What did happen?
As COVID-19 spread across the globe and reports of super-spreader events started to dominate the news, beauty’s marketing message changed rapidly to hygiene and wellness. Suddenly, the FMCG greats of this world saw demand surge and marketing departments everywhere were focused on one thing and one thing only: cleaning. We saw P&G roll out a brand new home care range, Reckitt Benckiser take to TikTok to promote its #HandWashChallenge and hand sanitizer launches in their droves.
Next came widespread lockdowns and the message changed again. Suddenly, the stay home camp needed entertainment, morale boosters and a sense of solidarity. So it was that we saw at-home solutions boom (think DIY hair coloring kits), and companies emphasizing that they were doing their bit be it producing ventilators, donating hand sanitizer or cheering on our health care workers.
And naturally, when the only way to reach consumers was through their computers, tablets and phones, digital became ever more vital to marketing strategies – so much so that brand value was impacted by the brand’s mastery of all things online. We’ve seen even the most resistant and suspicious marques embrace the likes of TikTok, Spotify and social selling.
In the second half, there was yet another tack. The BLM movement prompted a flurry of anti-racism posts with brands pledging to do better and revisiting both products and marketing messages with their inclusivity goggles switched on. We’ve also seen a plethora of messaging focused on self care as the pandemic drags on as well as forward-looking launches aimed at progressing a green recovery.
What should have happened?
Pre pandemic, trends were veering towards inclusivity, clean beauty, minimalism and zero waste and brands that embraced this then are thriving still as the coronacoaster rolls on.
I think it’s fair to say, however, that many marketers didn’t see the mood change. Even pre-Covid, consumers wanted authenticity and purpose but now, more than ever, marketing messages must resonate with the audience they are designed to reach. That’s especially true of the BLM movement; those who posted a black square but continue to peddle problematic products or maintain an all-white board will be exposed for the frauds they are. The focus in both marketing message and product should be quality, not quantity. In other words, if you haven’t got anything worth saying, don’t say anything at all.
What will happen next?
As Covid’s first anniversary came and went, it has become clear that this is not temporary. Habits changed as a result of the virus have become ingrained and will continue post-pandemic. Indeed, at a December press conference, Jonathan Van-Tam, UK Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said he believes coronavirus will never be eradicated and that mask wearing will persist for many years.
That’s important to the beauty industry that must cater to the unique needs of a mask-wearing population – will we see the launch of mask-proof lipstick? More mask-ne products? A renaissance of mascara?
Our definition of luxury has changed too and the prestige camp’s message will need to change accordingly. With no red-carpet events or celebrity looks to lust after and none of the usual people watching opportunities, desirability is no longer gauged by the herd. Luxury is now defined by the individual, and labels must find a way to address that person, personally. Bespoke is no longer adapting a given product to an individual (eg adding a monogram) but designing a product to resonate with a well-defined demographic. The new luxury is specialist, it screams quality and both the price and the resources it uses can be justified. We expect to see a number of prestige brands struggle on all of those counts.