In a modern-age society where beauty standards are, albeit often falsely, defined by mainstream and social media, beauty brands play a crucial role in the make or break of the contemporary audience’s self-image and confidence. They are in a position of responsibility to continually build consumer trust by being inclusive in catering to their personal—and unique—skincare needs. On the second day of its program, Advertising Week New York (AWNewYork) held a session entitled, “The Beauty of Intersectionality” hosted by Healthline and PsychCentral Editor-in-Chief Erin Edge.
The panel featured A-Frame Brands’ chief strategy officer, Martin Ekuchukwu; Neutrogena’s senior brand manager, Tyler Rochwerg; and MoBeauty Founder and Drag Queen Mo Heart. Each of the speakers let us in on two secrets: how they bring in fresh solutions to the consumers’ personalized needs and how they innovate healthy solutions to the negative effects of social media “beauty perfection”.
The algorithm is always going to push that which is not you; make sure you feel empowered. If you’re not your best self, you can’t be good to anyone else. – Mo Heart, Drag Queen, Host of Amazon’s The Walk In, Founder MoBeauty
The pursuit of a diversity-first approach toward personalization for consumers
The right information about products made for them and treatments their skin needs are more often hard for consumers to find. Even with the abundance of online data, information gets lost in translation and the public, especially consumers of color, gets more and more confused by the day, thinking the makers of these products did not have them—or their skin types—in mind when they were making them. The panelists share ways their brands innovate for the individual and the role that product education plays in bringing forward that evidence-based information.
“We need to ask ourselves what is the process and pathway thus far when it comes to designing for diversity,” said A-Frame Brands’ Ekuchukwu. “You notice cultural significance. There are particular products that are really great for some skin tones versus not. I think that the approach now is making sure that there’s a heavy level of education towards everyone because there is an education gap when it comes to skin, skin tones, and issues around the skin. Having enough information through the appropriate influence is really important because ultimately it requires that connectivity.
Ekuchukwu added that A-Frame Brands takes a three-step approach to bring consumers closer to their work by ensuring they understand the challenges, where the gap existed, and how to solve it with the available products. “Education at the end of the day, if you’re not really focusing on it and helping to educate your consumer audience, you’re going to ultimately fail,” he added.
Multinational skin-care brand Neutrogena often hears from consumers that shopping for skincare is complicated. Rochwerg said, “we developed some tech solutions to help make it easier for them to find products personalized for their skin type. It’s a skin-scanning app that consumers can download and scan their skin and then it’ll give them a skin assessment and also personalized recommendations about what products are right for them.”
The senior brand manager at Neutrogena also discussed how the brand considers solving consumers’ confusion. They looked internally. “We have some of the most incredible skincare formulators—they’re chemists,” said Rochwerg. “So, we created a series called Skin U or Skin University, and we created mini-lectures that we put across our social media [TikTok, YouTube] to give our consumers a deep dive into our products’ ingredients. And it’s one of the ways that we’re educating consumers through essentially what we call edutainment [education and entertainment].”
In-between: Finding the balance between being in the social media space and mitigating the negative impacts of the idealized self
Social media has proved to be the most powerful tool for marketers and advertisers to promote their brands and build public preference. Not only is almost everyone already on virtual reality, but it is also the easiest and fastest way to maximize their reach. The power to utilize social media for their growth comes with the obligation of being accountable for the content that they put out—and rightly so—in terms of its effects on the consumers’ view of life in general and of themselves in particular.
Mo Heart proclaimed “We are doing this shift where it’s everyone is beautiful, not just the faces that they see on social media. So, we show those burns, the one in a wheelchair, the stressed-out mom. Let’s see everybody else because showing them empowers them.”
The Mo Beauty founder elaborated further, “And to be perfectly honest, you have to speak it to yourself. You have to first affirm yourself here [off-camera] before using those filters there [on social media].”
Rochwerg agreed, “We all have a responsibility in our personal lives on social media to set better norms for beauty but also as marketers. It’s on all of us to set the standard and make realistic beauty expectations.”
Martin Ekuchukwu said, “As brands, we have that inherent responsibility to ensure that as we go to create content, as we put the imagery out into the world, that it has the full hue and diversity from skin color, to body shape, to image.”
Brands know that appealing to consumers of different backgrounds is the way—if not the ONLY way—to go if they want to keep their businesses from falling through the cracks. This is why they are finding their way around multicultural marketing to reach diverse audiences.
What this looks like within each and every company, we do not know. However, at A-Frame Brands, this means ensuring that the full leadership from the bottom all the way to the top has absolute representation. “It’s very difficult to build products or even create solutions if the people that ultimately are affected by those problems are not in the room having the same conversation,” Ekuchukwu said. “It’s time to build something that’s made for us.”
Talk about the push for diversity ultimately starting from the inside out.
How this can manifest in the brands’ relationship with their consumers, on the other hand, is through feedback and reviews. “The office is a dangerous place from which to view the business,” said Rochwerg. “Talk to your consumers, they will tell you what they would want to see more.”
“Designing for diversity, or designing for people of color in general, takes so much levels of intentionality that if you’re not really going to be intentional about it, don’t half-ass it,” Ekuchukwu added. “If you do, you’re never going to get where you want to go.”
Karen is responsible for editorial support and covers agency, digital content, and D&I news.