Radical transparency is sweeping the beauty industry, and all brands will need to embrace it sooner rather than later.
That was the overarching message of the capstone projects presented by the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management master’s degree graduates to the beauty industry crowd gathered Wednesday in the school’s Haft Theater.
Coty Inc. sponsored the evening.
Shannon Curtin, senior vice president of Consumer Beauty in North America at Coty, called the consumer demand for transparency “one of the biggest areas of transformation happening right now” in the beauty industry and “a cultural movement” across multiple sectors. “In the face of this change, programs like this one are so important to foster new ideas, inspire fresh innovation and develop the young leaders who will steer our industry into the future,” she said.
Keynote speaker Norman de Greve, chief marketing officer at CVS Health, spoke of the company’s decision this year to no longer re-touch the beauty images shot for its house marketing materials. The retailer also introduced its Beauty Mark — a watermark designed to highlight imagery that has not been altered, with the goal of all images in CVS beauty sections reflecting transparency by 2020.
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In April, the company released the biggest beauty campaign it’s ever done — Beauty in Real Life, designed to highlight the retailer’s new standards. “The whole idea is beauty should work for us, we shouldn’t be working for beauty,” said De Greve.
He encouraged executives at beauty companies in the audience to make bold moves towards transparency. “Do it in a unique way [and] stand firm in your commitment over time,” said De Greve. “If you stand up, stand out and stand firm, others will notice your actions.”
The capstone projects focused on the theme of “Transparent Beauty.”
The first presentation, led by Jessica Bibby and Lindsay Powell Schwartz, centered on “Clean Beauty.” Consumers have become “chemophobic,” the presentation suggested — afraid of chemicals used in products. Outdated FDA regulations regarding beauty products and no industry-defined standard for the term “natural” have led to confusion and the rise of clean beauty. The presentation stressed that it would not be authentic for all beauty brands to market themselves as natural. Becoming transparent about the origin of a product is one way to circumvent this. Examples included adopting an expiration date labeling system for beauty products as if they were food products. In the future, the presentation suggested, beauty brands can use blockchain technology to trace product ingredients from source to shelf.
The second and final presentation was entitled “Glassbox Organizations.” In the age of Instagram, the walls have come down between internal operations and external communications, and anything inside the company can become exposed. The presentation stressed that a brand’s survival will be determined by its ability to operate as a totally transparent entity — “accountable at every step of the way.”