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The rise of ultimate natural beauty: ‘no product’ at all

Kat Westbury has worked with The Red Tree for over 3 years and has 12 years’ experience in developing marketing, online and social media campaigns for brands in both London and Sydney. Now based in Sydney full-time (the weather was irresistible), she works as part of The Red Tree’s international team. Here, Kat looks at the rise of ultimate natural beauty – no product at all – and how brands can prepare for this new beauty climate.

A prominent Australian television journalist recently published an article via a major Australian newspaper titled ‘Tracey Spicer: why I’m weaning myself off extreme grooming’. Tracey, one of the highly-polished and ‘heavily’ made-up faces of Australian television, bravely included a photo of herself, well-dressed, but completely un-groomed. No makeup and hair unkempt, Tracey looks like a completely different woman.

Tracey’s TEDx talk at TEDxSouthBankWomen, where she publicly wiped off her make-up, sprayed water on her hair and kicked off her heels on stage has received over 800,000 hits.

Response has been mixed, but overwhelming. People are talking about the beauty industry. The need for brands to position their products with a more natural, liberated woman in mind continues.

The surge in the availability and inclusion of natural ingredients in almost every thinkable beauty product over the last ten years has been exponential. Consumers have almost come to expect at least one natural element in the products they regularly use. Rosehip oil, marine algae, argan, honey, aloe vera, tea tree, coconut extract – we’re basically slapping our fridge on our faces.

But we’re now seeing a stronger, and for the beauty industry, slightly more alarming, shift toward natural beauty – no product at all.

Emma Watson’s powerful United Nations #heforshe campaign launch sparked a global resurgence in a new kind of feminism – men standing up and addressing gender inequality for women. Another Australian television presenter, Karl Stefanovic, recently announced he had been conducting a secret gender equality experiment on air. He wore the same suit co-hosting Australia’s prime morning breakfast show Today, every day, for one year.

Not one person noticed until he announced it.

His co-host, Lisa Wilkinson, on the other hand, received a steady stream of evaluation and comment on her outfits throughout the year. A simple experiment with an astounding result.

This shift in social discourse has influenced how women feel about an industry we’ve been buying into as consumers for centuries. Combined with an integrated focus on what we’re putting into and on our bodies and how this affects our long-term well being, this could signal the beginning of another big change in the way brands will need to position themselves in a market that is beginning to reject traditional ideas of beauty.

To remain successful and relevant, beauty brands will need to get to know their consumers again. Underneath the social issues guiding this transition to a more natural approach to beauty, it’s not an overly revolutionary suggestion to assume that most women like to feel beautiful. The typical woman’s bathroom will continue to contain beauty products in some form. It’s the idea of how beauty is defined that has changed.

What can brands do to stay relevant?

1. Talk to your consumers. Get to know your marketplace. Gain a wider understanding of what women (and men) are talking about and how this impacts the products they’re seeking out.

2. Review your message accordingly. It’s not about changing your entire product line and reducing it down to one chemical-free cleanser and moisturizer if you’re a beauty brand with a well-performing make-up line. It might be integrating simplicity within your message, refining your product portfolio or aligning your brand values with a social message or cause.

3. Evaluate. What’s working? What’s not working? Why? Don’t just focus on your product. What are other brands doing to stay relevant? How can you integrate these strategies within your brand in a unique way? Look beyond your brand and broaden your focus.

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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