TRANS­PARENCY IN BEAUTY SWEEPS IN­DUS­TRY

DECIEM, DRUNK ELE­PHANT AND BEAUTY PIE ARE AT THE FORE­FRONT OF THE MOVE­MENT.

WWD Digital Daily - - Front Page - BY RACHEL STRUGATZ

The days of top-se­cret in­gre­di­ents and for­mu­la­tions are over.

In­stead of beauty brands slap­ping multi-hun­dred-dol­lar price tags on prod­ucts where the in­gre­di­ents, for decades, have been shrouded in se­crecy — whether un­der the guise of pro­pri­etary blends or just to fos­ter an air of mys­tery and al­lure — a new move­ment is tak­ing shape. A hand­ful of beauty play­ers — from mass to pres­tige, in­die to legacy — are adopt­ing a new modus operandi when it comes to the way they speak to cus­tomers — and it’s all about be­ing rad­i­cally trans­par­ent.

The move­ment is be­ing adopted in myr­iad ways:

• In terms of prod­uct, brands like Drunk Ele­phant, Beauty Pie, Deciem, Gly­tone, No BS and Garnier are mov­ing beyond the barest list­ing of in­gre­di­ents as man­dated by au­thor­i­ties and are re­veal­ing the ex­act per­cent­ages of ac­tive in­gre­di­ents used — and

even where they’re de­rived from.

• When it comes to brand mes­sag­ing, founder of Glossier Emily Weiss has been

in­stru­men­tal in cre­at­ing a con­ver­sa­tion around trans­parency with Mil­len­nial con­sumers, most no­tably with Body Hero, a range that launched in Septem­ber with a

cam­paign that cel­e­brated “real” bod­ies.

• Re­gard­ing price, Deciem has built a

house of brands with ap­proach­able, mass price points to show there’s no cor­re­la­tion be­tween qual­ity and cost of goods.

• Then there are mar­ket­ing ma­te­ri­als.

CVS last week made head­lines af­ter re­veal­ing it would no longer “dig­i­tally al­ter or change a per­son’s shape, size, pro­por­tion, skin or eye color or en­hance or al­ter lines, wrin­kles or other in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter­is­tics” in beauty im­agery that’s used within its stores, web site, through so­cial me­dia and in other mar­ket­ing chan­nels for beauty. He­lena Foulkes, pres­i­dent of CVS Phar­macy and ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent,

CVS Health, told WWD she is hope­ful that CVS’ move to pro­mote more re­al­is­tic beauty im­agery will trickle down to brand part­ners, many of which the drug chain is al­ready in dis­cus­sions with to fig­ure out how to best achieve a broader “stan­dard” of beauty.

“We are a health-care com­pany with beauty in­side — and this is a health is­sue. The Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion has iden­ti­fied the prop­a­ga­tion of un­re­al­is­tic body im­ages as a sig­nif­i­cant driver of health is­sues, par­tic­u­larly in young women and girls,” Foulkes said. “We hope to in­spire oth­ers — in­side and out­side of the beauty in­dus­try — to think about the mes­sages they are send­ing to women.”

First steps to ad­dress trans­parency in its stores in­clude the in­clu­sion of The Beauty Mark, a wa­ter­mark that sep­a­rates “real” im­ages from those that have been ma­nip­u­lated. The wa­ter­mark will ap­pear on all non-al­tered im­ages and a dis­claimer on all “ma­te­ri­ally al­tered” im­agery will “en­sure that cus­tomers know the dif­fer­ence.”

“It [trans­parency] just seems like an ob­vi­ous thing — busi­nesses and brands should have al­ways been do­ing this. It’s this huge move­ment and all of these bands are chang­ing to be this way — which is amaz­ing — but it’s just strange that it took un­til the year 2018 for that hap­pen,” said Ni­cola Kil­ner, co- chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Deciem.

The Cana­dian-based Deciem, par­ent ►

com­pany of nine brands (with three more rolling out this year), is among a fast-grow­ing crop of beauty play­ers lead­ing the trans­parency charge. Niod, Hy­lamide, Stemm and Esho are some of the la­bels

in Deciem’s port­fo­lio, with The Or­di­nary

be­ing the largest and best known.

In just a year’s time, the com­pany has man­aged to be­come one of the most buzzed-about in the in­dus­try — and not just be­cause of a mi­nor­ity in­vest­ment from The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. seven months ago.

Beyond list­ing the per­cent­age of in­gre­di­ents used, the com­pany’s ap­proach to trans­parency in­cludes de­tailed in­for­ma­tion on prod­uct pages that con­tain a ta­ble with a ma­te­rial’s pH and whether or not it’s free of gluten, nuts, soy, sil­i­cone, oil, al­co­hol and so on. It also ex­tends to pack­ag­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing and an­i­mal test­ing, the lat­ter of which is the rea­son

why Deciem will never phys­i­cally sell in

Main­land China (where an­i­mal test­ing is manda­tory to en­ter brick and mor­tar re­tail­ers).

