While the beauty and fashion industries have been making strides in helping us love ourselves, the jewelry and wedding industries — the very industries that have defined a material expression of love for us — have shown little to no progress. Brands such as Sephora, H&M, and Nike have started to democratize beauty. Imperfections have become our new perfections. One ideal body size is being pushed away to make room for all body shapes and sizes. Real and natural reign over the made-up and airbrushed.
In this new world, realism is our new idealism. This new lens is helping us unshackle from outdated definitions of beauty, opening us up to see diversity in a whole new way. Most importantly, it is enabling us to love and embrace a little more the person staring at us in the mirror.
On the contrary, jewelry and wedding brands are still bombarding us with conventional depictions of what love is. From picture-perfect couples to idealized relationships — in this world, there is only one version of love and one version of happiness. And while depictions of love in advertising have extended to same-sex couples, those relationships are put into the same box that has defined love for decades: the beautiful couple captured at their most beautiful moment. This is a major problem. Celebrating the unattainable version of love is not what makes people feel loved. According to a 75-year-old study from Harvard, love is “the biggest predictor of happiness and fulfillment. Having someone to rely on helps our nervous system relax, helps our brains stay healthier for longer and reduces both emotional as well as physical pain.”
Unfortunately, the wide gap we’ve created between real-life love and advertising love only feeds into our insecurities, and can even distort our expectations from our relationships and each other.
Wanting to know more about how people perceive love nowadays, Eleven Inc. conducted a nationwide research poll of over 300 men and women, ages 25 to 55. We found that 78 percent of people believe that the biggest challenge of love in today’s culture is that “love is expected to be perfect,” and 77 percent believe that they are “given ideals of what love should look like.” When asked to define love, one in five people expressed it as “being yourself with someone” while only 1.5 percent defined love as something that should feel like a fairy-tale.
These findings illuminate the need to shift the conversation. Elevating what is true, authentic and raw holds the power to help us truly accept and love one another. Being accepted by someone who sees amazing things in our foibles, our roots and our real selves is the ultimate version of how we feel loved. Whether it’s embracing how we look when we wake up in the morning or seeing the charm in the way that we laugh, acceptance is a very powerful and transformative human emotion. When Mark Darcy told Bridget Jones “I like you just the way you are,” people cheered for a reason. In “This Is Us,” when Toby sees only perfection in Kate, despite her insecurities, we cry for a reason.
Eleven’s study also found that the notion of acceptance extended well beyond the couple itself and into how their version of love is received by others. When asked what they wish someone would say about love, the dominant answer was “love is what you make of it.” People want someone to champion the notion that there is no single way to love or express love. They may not have the perfect proposal story or the grand dream wedding. Their marriage might be their second or third, or they might decide to never get married at all. People in the study stated that “Every love story is imperfect, and that makes it perfect.”
While the many faces of love have been celebrated in movies and shows, it’s time that we embraced its diversity in marketing. It will not only help revive these industries but also invigorate the most vital human need — to be loved — at a time when we need it the most.
Here are four key principles that can help us unbox love:
Take a page from Hollywood’s book.
From feature films to original content series, Hollywood is now more open than ever to uncovering and expressing multifaceted versions of love. From the raw and real to the complex and untraditional, we are inspired by love stories that don’t always culminate in the classic tale of happily ever after. Instead, we see beauty in the struggle, hardship and vulnerability portrayed. Jewelry and wedding brands can certainly apply this to their marketing efforts.
Capture real stories, not posed moments.
What photojournalism has taught us is that not posing for a picture holds much greater power to tell a powerful story and can be seen as a piece of art. In a real moment in time, when we are not focusing on the lens, we are more likely to convey genuine emotions that evoke empathy. Consider how you can apply this principle to your photography. Furthermore, real couples’ stories can be so much more inspirational than manufactured ones. Why make up a cliché love story when there are real ones out there waiting to be told and heard?
Continue the beauty movement.
While the definition of beauty is broadening, consider how your brand can contribute to the conversation. Seeing beauty in couples’ foibles and imperfections will not take away from the perfection of your diamonds or wedding dresses. On the contrary, it will enable you to break through from industry conventions and authentically relate to your customers in a refreshing way.
Show more than one personality.
If there is one thing we can universally agree on, it’s that love is complex and involves all our emotions. From laughter to tears, from excitement to comfort — love is never one-dimensional. For that very reason, brands shouldn’t be either. Don’t be afraid to reveal all sides of your personality — from serious to lighthearted, from emotional to grounded. Being more human in character will invite your customers to build lasting relationships with you. After all, when it comes to all things jewelry and weddings, your brand will be an inseparable part of their (very real) love story.
Orit Peleg is head of brand planning at Eleven Inc. Additional research conducted by Nita Grubb, senior planner at Eleven Inc., which is a creative marketing agency based in San Francisco.
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