Whether you think the beauty industry is full of artifice and false hope, or believe it provides legitimate services and products, there is definitely a psychological component. While trying to maintain a firm sense of objectivity and logic, I still sort of fall into the latter camp. I think mascara is a miracle product that makes you look instantly awake and younger. And retinoids work. But there’s a lot of gray area, and this is where beauty ads come in. Their sole purpose is to convince you that you NEED something, that your looks could be improved.
This Sunday the New York Times style section reviewed a new study from The Journal of Consumer Research wherein the authors observed the reactions of young women after they looked at a series of images and advertisements. There were a few surprises.
The women looked at advertising and plain images of products, without any human models–just pictures of bottles and tubes with ad copy. The products were divided into two categories: beauty enhancing (like perfume) and problem solving (such as acne cream).
After viewing the ads, the women were asked questions like, “How attractive do you find yourself?” and “How satisfied are you with your body?” The women’s opinions of themselves took a hit after viewing the beauty enhancing product ads. And they didn’t even have Cate Blanchett’s perfect porcelain skin staring back at them!
The recent WWD “Beauty Biz Awards” highlighted the importance of beauty advertising by acknowledging innovation in products as well as originality in marketing and advertising. If you’re cynical, you will then conclude–this all equals more sales. Is it coincidence that Stri-Vectin and Old Spice were both rewarded for their witty ad campaigns? Perhaps if you’re giggling, it takes the sting out of the implication that you look like an iguana or aren’t getting any hot women.
I’m obviously conflicted about this. I love beauty products, I really do. But at the same time I realize that a lot of them prey on women’s insecurities. I’ve never consciously had a negative reaction when viewing an ad for a product, but I definitely have if there’s a model involved.
What does this all say about a voracious consumer of beauty products? Are we all psychological messes and puppets of the beauty industry? Or just looking for a whiff of gardenia and vanilla to lift our spirits once in a while?