LS International 29 July 2019

3 Key Values to Drive a Global Beauty Brand by Burcu Unal

Universal Language of Beauty

Global cosmetic market is one of the biggest with 507.75 billion USD in 2018 and one of the fastest with a growth rate of +5.9%, estimated to reach 758.45 billion USD by 2025.1

This market is booming because the quest for beauty is international. No matter the implication level, let it be a Beauty Junkie or a Naturalist, beauty concerns everyone at some level. Many factors shape our understanding of beauty including culture, ethnicity, gender and media, which makes its expression as unique as our DNAs. So if the quest for beauty is international but its expression is unique to individuals can beauty companies think and act global? Yes, only if they understand the universal language of beauty.

Algorithm of Today’s Beauty Market

Not only beauty is alive and constantly shifting, but also every generation manifests its own code of beauty. Like her or not, Kim Kardashian is the best example. She not only single handedly defined a new beauty algorithm: curvier, more relatable and more accepting, but also created a hard-to-believe-how-successful beauty company aka KKW Beauty. According to Forbes, KKW Beauty that Kim holds with 100% ownership reached already an estimated 100 million USD in revenue.2

3 vectors drive the Algorithm of today’s beauty market: inclusive individuality, 50 shades of transparency and transformative innovation. A winning recipe that works everywhere in today’s world with certain local twists on wordings, textures, fragrances and formats.

Inclusive Individuality

When it comes to beauty products, consumers want to be inspired by the latest trends while being able to revisit them according to their personal needs. Face make-up market was quite sluggish until the rise of “Contouring” a couple years ago, a make-up technique that creates wonders by defining, enhancing and sculpting the facial structure. By accentuating certain areas of the face that catch the light and by shadowing the rest, it is possible to look like your Instagram-Filtered-Selfie in a couple of minutes. All it requires a couple of products: primer, foundation, concealer, powder, blush, bronzer, highlight, setting spray, brush and sponge. A routine of 10 products, easily costing between 50-100 USD even if bought from the mass-market brands.

Contouring was inspirational to all women (and in certain cases even to all men). Everyone wanted to look slimmer and sharper, but while doing so they all needed different shades that fit their skin tone, different textures that fit their skin types and different effects that fit their everyday realities including the humidity, pollution and sun exposure levels of which region that they are living in. Companies that understood this equation managed to offer wider face make-up ranges such as L’Oréal Paris True Match with 33 foundation shades or Fenty Beauty with 40 foundation shades. They rolled 1 global idea with certain twists to cater the needs of different regions, finally serving beauty for all.

50 shades of Transparency

Transparency in beauty is a must-have but the list of topics that fall under transparency is extremely long. Success belongs to the brands that have a clear sense of purpose and understanding of their consumer tribes, so that they deliver primarily the transparency “expected”.

If your brand is an activist, for instance a bio haircare, your consumers will require full transparency on the sourcing of ingredients and eco-friendly packaging – in detail and with precision. Whereas if your brand is a medical skincare, your consumers will want to know more about the clinical test results and the safety aspects.

Once you check the priorities in the transparency list, then the sky is the limit. The more transparent, the better.

Transformative Innovation

Consumers might love certain brands but at the end, they buy products and services. Brand love is important but not enough to compensate for low performing products anymore. The brands that shake the beauty market offer transformative innovation. Innovation that is capable of transforming a problem, a habit, an experience in order to satisfy a need gap with instant and lasting gratification.

Transformative innovation can manifest with hero products such as Face Tissue Masks from South Korea. Easy to use, instantly effective, budget friendly and fun, tissue masks boomed all over the world expanding the mask market. According to Globe Newswire face masks market will grow at a CAGR of 10.2% to hit $11.37 Billion by 2025.3

Another way to bring transformative innovation can be the way you develop your products, such as Glossier.

Glossy Case of Glossier

You might not be a beauty guru but the chances are that you have already heard about Glossier once or twice. Its founder, Emily Weiss, first started a blog named “Into the Gloss” to democratize beauty. She said “When I started Into The Gloss, I wanted to make beauty as much of an element of personal style as fashion. As I interviewed hundreds of women, I became more and more aware of how flawed the traditional beauty paradigm is. It has historically been an industry based on experts telling you, the customer, what you should or shouldn’t be using on your face.”4 To give back the power to consumers she decided to create the first beauty company inspired by real life with a people powered ecosystem.

Her lightbulb moment quickly paid off and Glossier launched in October 2014 with just four skincare products in simple yet attractive pink packaging has become 1.2 billion dollar business with a large geographical footprint and a complete product catalog in just 5 years.5 A success story based on transforming innovation – this time focusing on how beauty products were developed.

Getting clear about opportunities and risks

Beauty is a booming market driven by 3 vectors: inclusive individuality, transparency and innovation. If your brand speaks this universal language of beauty, you can think and act global. But then again one size does not fit all. If you do not have the resources to go full scale, if you function in a niche local category where there is no opportunity to go international, then it can be better to think and act local. Getting clear about your business objectives is fundamental.


This article was written as a guest article for LS International by Burcu Unal, Global Marketing VP al L’Oreal. 


4Wired Magazine 09.28.16, written by Marisa Meltzer 20.03.2019, written by Erica Smith