But Deciem’s key dif­fer­en­tia­tor is open­ness about an ac­ces­si­ble price struc­ture. The brand wants to de­bunk the myth that ef­fi­ca­cious skin care needs to cost more and so it prices items ac­cord­ing to how much they ac­tu­ally cost to make. For in­stance, the best-sell­ing prod­uct is a Niaci­namide 10% + Zinc 1% so­lu­tion that

re­tails for $5.90.

Like­wise, Beauty Pie was cre­ated by Mar­cia Kilgore to “de­moc­ra­tize ac­cess to lux­ury beauty prod­ucts.” The site sells pres­tige beauty items through a $10 monthly mem­ber­ship that gives users ac­cess to buy at fac­tory-di­rect costs. Kilgore’s goal is for cus­tomers to have ac­cess to prod­ucts that would nor­mally cost 10 times as much — the usual in­dus­try markup, she said. Be­cause Kilgore is sourc­ing prod­ucts di­rectly from man­u­fac­tur­ers, she’s able to pass the value on to con­sumers, who as mem­bers pay just $3.57 for a lip­stick that would typ­i­cally re­tail for $25.

De­spite hav­ing founded four suc­cess­ful

beauty brands with a proven track record, Kilgore had a hard time con­vinc­ing bankers and the fi­nance crowd that her con­cept had legs.

She re­called one naysayer in par­tic­u­lar who said the only rea­son beauty is suc­cess­ful is be­cause “it’s about sell­ing a fairy tale.”

To that Kilgore replied: “I would like to sell her a new fairy tale — one where she comes into the fac­tory with me and gets to buy ev­ery­thing di­rectly from the fac­tory. That’s a bet­ter fairy tale, that’s rad­i­cal trans­parency. It’s say­ing, ‘Here’s what is, here’s what it’s made of and here’s what it re­ally costs to make.’”

An­other el­e­ment of trans­parency re­volves around be­ing up­front about the cons of a prod­uct (in ad­di­tion to the pros,

of course), so for its part, Deciem lays out

all the facts to em­power con­sumers to make their own de­ci­sions with the in­for­ma­tion they’ve been given.

For ex­am­ple, when it comes to retinol of­fer­ings, The Or­di­nary’s stance is that retinoids trump retinol be­cause the lat­ter could lead to ir­ri­ta­tion of the skin. The brand still sells both op­tions to give cus­tomers a choice, but ver­biage on the retinol prod­uct page rec­om­mends the use of a retinoid over a retinol.

“In the world of skin care, not ev­ery in­gre­di­ent works for every­one’s skin,” Kil­ner said. “In the past, brands were do­ing too much to pre­tend that a prod­uct was per­fect for every­one.”

Deciem might be a first mover, but

the beauty in­dus­try should brace it­self: Ex­perts pre­dict that this ap­proach will be­come the new norm. Not only will the move­ment in­flu­ence tra­di­tional beauty mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing — pred­i­cated on women achiev­ing aes­thetic per­fec­tion, the com­plete op­po­site of trans­parency — but com­mu­ni­ca­tion over­all. This is fu­eled by so­cial me­dia, which for most com­pa­nies has be­come the pri­mary ve­hi­cle to en­gage with their con­sumer, en­abling a two-way di­a­logue be­tween con­sumer and brand that could never have ex­isted be­fore.

This is great for the beauty firms that are forth­com­ing about prod­uct and for­mu­la­tions, and maybe not so much for those that aren’t. The old guard is be­ing cau­tioned to adopt a new way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing — and fast. To make it in a cat­e­gory as over­crowded and sat­u­rated with me-too prod­ucts, you need to rely on more than trade se­crets and a prom­ise of an­ti­ag­ing ben­e­fits to win.

“Beauty has been ab­so­lutely bril­liant at re­flect­ing women’s as­pi­ra­tions; it’s just that those as­pi­ra­tions are chang­ing. New brands pop up to re­flect the as­pi­ra­tions of a new gen­er­a­tion. They start to be­come the next wave and old brands ei­ther have to catch up or they’ll no longer be rel­e­vant. They’ll age out,” said Ruth Bern­stein, ceo of Yard NYC, an ad­ver­tis­ing agency that’s worked with clients in the beauty space in­clud­ing Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier.

