Part.2_Ep. 01 <Beauty Activism>Cosmetic companies taking a stance
>> Continued from Part.1
NH Kim: I already shared it via email. Did you find some?
MD Kim: I just looked it up on google. I tried typing in Korean, English, and ㅐ and ㅔ, but nothing came out. There were some ‘fashion activism’ and ‘brand activism’ instead.
NH Kim: Right, the term ‘brand activism’ is used quite a bit, but ‘beauty activism’ doesn't seem to be widely used even abroad yet. First of all, I guess you can think of beauty as being grafted onto the concept of brand activism.
MD Kim: “What are they trying to achieve with brand activism?” when I think about it, it is to imprint the image of this company on consumers who buy this product, and I think this applies to B2C companies. However, since we are a B2B company, it is more difficult because we have to provide raw materials and services that meet the goals of our customers rather than immediately appealing to the end consumers.
NH Kim: Yes, many people think that this is not applicable to B2B, but activism is no longer a marketing issue. In a way, it reveals the identity of the company, and in an era where consumers are doing ‘meaning out’ and consuming value, it is difficult for a company to survive if it does not show sincerity.
First of all, the meaning of ‘brand activism’ is that brands take a certain stance or position on social issues and actively raise their voices. Especially for the MZ generation these days, this is very important. The MZ generation hates calling themselves like this..anyway, in fact, I can say with confidence since I am also the MZ generation based on my birth year, the younger generation seems to be very personal and pessimistic, but they are more interested in corporate ethics than any other generation. So, companies that can see a little further have already laid the groundwork for ESG management from 4 to 5 years ago. And they reveal these efforts through their social media accounts and encourage consumers to join them. It is not to ‘pretend’ to create a marketing issue in a short time, but to show sincerity by continuously practicing. Because consumers these days are smart enough to tell the difference between pretension and real.
Natural ingredients contained in very small amounts as a concept, packages seem to be eco-friendly, but in fact, the separate collection does not work well...This kind of greenwashing has been an issue throughout the industry, and companies that sincerely do this are very thoroughly managing the origin of raw materials and how they are supplied from the raw material sourcing stage. Among thing to keep in mind about ESG criteria, since we are a raw material company, even though we cannot directly appeal to consumers through marketing for vegan ingedients, cruelty free, etc., but we have to provide the companies with the raw materials they need. Since L'Oréal also announced measurable goals and timelines to be achieved by 2030 through 'L'Oréal, for the Future', I think we, as raw material suppliers, should prepare in advance.
And last year, Tony Moly launched the industry's first lable-free toner. In fact, everyone knows that it took a very long time for the lable-free package to be introduced even for a single ingredient product, bottled water. When I think of Tony Moly, I first think of tomato, peach, and bamboo-shaped packages, so I was a bit shocked that Tony Moly launched a lable-free toner. It is said that the power of MZ generation executives and staff worked a lot there. In the future, I think brand companies will change radically as the power of younger executives and employees increases. This product not only removed the label, but also changed the raw material to vegan, and other makeup lines also released a vegan version.
In fact, brand activism is becoming more of an issue in fashion industry. Well, sports brands like Nike and Adidas have been pursuing social correctness through advertising campaigns for a long time, and they are showing attempts every season, such as making sneakers with marine plastic or displaying mannequins of various body types. The brand that stands out the most in that direction these days is Chloé. As you can see here on Instagram, there are pictures of bags and clothes, but there are too many pictures of mushrooms, octopuses, and caves, right? Of course, it could also be that the inspiration for the collection comes from nature. However, Chloé goes beyond that and operates Instagram with the intention of understanding and respecting nature, which is the source of its inspiration and raw material for its products. They also make practical efforts to use bioplastics in all their packaging.
However, fashion inherently has a structure that encourages periodic consumption and creates a large amount of waste. In contrast, beauty has many possibilities to participate in activism in various ways, such as packaging and sustainable sourcing of raw materials. So these days, vegan beauty and clean beauty can all be seen as part of beauty activism. There is gender-neutral beauty, which is still unfamiliar in Korea, and there is also a minimal beauty trend that uses less than 10 ingredients.
With so few ingredients, how can we provide more essential ingredients so we don't get left out? I think you should think about that as well.
MD Kim: We have already talked about vegan beauty in Trend View.
NH Kim: Yes, we covered vegan and halal beauty on Trend View 2 years ago, under the title of ‘Cosmetics for Belief’, and until then, the CEO said, “Why are you writing on this topic? People can find out everything on the Internet!”. Actually, there are a lot of articles on vegan and halal, so it's true that It'll all come out if you search on google. But there were few data that investigated and analyzed it from the point of view of cosmetic companies, especially a raw material supplier. A few months later, the CEO also acknowledged, “You guys did a good job writing that article at that time!” because vegan beauty became a major trend. Even if it seems like there is nothing we can do right now, I think we should analyze the market trend in advance and prepare and develop raw materials requested by our customers ahead of time.
