#REACH2014 – Beauty is only skin-deep what lies beneath?: Kat Peeler ’85

(By LACEY-ANN WISDOM)

The problem with marketing and advertising beauty products is that there is no unified definition of beauty. As a result, the marketing division of L’Oreal is charged with creating products that appeal to people that come from all walks of life. Kat Peeler, ‘85 quickly listed off a couple of  L’Oreal’s beauty categorizations. Beauty is science. Beauty is a language. Beauty is universal. Beauty is a commitment.

Peeler used the example of Mizani when she talked about the need to remain current. Mizani was a brand originally targeted at African American women. However, Mizani failed to evolve with the times. Present-day studies show that people felt that Mizani products were chemical, dated, unrelatable and expensive. Peeler laughed as she put forward this analogy of what Mizani had become: “She [Mizani] was the arrogant party-goer, too haughty to talk to the other guests, and as a result she was left alone.” Because people thought that the brand was only geared towards darker skinned african-american women, the challenge of L’Oreal was to market Mizani as a diverse brand that embraced other cultures and ethnicities.

“It’s easy for brands who are doing well to want to not change things, but it’s important to realize that all around you, competitors are always changing their brands and coming up with new marketing schemes.” Peeler stressed the necessity to address a variety of needs. “We’re no longer a society that likes separation along ethnic lines.” This is why Mizani stopped advertising along skin color lines, and started advertising on the basis of Mizani as a hair care product for people with textured locks.

Another example of the necessity to keep up with the times was presented in the fragrance of shampoos and conditioners. In general, hair care products gradually change their scents in order to transition seamlessly with consumer demand and avoid abrupt shifts. L’Oreal’s pantene product did not change with the times, and when tested after almost a decade of remaining the same, research showed that consumer preference had shifted towards a greater appreciation for fresher and leafy scents. The refusal to shift with the times made their product almost unmarketable. The moral of the story, in beauty and in advertising adaptation is key.

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