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A simplified philosophy for beauty brands

We have entered an age where less is more. Ironically, subtracting contributes more overall value than adding.

Today’s consumers make buying decisions based on what has been removed from a product, rather than what it contains. This behavior can be seen across categories, and is especially true for the beauty industry. There is no longer a focus on how to improve your skin by adding ingredients that are perceived to be trendy and beneficial. Now, consumers are focused on safer, better, and more effective products with benefits derived from reduced ingredients. They are eager to review these ingredient lists, and it’s the “clean labels” with much shorter lists that are perceived to reflect greater quality products.

Remove it, reduce it, and keep only what’s essential. Moreover, communicate your differentiator. Let shoppers explicitly know what has been omitted. In order to appeal to today’s conscious consumer, a brand has no other choice.

We are not only talking about the product offered, as the same applies to the brand’s proposition. Minimize your story. Streamline the message to communicate more while saying less. If you had to narrow it down to just one word, what word would best convey your brand to consumers?

Minimize your brand's story - Eunice Min, Interbrand

The answer is always simple—your brand’s strength and differentiation can be determined by developing a simplified brand philosophy. The pursuit of uniqueness begins with ridding your brand of the non-essentials.

One could argue that the beauty industry is saturated. Manifold brands, offered on-shelf and online, are armed with their own set of differentiating assets in an attempt to establish their own market niche. Bearing that in mind, there is no shortage of new brands currently entering the marketplace. Many of these newcomer brands are born only to quickly fade away without ever leaving an impact on the category or the consumer.

Why does this happen? It is not because the product quality is lacking. In fact, out of every industry, the beauty industry is one heavily driven by “perceived quality” over “actual quality.” It isn’t due to an insufficient marketing or PR budget. No matter how much you invest in marketing your product, it will not reach consumers’ hearts and minds without a clear proposition that resonates with your target audience.

Lixirskin, a beauty brand with three SKUs, has grabbed the attention of the world’s beauty industry and enthusiasts. These products are sold using minimalistic packaging, emphasizing that “simple” can be a strong brand proposition. Lixirskin founder Colette Haydon said, “The era of the ten-step Korean-inspired beauty routine is now over.” She calls their three featured products the “Goodskin Trio,” emphasizing that they are an absolute necessity for every skin type.

Although they say that newcomers to the beauty industry cannot—and should not—play in the same league as legacy brands with decades of history and consumer loyalty under their belts, it was only one little stone which enabled David to oust Goliath. Sometimes all a brand needs is one little stone which can set them apart from the Goliaths in the category. At times, that stone can create a ripple in the consumers’ hearts and minds, creating miracles for a new brand.

Remove yourself and your brand from the complexities which surround you. Leave only that one metaphorical stone. This is the way to uncover your brand’s unique proposition. This will allow your brand to rise to the top.

A simplified philosophy for beauty brands - Cosmetics

Free yourself from predefined categories

There is already a seemingly infinite number of skincare products available for every skin type, ranging from dry to oily to complex. However, truth be told, not many people can identify their exact skin type. So, how exactly does one do so? According to a 2017 study from NPD Group, 48% of women in the U.S. consider themselves to have “problematic skin.”  This common perception is the main reason for the rise in mainstream “sensitive skin” product lines over the years.

Simple, a UK beauty company, is a great example of a company that has taken advantage of this phenomenon. Simple’s brand is built on a philosophy that is, well, simple. It focuses on, “being kind to skin, even the most sensitive, because all skin can be sensitive at times.” One of the early brands to say no to perfumes, colors, and other additives in the 1960s, Simple remains committed to its consumers, which is evident through their investment in innovation, green packaging, education, and more.

Consider skincare from a different point of view. Amore Pacific’s IOPE brand tells its users that, “our skin is not a passive agent which waits for things to happen to it. It is an organic agent which has the ability to restore itself.” This is why IOPE emphasizes that a temporary remedy for the skin is not sufficient. Its products and research are designed to enable the skin to fundamentally restore its ability to improve.

