MINTEL’S 2018 BEAUTY TRENDS: SIX MONTHS IN

Dave Corlett
27 June 2018

Just before Christmas, insight gurus Mintel revealed four trends they announced would impact the global beauty and personal care market in 2018.

As we approach the halfway point in the year, we asked our insight team to analyse how each trend is playing out so far. Are they having the impact that Mintel predicted, or was their forecasting wide of the mark?

1. Playing Mother Nature

What Mintel said: The concept of natural beauty ingredients is expanding in an ever-changing world; brands will give Mother Nature a helping hand by encompassing local approaches and developments in biotechnology.

Natural and organic beauty products

What we found: To say that natural beauty is a global phenomenon is something of an understatement. As consumers become increasingly wary of what they put on their skin and where it comes from, the market for all-natural products continues to grow and grow.

But do people really care whether their ingredients are sourced locally, and are brands going out of their way to make this happen?

It does appear to be the case. L’Oréal made a big statement on the subject in April when they launched Seed Phytonutrients, a sustainable beauty brand that sources all of its ingredients from farms in Pennsylvania, where the brand is based.

Seed Phytonutrients products                 (image: Twitter)

Smaller brands are making waves too. Bath Spa Skincare, launched by former environmental scientist Sally Merrett, sources and manufactures all its products in its (and our) home city of Bath.

But it’s not all sunshine and organically grown roses. When it comes to scaling up their businesses, even natural beauty brands that don’t focus on local provenance are facing hurdles. Sourcing large quantities of high-quality ingredients from reliable suppliers can be a tough task, especially when trying to keep costs at manageable levels.

This is where the biotechnology aspect of Mintel’s insight comes in. So-called ‘healthy hybrid’ brands such as Biossance and True Botanicals are using it to fuse plant-based ingredients with sustainably sourced and non-toxic synthetics to keep natural beauty enthusiasts on board and onside.

True Botanicals products                 (image: A Cup Of Jo)

This means they can offer them to more consumers whilst mitigating some of the tricky issues above.

Summary: Beauty brands do seem to be placing more focus on locally sourced natural ingredients as 2018 rolls on. They face growth challenges in the process, but enter Mintel’s other observation in this section.

Biotechnology could be the answer here, with several brands harnessing it for scalable production of products that may not be all-natural, but are definitely 100% safe and sustainable.

2. My Beauty, My Rules

What Mintel said: Brands will stop targeting consumers based on their age, gender, or body type as consumers increasingly demand personalised beauty defined on their terms.

L' Oreal diverse marketing                 (image: Campaign)

What we found: As with natural beauty, this is a trend that has been gaining traction for a few years now.

Back in 2016, Covergirl featured its first male cover star in James Charles, and male beauty blogger Gary Thomson starred in a major L’Oréal campaign.

In 2017, this shift in attitude began manifesting itself on the shelves. Orly teamed up with Muslim Girl for a halal-certified collection, and ASOS began selling MMUK Man make-up. And of course, Fenty Beauty and its swathe of shades arrived on the scene.

Orly x Muslim Girl beauty range                 (image: Muslim Girl)

Mintel don’t do a great job of articulating how a trend already in full flow will evolve in 2018. Saying “brands will stop” using lazy stereotypes and labels is a little vague. All brands? Or just more of them?

What they were getting at (I think) is that this year, inclusivity will cease to be ‘niche’ and ‘alternative’. The mainstream, previously the sole preserve of airbrushed white women, will become a true reflection of our diverse society – free from lazy stereotypes.

Our findings definitely correspond to this. Platforms such as YouTube and Buzzfeed have completely rethought the roles they play in promoting diversity in beauty. This is illustrated by the fact that the aforementioned James Charles is now the second highest-earning beauty star on YouTube.

James Charles YouTube beauty star                 (image: SBS)

Major brands such as Lancôme, Dior and Bobbi Brown have all launched new make-up ranges featuring shades for everyone. Retailers are taking note, too, with Sephora announcing the launch of beauty classes for trans customers.

Last year, we questioned whether beauty brands were doing enough for diversity. It seems 2018 is the year that many more of them are.

Summary: Mintel’s predictions could be better articulated, but essentially they are on the money so far this year. Inclusivity and diversity are quickly ceasing to be mere buzzwords. Instead they are becoming part of mainstream attitudes to beauty.

This is happening, now. And society will be far better for it.

