Following the post on Body Care, I have been asked if I could write about beauty products, from a marketing point of view. After examining my own routine, Sephora's shelves, and a bit of research, I have decided to present you the concept of creating new needs, "opening a new market", which seems to be one of the techniques used in the beauty industry.
A Brief HistoryHere is a bit of context to understand where the reasoning comes from. When mass market products started being sold, the business model was simple: you produce the same item en masse, thanks to the mechanisation of fabrication and factory workers who did the same task over and over again. You produce a lot, the cost per item is therefore very low, and it becomes accessible for purchase to most households. The flagship example of this model is the Ford T.
For a while, businesses were very successful as nobody was equipped yet so sales were high. Until a point when corporations started being afraid of overproduction, as sales started to decrease because people were equipped: once you bought a car, you had no reason to buy another. This is when makerting had to become creative to get people to keep buying beyond their needs. You can watch the documentary the Century of the Self for more details on that.
One of these techniques to get people to keep buying stuff was planned obsolescence - or creating less sturdy items to make consumers replace them more often. Another one is to create a new need to open a new market. You already have a car? But Madame doesn't? Here is a smaller car made especially for women!
Creating New Needs: How Does it WorkHere is the example of high tech: at first, there were the family PCs, used by all family members. Then, laptops came: your own, transportable computer. For a family of 4, suddenly the market widened to 4 laptops where there was only one PC. Do you see the concept?
In order to keep creating new needs for new markets, marketers have to be increasingly ingenious in finding very specific situations in which you may need their new products. To switch from home PC to laptops, the new "need" was rather easy to find: your own device that you can use whenever you want without sharing time with the rest of the family, small and compact to take with you on travel.
But the latest innovations are much more subtle than that: take tablets for example.The situation becomes much more specific and the tool more "specialized": you use your iPad during travels, but when your laptop battery is depleted or if you want to travel light, or at home when you want to check something quickly without booting the laptop... These fabricated needs are much more specific, often limited to certain situations that may not occur that often. And that's when we should question the actual utility of the product over what we already own.
The Case Of Beauty ProductsIn the market of beauty products, we have a lot of very specialized "needs". As I was watching beauty videos from specialized bloggers (who use more products than average, I guess), I actually discovered new products I'd never used, nor needed in my adult life, which target a very specific body area or problem.
Let me take the example of face products, do you realize that, only to clean and prepare the skin for make-up, you already have face scrubs, masks, serums, oils, tonic lotions, floral water, make-up remover, washing brushes (e.g. Clarisonic), peeling stuff, eye contour creams, anti-wrinkles cream, sunscreen creams, anti-pollution creams, light hydrating creams for summer, heavier ones for winter, anti-blemish or spots creams...
Think about it, some centuries ago, and even now in some parts of the world, people have one soap with which they clean their body and face and that's it. Between this extreme and using 15 products every morning, might there be a good balance to keep our skin healthy without emptying our bank accounts and cluttering our bathroom shelves?
As Consumers: What Should We Do?The upside of these "new needs" and "new markets" is that they also come with scientific advancements that improve and simplify our lives, so of course we shouldn't reject it all, in the same way that we shouldn't automatically reject laptops and tablets in my example above.
What I would recommend though, it to go from your actual needs, based on your daily life and habits, and look for adequate products from there, instead of going from the range of products available and automatically assume you need one of each. Some of you may travel a lot, and a tablet/e-reader would really make your life easier, but others would simply let the tablet collect dust in their living room.
More concretely, when you consider buying a new product, consider the questions below:
- What will I use it for? What need does it fill exactly?
- Is there any other object, that I already own, that could do the job instead?
- How often would I use it? Weekly? Monthly? A couple of times a year?
- How do I manage with that need now? Would the item really simplify my life and habits or is my current solution already adequate?
More often than not, the answers to these questions may lead to reconsider the actual necessity of the purchase. I also find myself asking these questions when considering the replacement of an item that just broke, and even while editing my current collection of items. It can lead me to decide either to keep using it until it breaks (but not replace it), or to set it free right now.
For example, I have decided to apply this to my current collection of body care products: I'm currently using my stock, but each time a product is used up, I don't buy a replacement (apart from the basics - shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste...) and see what happens to my skin. Chances are, many of the products I'm using don't actually make much of a difference so I'll just stop buying them altogether.
As A Conclusion...
They try to create a social norm and to make you feel inadequate or irresponsible if you don't use that object. This might be worth thinking about, next time you buy an object because "you are supposed to own this". I can develop this idea in a separate post if you are interested.