Helen Yeardsley founded Healthy Beauty (@peg_beauty) at award-winning integrated comms agency Pegasus, and now represents many of the industry’s most innovative and exciting beauty and wellbeing brands. With over 20 years’ experience in the PR, marketing and beauty industries, Helen is connected to the sector’s most influential media, bloggers, experts and buyers, and she is regularly invited to contribute thought-leadership on a wide range of topics from sustainability and brand transparency to the impact of our changing digital landscape.
It used to be pretty simple. Despite their obvious complexities, consumers were tidied up into broad demographics that we could market and sell to. But in an age in which every digital ‘tribe’ has its own online space, patterns of behaviour, in-depth knowledge and clusters of influence, we can no longer afford to work in these siloes.
To me, the increasing complexity of consumer groups is one of the biggest drivers of change in the beauty industry – one that offers opportunity and challenge in equal measure and arguably leaves the smaller, authentic natural beauty brands at a distinct advantage.
Look at the growing band of ‘Skintellectuals’, a phrase coined by Vogue to describe hyper-educated beauty consumers, they’ll see through any pseudo-science instantly and expect transparency not only on ingredients but on sourcing, extraction processes, manufacturing methods, packaging and even pricing.
The breath-taking speed of digital influence has seen some of the traditional big players caught unawares and undermined by their leaner, more agile competitors. Niche brands have been able to respond to natural trends swiftly, capitalise on social media opportunities and punch way above their weight in awareness terms whilst resonating with consumer desire for discovery or uniqueness.
The most successful emerging brands are able to leverage their ‘kitchen chemistry’ backstories – often built around a single, relatable individual – to speak to their audience as peers. It’s this kind of influencer who is finding their own tribe or micro-community in the natural beauty space because they’re perceived as the real deal.
Authenticity is the watchword on a far broader scale. In everything from the representatives chosen, to the stories brands tell, consumers want to see purpose and conviction. In my view, sustainable business practices, ingredients sourcing and packaging are becoming more valuable brand assets than a simple commitment to using natural ingredients. At its simplest, consumers want to ‘do the right thing’ when they make a purchase; for the planet and its people at each step in the supply chain.
And this holistic understanding of the external ecosystem goes hand-in-hand with a growing emphasis on our individual ‘me-cosystem’. The focus in beauty has moved beyond being interested only in what we put on our bodies, and the natural products we put into them.
An emerging ‘total approach’ to beauty represents a huge shift in mindset; consumers are taking more supplements to feed their hair, skin and nails, and are increasingly comfortable with this being part of their beauty regime, demonstrating a new understanding of the inextricable link between internal and external health and beauty.
As new consumer ‘tribes’ continue to emerge, it will become harder to predict the nuances of a shifting beauty marketplace. Despite this, I’m confident that the natural beauty movement from niche to mainstream is here to stay, and it’s the players with authentic, sustainable credentials who have most to gain – both commercially and ethically. It’s an exciting time for the natural beauty sector, the opportunity for innovative brands has never been greater.
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