3. CAMPAIGN CAPITAL

What Mintel said: Simply selling a great beauty product will no longer be enough; brands must have personality and purpose that align with consumers’ own beliefs in order to win them over.

Lush Spycops campaign video                 (image: Plymouth Herald)

What we found: This was an interesting one to look into. In truth, we felt that the points Mintel were trying to make were a little unclear and disjointed. Take this, for example:

“The onus is now on brands to impress consumers with a human-like personality that’s relatable, personable, and sincere. Brand marketing campaigns need to align with consumers’ own beliefs and values, so people feel like they are buying an attitude and lifestyle, and not just a product.”

This is far from a new concept, especially in beauty. Our long-term clients Soap & Glory have pioneered personality-driven branding and marketing for years.

2018’s suggested shift is towards a personality that is compassionate and driven by a worthy purpose. This is certainly prevalent. But delving deeper, we couldn’t find any compelling evidence that it is growing rapidly – or in a particularly sophisticated way.

Take three of the most-followed beauty brands on social media.

MAC, the top performer, do tick many boxes. They celebrate diversity, believe in social responsibility, don’t test on animals and work with HIV/AIDS charities. Whilst admirable, though, none of this is new news.

MAC Cosmetics Twitter profile                 (image: Twitter)

NYX Cosmetics come across as personable and vibrant, but other than being ‘proudly cruelty-free’, haven’t engaged in any purpose-driven activity this year.

And Urban Decay are unashamedly all about the make-up. There’s nothing in their campaigns, content or on their website to suggest that “simply selling a great beauty product is no longer enough”, as Mintel put it. They are simply all about how great their products are – and their followers love them for it.

From a campaign perspective, brands that went down the route of aligning themselves with a cause or purpose generally went for the same one (International Women’s Day, the Women’s March in LA, #MeToo) with little distinction from their competitors. Or, in Lush’s case, something completely left-field.

READ MORE: Have Lush taken ‘brand purpose’ too far?

Summary: Many beauty brands – especially those targeting younger audiences – are becoming more involved in the causes their audience are passionate about.

However, looking deeper into the issue, we aren’t convinced that this is ramping up significantly in 2018. Where it is, those brands becoming more active aren’t doing a particularly good job of it so far.

4. PRIVATE EYE

What Mintel said: Digital technology will follow consumers everywhere, influencing their product purchases and helping them to navigate the complexities of the beauty aisle.

Beauty brands using biometrics to track consumers                    (image: Marketing Interactive)

What we found: Mintel were much more on the money with this one. Convincingly so, in places.

In their report, they eulogise how “apps will become digital personal assistants”. Just last week, L’Oréal’s chief digital officer Lubomira Rochet introduced the company’s new beauty assistant app, which fuses Facetime-style personal consultations with AR that allows users to try on recommended products.

L'Oreal chief digital officer Lubomira Rochet at Cannes Lions 2018                 (image: B&T)

According to Rochet, service and personalisation will be the future of the beauty industry. With several other major tech announcements so far in 2018, L’Oréal are certainly betting the house on this occurring.

Another Mintel assertion was that “voice-based technology will evolve to curate products”. Estée Lauder and Wunder2 have both since launched voice tools, and Coty have introduced ‘Let’s Get Ready’, a visual tool for the Amazon Echo Show that displays different makeup looks and even comments on individuals’ makeup choices.

Cotys new voice activated beauty app lets get ready                 (image: Cosmetics Business)

However, where the report touches on data security concerns, we found less evidence. Consumers will, say Mintel, “recognise the value of their biometric data and demand either privacy or compensation”.

So far, all the industry talk is of the opportunities that increased personalisation will bring – not the threats, or any evidence of pushback from consumers.

Adobe’s outlet CMO.com talks passionately about the benefits of facial recognition and biometrics, with no caveats on privacy. And Forbes announces that “consumers already are recognising the technology’s value” – although it does go on to say that “its acceptance hinges, heavily, on security capabilities”.

Perhaps it’s still early days here.

Summary: In saying that digital technology will follow consumers everywhere and influence their purchases, Mintel are entirely correct if the first half of 2018 is anything to go by.

The big players in the market are making big moves across the tech spectrum (the techtrum? I think I just invented a word). In terms of privacy concerns, these haven’t been voiced loudly as of yet.

But hey – there’s still six months of the year to go.

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