and ‘around a fifth of men leave the purchasing of their toiletries to others’. This perhaps means that this industry has one of the hardest jobs of all; targeting both men and women to buy their products. The women who buy these products represent the mothers and the wives that are the decision makers during the typical ‘weekly shop’. Although this trend might diminish in future, women will always have some form of influence on this industry, especially with the consideration that they have driven it for so long. For the future, it seems that the markets biggest strength will be brand loyalty. Seeing as only some men buy their own grooming products, companies will have to work hard to retain their customers through creating more appealing adverts and creating more diverse product lines to meet their consumers’ growing needs.

Pretty Poisonous

It is always communicated to us how great certain products are for us, how they benefit us and give us great looking skin. But, is it really fair to market something in this way when they can potentially cause us more harm than good? (Especially when they promote themselves as a more natural product)

This blog will look how some companies use strategies to promote themselves as skin loving bands when their products actually contradict their message. With this, some research will be raised from past and present into trends in to this toxic industry.

In fact, the use of harmful ingredients in cosmetics has been happening for a long time. ‘Toxic Beauty’ (Samuel S. Epstein, 2009) is a book that highlights such history along with one of the biggest beauty scandals to befall a cosmetics manufacturer. It states how in the early eighteenth century a woman named Signora Toffana faced execution after she created a face powder that contained lead and arsenic. She then sold it to the wives of wealthy men, 600 of which later died after affectionately kissing their wives cheeks and taking in some of the toxic powder.

Okay, so the chemicals used today are nowhere near as harmful and there are a number of Acts in place to protect the consumer. But what I’m really concerned about is the number of brands that find the words ‘pure’, ‘natural’, ‘simple’, at the heart of their branding when they use chemicals and fillers that are considered unhealthy or even harmful with prolonged use.

I recently came across some research (2002) by the American organisation ‘Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ that showed out of 72 off-the-shelf, named brand beauty products, 52 contained phthalates. Phthalates are from a large family of hormone disturbing, industrial chemicals which have been linked with to permanent birth defects in the male reproductive system. Surprisingly, from a wide range of products, brands such as Nivea, Jergens and Herbal Essences contained these Phthalates.

Yes, in case you can’t make out the writing on the Jergens ad, it states ‘Your skin is not synthetic, so why use a moisturiser that is?’ For me, this brand seems a little contradictory to say the least. But I was most disappointed to see such ingredients in the Nivea products as I have always thought them to a caring ‘family brand’.

Parabens are chemical preservatives that are no stranger to the beauty industry by any means but I was also surprised to find them in products from the brand, Simple. Research by Byford JR et al (2002) demonstrates that parabens can accumulate in hormonally sensitive tissues. Acting like oestrogen, this exposure to the chemical has been linked to breast cancer. This brand out of all is the one that comes to mind when we think of a purer product as it promises not to use ‘colours, fragrances or harsh chemicals’.

A video that really summed it up for me about the toxins in cosmetic products, which gives real example of companies such as P&G and Estee Lauder is ‘The Story of Cosmetics’ (2010). This is an American video so some parts of the video might not be applicable to the UK but it really helps to demonstrate the bigger picture.

So why use the ‘natural product’ promotion strategies?

Increasingly consumers are becoming more aware of our environment and the products we are using. The awareness of environmental changes and our effect on the environment has influenced more ‘green buying’ (along with a large shift in the consumers’ attitude in recent years). According to Tina Mainieri et al. (1997) women have a significantly higher response to ‘green buying’ and the mass market must be adaptable to these needs.

It is certainly an area that requires further investigation into the relationship between green buying and skincare in terms of how they influence each other as well as changes in attitudes towards a more natural product. Companies can advertise a product to be more natural when they use words that have no legal definition and as long as they don’t contain harmful levels of chemicals, it’s considered okay. At the end of the day it is our responsibility to watch what we use. So next time you make product choice, perhaps we should take a closer look at the back of the bottle, rather than the front?

Click here for a simple one page spread that can help you understand a bit more about the chemicals in your products in future.

Pass the Eraser Please

Flawless faces, perfect pouts and the bodies that define ‘perfection’ are pushed in our faces on a daily basis, shaping our desires and expectations. These advertisements tell us exactly what we want and are very helpful in showing us how to achieve it with the help of one simple product or service. This week’s blog will briefly explore how the number one beauty tool is used to influence our buying behaviour as well as some big no, no’s that have been pulled by leading beauty companies in the past. It’s not make-up or a beauty product as such. It is of course, airbrushing.

We see airbrushing in all kinds of advertisements involving people and it’s not constrained to the beauty industry where it is most recognised. With this, high competition now dictates a form of normality to the viewer where they are more likely to see an airbrushed promotion than not. Often, enough we see these photos and feel inferior in comparison when in fact, the image isn’t even real. These advertisements are by strong, leading companies who suggest that the general public can look like the images they are showing and we want to believe them. How can we not buy into products that promise us so much?

When Airbrushing Goes Too Far…

The Guardian reported two adverts that were recently pulled (2011) after a complaint from Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson to the Advertising Standards Agency that the airbrushing used in them created a false impression of beauty. One of the adverts was by Lancôme and featured the actress Julia Roberts (named one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” eleven times). It was claimed that the two page magazine advertisement was misleading and unrealistic to what the product could actually achieve. The same complaint was received about the beauty brand Maybelline for their foundation advertisements featuring Christy Turlington. L’Oreal (the mother company of both Lancôme and Maybelline) claimed that ‘certain post production techniques’ were used as part of the two foundation advertisements, including some retouching in the Maybelline ad but supported that their imagery was a result of ‘naturally healthy and glowing skin’.

Later, another beauty brand that came under scrutiny was Dior (2012). Their ‘Diorshow’ mascara ad featuring actress Natalie Portman, stated that their product added “spectacular volume-multiplying effect, lash by lash”. In actual fact, Dior admitted that the lashes were later digitally enhanced. Because the performance of the product was exaggerated, it was later banned by the ASA. Were these companies mentioned above, simply trying to promote a high quality finish or trying to use the ‘Match Up’ hypothesis (Khale and Homer, 1985) to match a perfect face to a ‘perfect product’?

What About Esteem Building Brands…

A Brand that has chosen to use to counter such ideas that give a false impression of beauty is Dove. Their promotional campaign for ‘real beauty’ launched in 2004 with the aim of building a more realistic brand that played on confidence rather than flaws. Dye (2009) argues that the success of the Dove campaign has derived from women’s desire for such an inclusive message. In essence of this, esteem lowering brands such as L’Oreal who promote flawless skin have helped brands such a Dove to become more welcomed in the industry than any other form of beauty campaign. Dye also goes on to state that the Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty is contradicted by its product-line. She states that ‘the appeal of the campaign works to create a deep brand loyalty that covers up its own inherent flaw: that Dove itself upholds the beauty myths and expectations it claims to aim to reverse, expectations that are both consuming and consumed’.

Can you see how Dove uses the desire for such ‘anti-airbrushing’, real women campaigns to achieve awareness of their branding and services?


No matter if it’s an esteem building campaign, or a campaign that plays on your insecurities, it is there to sell a product or service. As far as the public is concerned, it is our choice to let a campaign with unreachable expectations or an underlying sub meaning influence our behaviour.  But is it really worth allowing manufactured technology devalue what we were naturally blessed with, for the sake of a product that won’t deliver what it promises?