Behind The Brand
“I learned early that being a perfectionist and providing quality was the only way to do business.”
– Estée Lauder
How often do you think about beauty brands? Day to day, probably not that often, if at all. Your routines run on autopilot and you’ve got more important things to think about. Then at times, they cross your mind. When fine-tuning your skincare routine, re-arranging those well-loved tubs and bottles for your very own #topshelfie or when searching for an alternative for a now-discontinued shade. You think of the brands you love in the hope that they never stop selling your faves. Maybe you think about them when searching for brands that align with your values, i.e. cruelty-free and environmentally friendly.
But do you consider what’s behind the brand? The people that developed an idea into multi-million pound businesses; whether that be Estée Lauder and her eponymous company that started out in 1946 with four core products or Evelyn Lauder (daughter-in-law of Estée) who was so inspired by a Vogue article on great skin that she created Clinique in 1968 to help others achieve great skin. Looking at other classic brands like Elizabeth Arden, Pond’s or Fashion Fair (one of the first major makeup brands that catered to black women, created by Eunice Johnson in 1973 after noticing that models had to mix foundations to get the right colour), or more affordable brands such as Max Factor and Revlon that have reinvented themselves over the years, expanding their product ranges as well as their demographic. It’s clear that they filled a much-needed gap in the market, and over decades have maintained their relevance and place in the market.
Arguably what these brands have in common is the clear distinction between the brand and the founders. Interviews provided a glimpse as to who was behind the company. On beauty, Estée Lauder is quoted to have said ‘To sell a cream, you sold a dream in the early days.’ Likewise, one of Elizabeth Arden most well-known sayings is ‘I don’t sell cosmetics, I sell hope.’ Aside from the business anecdotes and their personal lifestyle tips, what was most important in these interviews was the product. For both Arden and Lauder, their products allowed women to look after their skin and create a good canvas for makeup.
This love of beauty (and time to themselves) led women to beauty counters, having seen or heard through word of mouth about the latest products from the brands we see today. British department store, Selfridge’s was one such place, their own beauty and fragrance counters having opened at their flagship store on Oxford Street, London in 1910 served as a point of meeting for all beauty enthusiasts to try and buy products.
Fast forward a few decades and so much has changed. From science-focused skincare brands such as DECIEM to makeup artist led beauty brands such as MAC, Bobbi Brown or Kevyn Aucoin there has never been more choice. Plus, the fact that the internet provides unprecedented access to brands from all over the world (BECCA, Shiseido, COSRX) means that it is more important than ever to see the person behind the brand. Why? With so much choice, there needs to be something that sets each brand apart from the thousands of competitors.
As consumers, we’re conscientious, taking time to research ingredients (to see if they match up to marketing claims) and considering company global practices. We’re also curious, which is why editorial segments like Into The Gloss’ 'Top Shelf' and The Cut’s 'The Beauty of It All' are so popular because they turn the lens on those in the industry and also ask the questions we want to know; what products do you use? What are your lifestyle habits? What are your beauty philosophies?
We’re able to ask those questions because the model of a “successful beauty brand” has developed. Nowadays, brands need more than a brick and mortar store. Social media and a good online presence (in the form of customer reviews and customer interactions) matter just as much as editorial reviews and in-store customer service.
As is expected, consumers are not only looking for products that work but look to buy from brands that reflect and celebrate diversity, not just in products but in who represents and endorses a brand. The “faces” of beauty brands are changing, no longer restricted to just models and actresses, brands such as MAC have paved the way for collaborations with musical artists such as Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Lion Babe, Dua Lipa, as well as collaborations from digital beauty influencers such as Patrick Starr, whereas Glossier have featured women of all sizes as part of their Body Hero campaign. Fashion retailer ASOS also offers an example of what inclusive brand representation looks like with the launch of their FACE + BODY campaign.
Taking a look behind the top and upcoming brands reveal that the space for beauty brands has never been as wide as it is now. The products and those behind the brand are as diverse as the consumers, as it should be.