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Natural beauty: from ecosystem to ‘me-cosystem’

Targeted marketing in the health and beauty industry used to be pretty simple. Despite their obvious complexities, consumers were tidied up into broad demographics based on age, gender and disposable income, observes Helen Yeardsley, Head of Healthy Beauty. But in an age in which every digital ‘tribe’ has its own online space, unique behaviour patterns, area of in-depth knowledge and cluster of influence, we can no longer afford to work in these silos.

Look at the growing band of ‘Skintellectuals’, a phrase coined by Vogue to describe hyper-curious, hyper-educated beauty consumers who come to a purchase armed with knowledge and evidence. 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.

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 to brands and marketers. This arguably puts the smaller, authentic natural beauty brands at a distinct advantage. These are brands such as Weleda, founded and built on natural, organic, ethical principles. Such brands are truly able to walk the walk at each level of the business and can confidently shine a light on each process with complete transparency.

Conscientious beauty

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. There is increasing awareness among beauty brands for the need to demonstrate their commitment to conscientious trading. Just this year, Beauty Kitchen has become the first sustainable & natural beauty brand to be B-Corp certified. To achieve this, companies must stand up against ‘rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency’, successfully demonstrating how these core values run through their DNA. This landmark certification is a huge step forward for the beauty industry, setting an innovative example for other brands to (hopefully) follow.

Some of the smarter beauty giants have embraced the oncoming shift. Sephora recently launched its Accelerate Programme, taking 50 female founders of niche beauty brands and committing to a support package of mentoring, grants and training that runs through to 2020. What’s in it for Sephora? Not only do they get to see how just how some of the brightest young talent in the industry operates and how these founders engage directly with their consumers, but Sephora are also perceived as being increasingly relevant and progressive by association – a win-win.

Following form

In keeping with the trend for responsible practices, a large number of conglomerates are now entering the ‘green’ arena. L’Oreal Paris’ new Botanicals Freshcare range ticks every box of the value chain from raw material sourcing to extraction and packaging, and Procter and Gamble’s beach plastic initiative to recycle recovered marine plastic into shampoo bottles shows them taking bold and ambitious steps towards more sustainable practices.

 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 – with a following of people who believe and invest in what they have to say because they’re perceived as the real deal.

 The digital dash

Indeed, 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. As well as inherently resonating with the desire of the consumer for ‘new discovery’ or ‘uniqueness’, niche brands have been able to respond swiftly in the social sphere to trends in natural beauty. Their smaller size and corporate independence has allowed them to capitalise quickly on social media opportunities and punch way above their weight in terms of raising consumer awareness.

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.

As new consumer ‘tribes’ continue to emerge, it will become harder each year to predict the nuances of a shifting beauty marketplace. Despite this uncertainly, 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, and as far as I can see, the opportunity for innovative brands in this space has never been greater.

To speak to our Healthy Beauty team about how we can help you, please contact helen.yeardsley@thisispegasus.co.uk or call 01273 712000.

This article first appeared in Natural Beauty News magazine, Autumn 2017.

is healthy beauty director at Pegasus (Instagram @peg_beauty) leading a team dedicated to championing the benefits, ethics and distinct personalities of some of our industry’s most innovative and exciting beauty and wellbeing brands.