In the latest chapter of our Beauty Secret Ingredients series, we discuss our second secret ingredient, CARE, shining a light on brands with a service culture and a value-driven ethos whose strategy is focused on helping people. We look at the evolving definition of beauty that is not only encompassing wellness and health but leaning into and impacting broader categories, including dental care, aesthetic treatments, mental health, nutrition and edibles, therapies, and education.
We will explore how the disconnect in outdated beauty definitions has been challenged, resulting in a more care-focused dynamic, and some of the brands with a more considered, transparent, and caring approach and ethos.
“Seen through the lens of today’s society and values, the definition of beauty hasn’t aged well" - Sue Y Nabi CEO of Coty
A beautiful convergence…
The pandemic changed our priorities, forcing us to step back and focus on ourselves. Wellness and health were put first as we concentrated on mental and physical wellbeing, with TikTok's influence rising as Gen Z looked for light-hearted entertainment and peer-to-peer connection. People became less interested in beauty influencers and instead turned to their peers and ‘skin-influencers’ who were educating them on the importance of skincare and taking time out for themselves.
Combined with being unable to go out to test products, people started doing extensive research before buying products, resulting in a new level of scrutiny across all things beauty - "The pandemic brought to light a new perspective on beauty, with self-care seeing growing prioritisation as well as the importance of using products that have real, proven, and effective results" - Korinne Wolfmeyer, ‘Hims & Hers’ Senior Research Analyst of Beauty and Wellness
"All of beauty technically could fall under wellness" Larissa Jensen VP at NPD Group
Whilst the younger generation may have started this movement, people of all ages embraced the desire for a better understanding of ingredients and processes, especially routine-led brands, as the concept of beauty focussed on enhancing natural healthy skin. This more considered and careful approach to skincare quickly spread to other beauty categories, as people took their new knowledge and attitude and applied it to other areas.
A redefinition, and self-expression.
In the Eye of the Beholder, a new report by Gen Z Planet found that "Gen Z consumers view beauty as a means to self-expression and self-care." The report also found that 'zoomers' (Gen Z) are "taking an 'inside-out' instead of an 'outside-in' approach to beauty. Sephora's skin-care VP, Cindy Deily, supports this stating that the brand had "seen a shift from beauty as purely an aesthetic to viewing it as a form of self-care."
It's not just consumers that want to redefine beauty, but brands too. CEO of Coty, Sue Y Nabi, wrote an open letter to all major dictionaries challenging their definition of ‘beauty’ and created the #undefinebeauty campaign saying, “It's time to bring the definition (of beauty) to where society is today. Seen through the lens of today’s society and values, the definition of beauty hasn’t aged well".
Early in our work in this sector, we helped redefine and reinvent Dermalogica's retail experience with a concept that makes the clinical world of skincare more accessible. The concept supports and speaks directly to their customers to improve their skincare routines and achieve their healthiest skin by connecting them with expert advice, treatments and professional therapists. The concept offers a welcoming and relatable experience whilst still maintaining the high level of care, expertise and professionalism customers have come to expect from Dermalogica. You can read more about our work with Dermalogica here
"With our roots in skincare education and treatments, we wanted an immersive space to support achieving the healthiest skin ever" Mark Hermann, GM, Dermalogica
How are these shifts starting to play out?
Brands are now positioning themselves to help people be their best version of themselves. Studies show people expect brands to 'care' about them. A Wunderman report stated that "79% of consumers said that brands have to actually demonstrate that they understand and care about me before they are going to consider purchasing." (Wunderman 2023). Interestingly subscription beauty company Birchbox was acquired FemTech Health, a health and beauty sciences company, with a subsequent shift in Birchbox's position to lead with personalised wellness and care at the heart of its vision. Birchbox's founder Katia Beauchamp explains that the brand isn't leaving the beauty industry but instead 'trying to reimagine the potential of thinking about beauty".
So how can you help me?
