Culture Mapping Global Beauty Trends
Visualizing language, semiotic codes and ideologies around evolving beauty trends.
Purchase Includes: A 94-page PDF trend report with a global survey of 3000 adults quantifying archetypes and revealing demographic patterns plus an interactive Culture Mapping data visualization of social data that allows users to search for further information around trend themes.
The beauty conversation that lives online is complex, as complex as figuring out a simple and easy beauty regimen -- if not more so.
The top surface of conversation is a seemingly friendly social media discourse of suggestions, recipes, shout outs and best self-practices. As if, a conversation among friends. The undertone is a desperate strive for beauty within. A beauty that is as real as the reflection one wants to see in their own mirror.
Examining the linguistics of the beauty conversation reveals an honest tension about constantly being on the hunt for what works -- for one’s self, at a particular moment in time.
The universal truth is that ideally for most people, men or women of all ages, beauty is about wisdom and judgment. They are well aware of that -- even should they not subscribe to the ideology. In any case, most consumers of beauty products of all kinds would prefer not to experiment with their time and budgets. Yet, industry-wise, they are thrown more apps to play with, more colors to test, more tips to share, more price points, more “influencers” to heed and more eye-candy packaging to tempt them. The confidence they crave remains lacking.
People generally are happy to share what they know. But what are they really being given to share?
It’s so critical that ideologies are understood when it comes to planning for innovation. Mapping the ideologies behind public conversations demonstrates a visualization of where an industry falls short.
To understand what is happening within the beauty category, we compared two sets of data. One, a body of global tweets over three months of time where tweeters were discussing the latest beauty brands, techniques and tips. Second, we tested four lines of discourse to see where global perception of beauty actually lies absent of the brand conversation. Two different trajectories exist.
Codes: SOURCE + HONESTY
Key signifiers: “commodity,” “traded,” “alternative,” “my value” and “micellar.”
The Enlightened possesses intimate knowledge and instinctively knows the foundational aspects of what comprises beauty. These are the people who understand the meaning of pure ingredients and biology. They give a voice to industry shortcomings and incite the call for renewed meaning in society. Increasingly, the desire is to be here -- with intimate knowledge of what works and why.
Following the codes of the Enlightened, a group of diverse countries are driving this standard for beauty. These countries include the EU, UAE, India, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil and Scandinavia. This consistency of these countries seems to be following Hofstede’s dimension for long-term orientation.
Russia, Australia and the UK follow the global precedence of the Enlightened, but have the least weighting in experimenting. This puts them straddling two opposite quadrants toward The Devotee, placing the tension between truth and establishment. A sense of directness underscores the three.
Codes: EXPERIMENTATION + PLAY
Key signifiers: “recipe,” “glow,” “quietly,” “system” and “like a charm.”
The Seeker experiments and plays with layering of techniques to strive for solutions that work for them. These are the people who are not afraid to mix and match ingredients and price points. They make choices by understanding what works for them. They bring new perspectives to the table, boldly pulling from diverse influences. But experimenting is a lot of work, involving trial and error -- at the expense of public appearance. Yet, this is pretty much where the bulk of the beauty conversation lives right now.
Japan is unique in its greater lean toward experimentation driving the beauty category, singling it out as the only country in the research owning The Seeker archetype. This falls in line with discussions of J-beauty taking over K-beauty, and a propensity for uncertainty avoidance. One would experiment to make certain things are right.
Codes: ATTENTION + REINFORCEMENT
Key signifiers: “best husband ever,” “knows me,” “gift,” “free,” “I swear” and “dream.”
The Gazer strives to be the image they project to the world. They want to do things the right way, and put forth the look of the moment. They get involved in beauty rituals and enfold others in their journey. These are the people with a constant ear to the ground for details. They tend to share their successes. Fluidity to their regimen gives them the confidence to share information and gain social currency. Beauty is part of your work ethic. Its conversation is stuck in a short loop between here and the Seekers.
Canada, South Africa and Hong Kong believe more than other countries beauty is acquired by sharing, thereby expressing the codes of The Gazer.
CODES: SIMPLICITY + EXPEDIENCY
Key signifiers: “new Avon,” “accumulated,” “unopened,” “accidental” and “budget.”
The Devotee without question follows the rules and time-worn standards. They are overwhelmed by choice. They do what they feel they have to do. They accept products once they have been sanctioned by others, and unintentionally amass collections. They are not comfortable in their skin. For a beauty brand to ask any more of them is to create an undue burden.
The USA stands alone in its weighting of “worry,” aligning it with archetype of The Devotee. The sense of individualism keeps them in a precarious state when uncertain.
CULTURE MAPPING REVEALS A Trajectory Pattern CRITICAL TO INNOVATION
Patterns reveal critical frameworks for innovation ideation. The visible path that forms over time across the archetypes starts with one’s response to existing dissonance. Gaining wisdom becomes the response, then tools and technique come in to better realize ideas. Eventually, collective knowledge brings a confidence to the consumer as techniques are used to establish status. At a certain point, popular becomes the status quo mundane. Ultimately, as saturation happens, marketing eclipses the consumer, and their needs get lost if the cycle of meaning does not receive investment.
To better visualize the archetypal patterns, the body of tweets is organized into five categories: acquisition, aesthetics, experience, ingredients & testing and social media.
Culture Mapping (assigning linguistic signatures, developing codes and archetypes) helps us understand and explain what is going on. From 10,000 tweets, we pulled together the most insightful, provocative and curious tweets from a broad range of voices propelling the dialog. Each tweet represents a directional industry occurrence. There are about 180 total. Cultural signifiers live within each tweet. Some repeat. Some do not. There are more than 250 signifiers that establish four archetypes of ideology.
Experience and aesthetics dominate the conversations, but within those categories, there is a deeper story to understand. Experience gives rise to trends around cleansing and fetishes for collecting -- collecting everything from scents to Chapstick. Cleansing gets to the root of the sentiment behind ideas of “beauty within.” Scents become a signifier of life stage. And, Chapstick becomes a commodity that is tradeable. These have high implications for an archetype such as The Enlightened. These become building blocks for innovation platforms. Aesthetics is all about finding flattering tones and plumping up the volume of cosmetics and treatments so that they can be seen. The speaks to the insecurity of The Gazer archetype. They are on a hunt for flattering tones and feel compelled to make sure you know their makeup is there -- even when it’s intended to be a subtle, natural glow.
What unfolds is a narrative of beauty that needs to be harnessed most effectively. Continue on, and explore.
Data Analysis & Strategy: Tim Stock & Marie Lena Tupot
Computational Linguistics: Taylor Cassidy, PhD
UX & Design: Dad Jokes, Allison Ball & Nic Sanchez
Development: Kei Yasui
Illustration: Lucilla Tubaro
Applications: DiscoverText, Google, Instagram, Pearson, spaCy, Twitter, UClassify, Urban Dictionary