When Alicia Keys Goes Makeup Free at The VMAs, You Sit Up and Pay Attention.
At least we do.
As a company that works with beauty brands, we’re always thinking about replicating our beauty partners’ successes and overcoming their challenges in the marketplace. And Keys’s barefaced look supported an observation we’d made, namely, that consumers were starting to see their beauty products as tools for revealing their best selves rather than concealing their imperfections.
Make no mistake: Keys isn’t anti-makeup. She told The Washington Post she’s going without because “I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.” She went on to describe a photo shoot for her single, “In Common,” where she showed up post-gym, with a makeup-free face. The photographer loved the rawness of the look and convinced Keys to do the shoot exactly the way she was. For Keys, “it [was] the strongest, most empowered, most free, and most honestly beautiful that I have ever felt.”
…only 39 percent feel that “beauty/personal care brands want women to feel empowered.
Based on that experience, Keys just wants you to do you—whatever it is that makes you feel your best. Our cultural insights team’s Brand Love study, which looked at consumer preferences over three generations, found that this sentiment is common among millennials. They see makeup as a tool for self-expression rather than inspiration. Makeup helps them “to be the best I can personally be.” They also feel like the beauty industry is missing the mark: 41 percent of them think the beauty industry is “out of touch with how my generation thinks about beauty.”
How can these brands bring consumers back into the fold?
This past fall, Foundermade, an organization whose purpose is to “actively help build the future of consumer business through inspiration, education, and impactful connections,” hosted a summit about beauty. One after another, founders, social influencers, and content creators talked about the need for “authenticity,” “relatability,” and “transparency.” The takeaway? Brands need to establish trust with their consumers and speak to their values.
One way is to power millennials’ stories. Seventy percent say they determine what’s beautiful, but only 39 percent feel that “beauty/personal care brands want women to feel empowered.” Another way is to provide the tools, platforms, and encouragement millennials need to do it their way. Brands can also connect consumers to the influencers and community members they admire and respect.
Being the connection or facilitating it can create an environment where brands are a trusted source for information and empowerment. This trust comes from turning to fans for their help. Collaborating with fans on content is a fantastic opportunity to foster connection and let consumers lead the way. For Ehimamiegho Idahosa-Erese, 22, beauty brands “just don’t represent me,” although she acknowledges that they’re trying. “I try to be optimistic,” she says. A brand’s receptivity to this kind of feedback can help build credibility and establish an emotional relationship. And that’s what fandom is all about.