3-2-1nsight: Beauty's New Standard
Gen Z's expectation has created a forcing function for the industry
Welcome to 3-2-1nsight from Marketing Sciences. Download my 130 slide consumer research deck looking at the future consumer in 2021, It’s a ton of primary research, and you can download it for free.
Beauty has been in the news for a minute, from the release of the new Gossip Girl to Glossier’s new funding. Beauty brand partnerships with Tik Tok stars to edgier millennials (Gucci and Miley Cyrus) and CBD’s new infiltration via skincare. I’ve been noticing a larger trend at play, specifically for beauty, which is how strong Gen Z’s been able to reshape and force the sector to innovate and adapt. In the past, we only discussed how heritage brands had to rebrand to remain relevant. Still, with the new expectations pushed forward by Gen Z, even new entrants like Kylie Cosmetics and Glossier are rebranding or rethinking their business to maintain relevance with this influential cohort.
“I’m Chuck Bass” is arguably the most recognized phrase of my generation. Upon hearing that Gossip Girl was coming back, brands across the board were trying to get their products onto the characters, given the past success brands saw when characters on the show would wear their clothes. Now, that equation has changed, as a new Gen Z focused Gossip Girl finds its characters more concerned about their privilege in a way that the original didn't and let the show focus on tensions around class and wealth. Being Gen Z focused requires the show to dress and beautify its stars to capture the elite looks and realistic for Tik Tok. Regardless of who the show is actually catering towards, the outsized beauty demands created by the amount of screen time we all rely upon are forcing beauty to create makeup that doesn’t enhance your look in print or real life, but for Instagram and Tik Tok.
Glossier Raises $80 Million Series E, Valuing Company at $1.8 Billion - Business of Fashion
As DTC brands continue to face rising prices across the board, we see the more mature DTC companies find new ways to drive sales. Glossier, which closed all of its stores last year because of the pandemic, raised $80 million to fuel its new retail expansion to drive additional revenue. Why do retail now? Over the past year, they’ve been experimenting with pop-ups across America, and they believe they’ve discovered the formula of activating cities to activate higher revenue. It’s a risky play, given the rise of new COVID variants, but if there’s a makeup brand that’s proven to be resilient and slightly ahead of the curve, it’s Glossier.
Following in the steps of her younger billionaire sister, Kim K is also launching a rebrand of her beauty brand. Kylie, who recently relaunched her brand, put a greater emphasis on clean, natural, and organic ingredients, which follow the Gen Z demand that their beauty products live up to the efficacy, sustainability, and representation of values they hold beauty brands to. In the past, any Kardashian member could succeed and leverage their brand by telling their fans to be more like them. Now, with the rise of Gen Z and the cultural cache that comes along with being a darling Gen Z brand, the Kardashian’s are adapting their beauty lines to appeal to Gen Z rather than brag to millennials. Employing a Gen Z first strategy isn’t happening across the sprawling Kardashian empire. Still, Andrew Stanleick, from Coty, who’s running both KKW and Kylie Cosmetics, is making sure the Kardashian beauty empire follows this strategy to a T.
Gen Z is forcing even newer makeup and beauty brands to adapt to their wants and needs
When Gossip Girl first arrived, the original show introduced many to the idea that the internet and social media might create a new reality via blogs and Twitter. It, in some ways, normalized real-life, flattening the haves and have nots. That show influenced so many of Gen Z's beliefs, and it’s now influencing the show that first expressed this shift. The attention domination platforms like Tik Tok, Twitch, Instagram, etc., have created new goals and expectations for the Gen Z audience. TikTok fame, something many aspire to achieve, celebrates a different type of beauty, where relatability and maintaining an approachable girl next door look actually grants you the most outsized chance to be amplified by the algorithm. This is atypical of how beauty brands have successfully operated in the past. It’s hard to adapt to this shift in consumers demanding efficacy, value, and education about their beauty products, prioritizing hybrid products and skinimalism that is better for the environment. Add to the pot not just the product challenges, but also the fact that the new in-demand beauty brands are launching products and drops on IG Live or streaming, where so many of the consumers are seeing first hand how great the beauty products look, not in real life, but on a screen.
Beauty brands are at the forefront of adapting to how consumers discover and buy make-up products due to the increase in Zoom Calls, Tik Tok, and shopatainment.
The biggest takeaway from the Glossier article is that Emily Weiss discussing their new retail strategy aims to “activate the local community” because this reflects the greater fragmentation of consumers for the beauty industry. This is especially true amongst Gen Z, whose fluid approach to identity constantly changes its definition of beauty. Appealing to niches is true for every business but has never been more true for the beauty industry, forcing these brands and companies to rethink how their products are getting sold and discovered.
Looking good on digital is now make-up’s most important use case.
Gen Z is the first truly digitally native generation, and with that comes new expectations and demands for brands. Gen Z, powered by social apps and lives on screens, allows them to pressure brands to respond to things faster or more proactively than ever quickly. Their opinions are oftentimes reinforced because they’re crowdsourced and vetted by other digital natives at ever-increasing speed. This attitude from this generation has become a forcing function for brands to innovate across their product categories and marketing tactics. Beauty brands need to be proactive to Gen Z’s needs and definitions of beauty. While the definition of beauty across the generation is fragmented, their consumption of digital content and relationship with screens is very unified and aligned.
The digitally native Gen Z is not going away, nor are their habits or behaviors. We should expect fluidity in thoughts and ideas, uncanny ability to quickly gather and galvanize causes, uncompromising discussions about identity, and an unrelenting standard for feedback. The only guarantee moving forward is that all of those behaviors and expectations will happen over a screen, and everyone will need to look good. Creating products, expanding into categories, and marketing will constantly change, and anyone in the beauty industry should already accept that. But gaining a foothold and advantage in selling how your product makes your consumers look good on a screen is a muscle that every beauty brand needs to start building.