The Beauty Industry doesn’t experience a downturn during depressions. Why? Because “The Story” is powerful enough to survive even the worst economic circumstances.
The impact of storytelling within the beauty industry cannot be overstated. We never take beauty products at face value. We look at the packaging and then determine whether or not we want to partake in that particular story. At a subconscious level, we expect products to magically turn us into the woman we’ve always wanted to be…the woman we see in The Story. This is the reason 70% of women buy beauty products on impulse. It’s hard to resist that deep longing inside–the sense that we could be more than who we are. The sense that we could become the ideal woman we hold in our mind’s eye. And the sense that by purchasing this product, that change could happen today. True instant gratification.
Everyday, teams of employees at beauty companies around the globe sit down in conference rooms to craft new stories for the season’s latest products. To do this they literally use storyboards like television and movie producers do. By combining pictures and words on these boards, the season’s beauty plot lines begin to take shape. Who is the woman that will wear this season’s hottest colors? Where does she live? What does she do in her spare time? Who is her boyfriend? What music does she like? What does she read? What’s her personal style?
Beauty brands around the world have built empires on these types of story. We continue to buy into them because, by simply handing over ten or twenty dollars, we get access to an instant philosophy and identity.
If you’ve always longed to be a free spirit, you might be drawn to…
Or maybe you’ve always wanted to edgy and cool like a…
Or maybe you long to be intellectual, deep and philosophical…
Having attended the infamous STORY seminar taught by Hollywood screenwriting expert Robert McKee, I feel like I have some understanding of the power that stories hold over our imaginations and over society in general. If you haven’t read McKee’s book STORY it’s worth checking out. Because just as movies and television shows weave stories to help us fuse meaning and emotion in real life, so do the stories told daily by cosmetic companies across the nation. In other words, any person who can craft a good story can sell you even the most worthless of beauty products.
I share all this information not to expose the manipulations of beauty marketing, but simply to remind you that when you reach for that new eyeshadow palette at Sephora next week, you’re not trying to satisfy your need for a new shade of eyeshadow…you’re trying to get a little bit closer to an ideal version of yourself.
A final note: It’s not just the cosmetic companies that have refined the art of story. Every aspect of the beauty business must develop stories to thrive. For instance, last year Glamour magazine introduced a new ad campaign bursting with lollipops, hearts and balloons. The magazine’s publishing director said “the story” of this campaign can be summed up as follows: “We’re Jennifer Aniston but we may never be Angelina.” He then said, “She’ll steal your shoes, but never your boyfriend.” With this story the company was hoping to get the attention of media buyers for ad placement. Apparently the story worked. Glamour made 54.4 million in ads in 2010.