As the definition of beauty shifts, so does its role in people's lives. Beauty is experiencing a watershed moment as it pivots from a purely transactional relationship to one helping people live their values through a deeper connection with their products. Katie Thomas, lead of the Kearney Consumer Institute, explains, "Brands now have to think about and embed themselves in the routines that surround their product, what the consumer is doing before and after using it, as well as their mindset to satisfy more informed, solution-oriented consumers".
This idea has already spread into other sectors of the beauty industry. CEO of Head Case Hair Studio, Kelley Swing, explained how brands' priorities are changing from having the number one product to creating "inspiring products or services that help people live better lives". So brands need to position and refocus themselves across broader health and wellness areas, responding to consumers' desire for more holistic offers with a more caring and conscious approach.
Founders, start-ups and DTCs - more considered, caring and transparent.
This is very evident in the shifts brought about by Founder and DTC start-ups across beauty, wellness, and healthcare as a response to a desire for greater transparency, healthier alternatives, more considered experiences, and an understanding of product formulations and production. Beauty and wellness brands are starting to use unfiltered scientific language as descriptors, not to confuse consumers but to be more honest and transparent to help people understand ingredients and to be more considerate across all aspects of the products they buy and use.
And this was often born of a genuine personal need, as DTC businesses are overwhelmingly started by individuals seeking to solve their personal product or service challenge. Born of a personal mission and quickly finding a like-minded community, these brands reengineered and reframed their relationships with their customer, being so ‘customer-centric’ (they were their customer!) and, in so, doing things the right way and being considerate and caring across everything they do.
“Transparency is no longer a nice-to-have — it’s a need-to-have” - Victoria Malloy 2022
Tiffany Masterson created Drunk Elephant as she struggled to find the right products for her skin and created this brand. Because of her personal journey, Drunk Elephant is 100% transparent with their ingredients. The brand focuses on sharing real people using their products rather than paid influencers with a customer/community-centric approach ensuring open lines of communication. The brand listens and applies feedback to improve its products and services; even its hand-drawn logo helps the brand feel accessible and authentic, resulting in Drunk Elephant having a very strong and loyal community.
Beyond beauty - The impact of, and on, other wellness professionals
This redefined idea of beauty has extended beyond the once-traditional beauty categories (e.g. skincare, fragrance, haircare) and encompasses the previously separated industries in the broader health sector. Areas such as dental care, aesthetic treatments, mental health, nutrition and edibles, therapies and education, wearables and refillables are now categorised within the new wellness, care, and health classification.
This blur between health and wellness isn't too surprising, but it is surprising that consumers have directed the association between the two. In several of our projects, we have seen how beauty, wellness, health, and pharmacy services and offers can lean in and learn from each other, which has been especially present in two of our clients, Boots and Shoppers Drug Mart. With pharmacies acting as a physical beacon of healing, with the common goal of making someone feel and look better, we have anticipated that pharmacies are starting to adapt to a care-led strategy.
And it's the experience that brings it together
This shift requires brands to place the consumer experience at the heart of their strategy, offer and service. From the initial brand engagement to the first purchase and beyond, this brand-consumer interaction is the key to turning people into loyal fans. To stay competitive, it is important for brands to build and maintain a holistic brand ecosystem and experience while constantly responding to people’s needs and feedback, showing that they care across all of these moments
We see the key strategy is to bring this all together, the total customer journey and experience. At D&P, we have a framework to uncover and articulate a brand's 'world' and how it can be experienced. We believe that brands need a clear purpose and to express this through their personality, people, processes, products, and places. The most engaging brands in the world do these ‘6Ps’ in a unique way that’s impossible to copy because it’s built into their being, it’s founded on their values, their business DNA, and is evidenced in all it says and does consistently, yet creatively. And it shows they care.
What's your secret ingredient..?
We’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes a beauty secret ingredient and discover your favourite brands that express their sense of care and help people. Head to our Linkedin or Instagram to share your thoughts in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our next secret ingredient will be Storytelling - shining a spotlight on how brands can articulate and share their authentic stories to better engage with their audiences.
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