For Bern­stein, the idea of a prod­uct be­ing the “best kept se­cret” is dead. A lack of ac­cess was once con­sid­ered as­pi­ra­tional in beauty, where se­crecy was some­thing to be cov­eted. The de­sire to see im­pos­si­bly per­fect look­ing A-list ac­tresses and mod­els, some Pho­to­shopped and edited so heav­ily

that cam­paign im­agery was no longer rep­re­sen­ta­tive of how they truly looked, is be­ing usurped by con­sumers’ de­sire for trans­parency.

But why now?

A dose of re­al­ity for one, due largely to the ad­vent of so­cial me­dia, as to­day’s con­sumer has come to see that many of the ac­tresses and mod­els aren’t liv­ing the as­pi­ra­tional lives de­picted in the ads they’ve grown ac­cus­tomed to see­ing. Some tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing has lost cred­i­bil­ity in light of the dig­i­tal age un­mask­ing the truth: the women so­ci­ety once viewed as the most con­fi­dent (be­cause they were mod­els and ac­tresses) are of­ten the most un­happy.

“The re­al­ity was that they [ac­tresses] weren’t feel­ing con­fi­dent. And re­ally, all of us women are as­pir­ing to be em­pow­ered and con­fi­dent and feel com­fort­able and beau­ti­ful in our skin,” Bern­stein said.

Foulkes even cited a sur­vey con­ducted

by WWD’s sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion Va­ri­ety that

showed YouTube stars are more pop­u­lar than tra­di­tional celebri­ties with younger

au­di­ences be­tween the ages of 13 and 24. It

boiled down to “re­lata­bil­ity,” where Foulkes was sur­prised to learn that Mil­len­ni­als

and Gen Z con­sumers used phrases such as

“just like me,” “doesn’t try to be per­fect” and “gen­uine” in their re­sponses.

But this shift in celebrity per­cep­tion is just one of the many cat­a­lysts in­cit­ing the trans­parency revo­lu­tion.

An ever-in­formed con­sumer — who has un­bri­dled ac­cess to re­search tools rang­ing from the In­ter­net to re­tailer apps con­tain­ing de­tailed prod­uct in­for­ma­tion to the brands them­selves — wants to know what she is putting on her face. Com­bine this with the grow­ing well­ness move­ment, which has made nat­u­ral and or­ganic in­gre­di­ents (of the top­i­cal in­gested va­ri­ety) top of mind for many in­di­vid­u­als seek­ing syn­thetic al­ter­na­tives.

Cul­tural con­sid­er­a­tions come into play, too. Some be­lieve this move to­ward trans­parency is due in part to a rein­vig­o­rated fem­i­nist move­ment and a po­lit­i­cally fu­eled cli­mate where women are en­cour­aged to speak up. With the ag­gran­diza­tion of so­cial me­dia, any­one now has a plat­form to do so.

“There’s go­ing to be more pres­sure on brands to even de­tail what they’re pay­ing peo­ple be­cause brands are not only pre­sent­ing them­selves by the prod­ucts they sell but as cool and pro­gres­sive places to work. The num­ber of cri­te­ria on which they’re as­sessed on will be much holis­tic, and more things will be added to the list. They will be forced to be more trans­par­ent,” said Lu­cie Green, a fu­tur­ist at J.

Wal­ter Thomp­son World­wide.

Once upon a time, us­ing re­cy­cled pack­ag­ing was seen as a bonus and cause

for brag­ging rights, Green said, but to­day,

the num­ber of el­e­ments brands can be scru­ti­nized on has in­creased ex­po­nen­tially. It’s not even just shar­ing in­for­ma­tion about raw ma­te­ri­als and in­gre­di­ents – trans­parency has ex­tended to how sup­pli­ers are treated, how much di­ver­sity there is in cor­po­rate lead­er­ship and em­ployee salaries (and whether that varies by gen­der). Any­thing is fair game.

“This is no longer on the fringes. Fem­i­nism is a main­stream cul­tural trend and it means that women are hold­ing brands ac­count­able, and apart from any­thing else, the [brands’] rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women,”

said Green.

For this group, where pol­i­tics and fem­i­nism are dom­i­nant themes, it’s be­come the norm to turn to so­cial me­dia to “call out” brands for a myr­iad of things that might

not have oth­er­wise come to light,” Green

said, not­ing that these con­cerns be­come even more pro­nounced for the 12- to 19-year-olds in Gen­er­a­tion Z.

Drunk Ele­phant is one pres­tige brand

that has in­cor­po­rated that at­ti­tude into its busi­ness strat­egy. Out­spo­ken founder

Tif­fany Master­son has a “tell it like it is” ►

From busi­ness model to in­gre­di­ent info, an ar­ray of brands are in­creas­ingly trans­par­ent in how they talk to con­sumers.

Jamie O’Ban­ion

Tif­fany Master­son

Ni­cole Kil­ner

Mar­cia Kilgore

Katie Sturino

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