JH Jeon: JH Jeon: These days, not only skin care products, but also sunscreen products have very short expiration dates and are packaged in paper. Personally, I think I would be anxious even if I use it for a short period of time. Depending on the environment and conditions of use, the expiration date may be shorter than indicated.
NH Kim: We can't make a completely objective judgment, but if I think about it from the consumer's point of view, even if I can buy this and put it in the refrigerator and use it up within this short expiration date, I think I'll be anxious if there's no preservatives at all. If the deterioration is visible to the naked eye, the bacteria have already multiplied. Brand companies do preservative-free marketing, and there is a perception among consumers that preservatives are unconditionally bad. At this point, I think we need to imprint the need for safer alternatives for preservatives.
MD Kim: We develop and sell natural preservative substitutes, but the companies that purchase them, the researchers, all know. They know that 'this material said to be natural, but we buy a natural-derived chemical and blend it'. However, consumers who purchase the finished product think that it is natural and buy it, and marketing is also done that way.
JH Park: In a way, this could be like the greenwashing we mentioned earlier.
NH Kim: In the end, the important thing is that it is safe for human skin and nature. Shouldn't we be able to tell people that it is a good product if it is harmless, safe and effective? ? It could be attacked like…’What is it? It's natural, isn't it? Is it greenwashing?’
In fact, our company went on air once in 2019, and even then, the writer focused on the ‘natural’ part, so every interview question came with natural. Our vice president answered diligently... When it comes to natural, consumers think of it as if it was made by crushing grass picked from a mountain somewhere. And if not, they feel very betrayed. I always thought that maybe we should give a clear explanation from the point of view of the people who make and provide it.
JH Park: To talk about this preservative-free trend from a quality control’s point of view, I'm honestly worried that there will be claims. We are now shipping with guarantees for all raw materials, but if there are no preservatives and the expiration date is short, we have a headache about how to manage this.
We initially guarantee a certain period of time, but there may be other changes in the process of production or distribution of finished products after shipment as raw materials. It may have an effect by combining with other ingredients, and it is actually impossible to calculate and make all the numbers in all such cases from scratch.
NH Kim: I guess so. There is no legally defined scope of responsibility right now, and there is still no institutional part that can be used as a standard... In the midst of this, it can be seen that only the needs of consumers are far ahead.
Right now, there is too much discussion about ‘natural’ and ‘preservative-free’, but going back to the broader scope of activism, now we can also talk about gender neutral or… I don’t know if there is an exact term for this, but there is a movement that accepts acne skin as it is.
Recently, in the fashion industry, it is called ‘body positive’, so people confidently reveal their fat bodies, and even online shopping malls use models with really normal body types, and they show off their back fat protruding or cellulite bumps without any correction.
In the beauty industry, there are many movements that say, "Let's just accept it as it is, rather than focusing on covering up or getting rid of acne." The Instagrammer Lou Northcote you see now is a representative example.
JH Park: Even if there is such a boom, wouldn't it be a minority of people who think so? I want my skin to be clear.
NH Kim: That's right, maybe that's instinct, right? It is also instinctive to prefer a slim body... This trend itself seems like a movement to go in a more ‘correct’ direction rather than because it looks really pretty. It's about consciously changing yourself to love yourself the way you are, no matter how you look on the outside.
JH Jeon: Up until 2013 or 2014, advertisements for school uniforms were focused on making your legs look longer and slimmer, but these days, they do a lot of marketing with school uniform pants for female students or very comfortable new textiles. But I'm not sure if this is really what people want from deep inside… In particular, when it comes to skin, acne.. Unlike freckles, which are deliberately created in makeup photo shoots, accepting acne as it is is still... isn't it difficult?
NH Kim: However, it is true that brands that constantly engage in this kind of activism continue to appear. There are many blemish stickers that use acne patches as decorations. It doesn't reveal it, but it doesn't completely hide it either. Though I haven't seen anyone using it in Korea yet.
JH Jeon: These days, when you go to Olive Young, you can see gender neutral and male-only color brands. In the past, I didn't pay much attention to the size or shape of men's eyebrows... but these days, it seems that men pay more attention to their eyebrows and appearance.
NH Kim: In the case of skin tone correction or eyebrows, it has already been established as a ‘male grooming’, but now you can see that makeup is used as a means of decoration or expression beyond a neat and clean appearance.
MD Kim: Rather, it seems that these days, women are increasingly not wearing makeup, and men are increasingly wearing makeup.
JH Park: Well actually... I didn't think we would go this far today, so I came with a light heart…
NH Kim: Haha...I’m sorry. Today is just a day to grasp the concept, but the words have become too long. Now that everyone seems to have figured out this topic, I will look forward to various stories at the next meeting.
<To be continued...>
*This manuscript was also published on The K Beauty Science website.