Why are we so easily seduced by brands that present us with visual eye candy or emphasise their products’ texture, viscosity or shimmer over their efficacy?
In the beauty world today everything is created for the Instagram eye. From Glossier’s photogenic Millennial pink branding, Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow Sleep Mask’s shimmering texture to Tarte Cosmetics iridescent packaging – all garishly designed to better catch the scrolling view. Are we just like flies drawn to the light, easily seduced by brands that present us with visual eye candy or emphasise their products’ texture, viscosity or shimmer over their efficacy? Natasha Jen, a partner at the branding agency Pentagram, which counts Dr Jart+ and Oliveda as clients, agrees: ‘There’s a big desire today to create something that results in an Instagram moment, where a product is very photogenic and encourages consumers to take a picture of it.’
There is no doubt that for the past few years, Instagram has been a thriving environment for cult beauty brands to market their products. According to a Facebook IQ survey of women aged 18–44 in the US, 52% of cosmetics or skincare purchases are influenced by beauty experts on social media and 44% by beauty brands on social media. The same study says that 64% of beauty buyers find inspiration for beauty looks or ideas on Instagram.
This influence of Insta-brands has prompted retailers such as Riley Rose to open a store that is dedicated to social media-first consumers, showcasing cult brands that are typically found on Instagram. In an over-saturated market, now more than ever we need to strike a balance between overly aestheticised products and efficacy. It seems we have reached a tipping point where we need more than just the Instagram factor.
In today's hyper-educated beauty landscape, where consumers can Google the benefits of any ingredient in seconds, I would think a more scientifically led approach to branding is necessary. In 2017 we tracked the rise of Honest Products, which explored how honesty and transparency are more important than ever. We tracked the launch of Deciem’s new brand The Ordinary, which features clinical packaging and high-tech formulas and similarly, South Korean cosmetic brand Belif, whose clear labelling makes it easier to navigate the range by listing the percentage value of its ingredients.
In today's hyper-educated beauty landscape, where consumers can Google the benefits of any ingredient in seconds, a more scientifically led approach to branding is necessary.
Other more visual-first brands are catching onto this trend. For instance, the recent launch of Glossier's exfoliating skin perfecter suggests that perhaps it needs more than pretty packaging to win consumers over. After facing criticism from commentators about the effectiveness of its products it changed its Instagram strategy. Instead of showcasing photogenic imagery to promote its new exfoliator on Instagram, it posted quite abrasive before and after images of individuals’ blemished skin to prove its success.
Pushing this to the extreme, Deciem’s co-founder Brandon Tuxe recently announced that he was cancelling all of the company’s marketing plans and posted a series of unfiltered Instagram posts to his fans. He also announced that he would drop his CEO title: ‘I will now be called worker.’
Although the company faced a backlash from the press, I have to give him credit for his fearless attitude to throw himself out there, to rid the company of any overly aestheticised imagery in lieu of being more human. In a world where everything is planned, thought out and curated I think a little more realness can’t be a bad thing.
For more on how to build trust with your consumers, read our Honest Products microtrend.