Embrace diversity to fuel business growth was the battle cry from the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management graduate students, who gave presentations May 17 during the school’s Capstone graduation ceremony, held at FIT’s Katie Murphy Amphitheatre.
The event, sponsored this year by L’Oréal USA, tackled the increasingly-relevant topic of diversity and how it relates to the beauty industry through three subjects, Diversity & Global Leadership, Diversity & Global Marketing and Diversity & Global Product Innovation.
For its part, the first group discussed tradition and ethnic heritage by sharing the backgrounds of each group member and his or her grandmother’s beauty traditions (i.e. using yogurt on sunburnt skin in Montenegro or exfoliating with a body scrub made of lemon sugar and honey in Argentina). Describing today’s society as “the fusion generation,” presenters named music, fashion and food as areas where blending cultures is already commonplace. Beauty fusion, or the melding of indigenous ingredients, rituals and sensorial experiences, was the group’s advice for beauty companies looking to stay ahead of the curve. The graduates also identified an up-and-coming cultural group to watch, which they called MIST (Mexican, Indonesian, South Korean and Turkish), said to have $6 trillion in spending power by 2020. Also discussed was the growing importance of cities (180,000 people move to cities every day and a total of 27 megacities will exist across the globe by 2020), as places where people will continue to exchange and merge cultural identities.
The second group explored the importance of companies having one-on-one conversations with beauty consumers, rather than delivering a one-size-fits-all message. The students cited a recent Kline study, which stated that China is the world’s largest Internet beauty market (nine times larger than the U.S. and the same size as that of France), representing $8 billion. The group also said that because 87 percent of the world has a mobile subscription, even in developing countries, it can be used more effectively as a marketing tool. Armed with this knowledge, the group’s advice is for beauty companies to appeal to the individual rather than sending a mass message. To that end, the graduates recommended that beauty firms utilize the personal information supplied by their consumers online to introduce them to their brands and foster brand loyalty. One of the suggestions from the group was to implement interactive store windows that would use facial recognition to post a live picture of the consumer sampling a specific beauty look. The client could then live chat with experts via his or her phone and share the look on Facebook with friends.
The third group began with a question: where can beauty brands find one billion new consumers? The answer came immediately in the form of a statistic — there are three billion people in this world that live off of $10,000 per year. The group then explored how to get this demographic more involved in the beauty category. Presenters named many of the misconceptions surrounding those living under the $10,000 bracket: that they are not intelligent, have no buying power and are not brand conscious. On the contrary, according to the group members, this demographic symbolizes $7 trillion in untapped buying power, and for them brands can actually symbolize hope and opportunity for a better life. The presenters suggested that there be a redistribution of leadership hierarchies in the U.S. work force, helping to bridge ideas and create connections among people from different economic and ethnic backgrounds. The company used Unilever’s Project Shakti as an example of an American beauty company reaching out to this demographic. In this initiative, Indian women sell and distribute Unilever products. The group ended with a poignant question to the audience; “if you had $4 to live on, would you buy your brand?”