A few days ago, the table across from me at the place I was having lunch at produced a conversation that sounded baffling to my ears: two millennials collocated words from entirely different categories together and used them repeatedly in conversation: Boy Brow, while occasionally showing each other pictures of faces that appear to have not a single smidge of makeup on them. Following the Boy Brow coinage, another odd, seemingly illogical phrase “no-makeup makeup” was thrown into the conversation.
My ears picked up not a single familiar phrase in that conversation — no L’Oreal, Garnier or Simple Skin. As someone neither millennial nor female and thoroughly intrigued by the whole conversation, I felt that some research on what exactly was going on in the beauty industry in 2019 was in order.
Our team at Quilt.AI decided to examine the most popular emerging skincare brands in the last 12 months and analysed their performance and strategies against established brands.
In the last 5 years, consumer interest has moved to new, emergent brands like Kopari, Grown Alchemist and Youth to the People, and away from industry regulars. Scroll through Kopari’s instagram (@koparibeauty) and it becomes easy to see how the brand amassed its huge following in a brief span of five years. With a bio declaring “Every product starts with 100% organic coconut” and an instagram grid populated with backgrounds of ocean, sea-sand and minimalistic product shots, it’s evident that for Kopari, au naturel is the way to go. Glossier’s (@glossier) insta-feed is similarly curated, with a soft pastel palette and pictures of fresh-faced faces.
#1 Match-making Nature with Beauty
We created four beauty brand themes to categorise the brand: Powered by Nature, Powered by Science, Powered by Nature and Science, and Human Stories, of which the latter two were new emergent themes. We found that half of the best performing brands on both search and social media engagement are emergent brands under the Powered By Nature category, in which naturalness was the key selling point of the brands.
Brands foregrounding scientific knowledge in marketing their products were labelled ‘Powered by Science’. Brands in this category were mostly established brands, and all of the brands in this category performed poorly on both search and social media engagement, suggesting a consumer shift away from wanting to be persuaded by appeal to authoritative, scientific credibility.
Brands which combined both of the above approaches were classified under ‘Powered by Nature + Science’. These brands focused on positioning their product as being made by active, naturally-derived ingredients supercharged by technology, and it was found that the two highest performing brands (Youth to The People and Dr Barbara Strum) on search and social belonged to this space.
Brands that position themselves as tools of empowerment, aligning themselves as championing more inclusive beauty standards were classified as Powered by Human Stories. We found that these brands’ emphasis on authenticity encourages their Instagram shareability.
#2 Positioning natural beauty at the forefront of brand identity
These brands use more brand-focused language in their captions and hashtags than established brands. Brand names and the word ‘natural’ are frequently used by new brands in captions and hashtags, along with words in the same lexical field as ‘natural’. These brands use emotive words
#3 Clean-cut Millennial Aesthetics
Cohering with the emphasis on nature, we found that these emergent beauty brands used softer colours and simpler, minimalistic shots of their products. Cool pinks, corals and pastels are paired with streamlined forms and bold stylized type.
Going beyond skin deep…
So I end this post being very much male, very much non-millennial, but a little more able to hold a discussion about the hippest beauty brands in the market today, an anomaly which arguably sits on par with the lexical creations of “Boy Brow” and “no-makeup makeup”. (Maybe now’s the time for me to hop on to gifting Glossier gift boxes to new interns to cement my status as a ‘woke’ adult very much able to move with the times…?)
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