It is time to free yourself from the age-old rhetoric of dry, oily and complex skin types. Redefine skincare from your own unique brand perspective. Use this perspective to define what your brand should stand for, while staying true to your brand philosophy.

Set a clear objective

Hydration. Anti-aging. Cleansing. All beauty brands make these claims in their communications, whether it’s their overarching objective, story, mission, or brand promise. None of these buzzwords differentiate a brand—rather they are the bare minimum that consumers expect from a brand. You need to define a clear and unique objective that has not already been exhausted by myriad competitors.

Protection against air pollution is an important recent trend we’ve been tracking. City life surrounds its residents with dust, air pollution, and electromagnetic waves, which are all skin irritants. According to the 2016 Mintel report “Anti-Pollution Beauty” in China, 61% of Chinese women are concerned about the harmful effects of fine dust on their skin.

An Italian skincare brand, Sûrface, chose to own this space by claiming that its concept, “is developed out of the necessity for an all-natural skincare range, created specifically for the harsh environment of the city.” This unisex brand communicates this proposition through its slogan as well, which reads, “modern care for life in the city.” It also expresses its “designed for the city” philosophy through a modern and simple visual identity. Sûrface found a unique objective for its brand. You can do the same for your brand by getting rid of any obstacles that distract from your objective.

Define your people

Many beauty brands cater to the broad needs of anyone who is looking for make-up or skincare. Only a select few manage to clearly define their target market and focus their activities around them. Gen Z, roughly defined as those born in the mid-1990s to 2010, are a target group to which many beauty brands have shifted their focus. C’est Moi, a French beauty brand, has done just this. As part of its defined mission, C’est Moi is a symbol for youth, embracing the rite of passage for girls beginning their beauty journey. Coining itself as “a new generation of beautiful,” this brand owns a unique space in the category through its focus on such a specific consumer and their experience.

Brands are not always timeless. Some brands age, just as people do. As such, it is important to consider how your brand needs to evolve alongside your users. Watching an aging consumer base without considering its implications can be fatal for a beauty brand, as staying on top of the latest trends is essential to maintaining relevance. However, BOOM by Cindy Joseph, takes on a different perspective. It has found a niche by focusing exclusively on seniors with its unique branding campaigns. BOOM asks, “Who says that wrinkles are bad and not worth having?” followed by, “We are not an anti-age cosmetics brand. We are a pro-age cosmetics brand.” It is showing up for consumers at a time in their lives where other brands can’t keep up with their expectations and needs. Through its bold brand positioning, it reminds consumers that the role of beauty is not to conceal yourself and your true identity, but to embrace yourself and look beautiful at any age.

Brands that imbue some level of exclusivity stand out from the rest. Identify your people and establish your ambassadors. Ensure your brand is designed specifically for them.

Beauty Brands - Interbrand

Stay focused

Many beauty brands have found success by staying focused on defining a distinctive and authentic proposition. South Korean brands have used this method to elevate the Korean beauty market as a whole, enabling it to become widely viewed as a leader in the beauty industry.

Hera has defined its brand persona to directly appeal to its target of Seoulistas—women of Seoul/Korea. Many other brands focus on innovative beauty solutions with a focus on ingredients to form their own niches. South Korean brand Innisfree does just that. Focused on natural ingredients and eco-conscious initiatives, Innisfree sourced its products from Jeju Island, which has a unique ecosystem that is thought to yield high quality ingredients. Focused on the healing remedies of generations of Korean mothers, Hanyul also offers skincare solutions based on natural ingredients derived from plants and grains. What’s more, leaning heavily on the benefits of red ginseng, Donginbi provides the “ultimate anti-aging oil” through a similar focus on ingredients.

These are just a few of the many Korean beauty brands that benefit from a focused USP by simplifying their brand philosophies and offering a differentiated brand promise. As a result, these brands are free from complexity, enabling them to achieve success.

We are all on a journey to find that one “thing” that defines our brand. Often the answer lies in eliminating the unnecessary. In this crowded and noisy category, communicating more by saying less empowers new brands with great potential to reach the mainstream market, as well as the hearts and minds of the consumers.