The fourth quarter of 2008 confirmed that the U.S.A. and several European economies have entered into recession, but Nathalie Dessirier warns: “as far as cosmetics are concerned, one should be careful not to be misled by the wrong crisis”. For the cosmetics industry, the credit crunch might not be the main danger. Consumers’ declining of confidence towards products loosing their symbolic value may have deeper consequences.

Green and social disconnections are key

From this point of view, addressing sustainable development issues should remain a priority”, Nathalie Dessirier explains. Actually, mainstream cosmetic products are really distrusted by many consumers. Consequences are well known: growth of the natural and organic beauty markets, needs for enhanced information regarding ingredients and their origin.

The divergent evolution of world’s markets is the other key factor that helps understanding the shift in consumer needs and trends. On the one hand a new upper class of affluent consumers is growing in emerging countries, and, on the other hand, the working and middle classes are facing increased precarity, including in developed countries.

Less purchases but better purchases

According to Nathalie Dessirier, the main trends to come can already be identified: “Consumers are turning inwards, in need of reassurance, looking to purchase less but better… They want to make their own and personal choices, and will have to decide what to buy and what budget to spend. However, consumers will still like to indulge themselves (hopefully), when there are opportunities.”

Considering this picture, the cosmetics industry’s interest seems to keep consumers in mind: “to get back to marketing basics, to understand consumers’ needs and to assist them during the purchase”. Which in the current context means “to adopt an ethical and sustainable behaviour, and to be transparent regarding products’ features, as today’s consumers are increasingly suspicious,” explains Cap Beauty co-founder.

Making dreams sustainable

Of course, it remains necessary to make consumers dreaming and to boost retail sales but it becomes important to avoid the vicious circle of launches… Actually, “get back to pragmatic and time-resistant innovations, inspired from other cultures”.

Many current advertising campaigns highlighting eco-responsibility, authenticity, transparency and service offers plainly demonstrate that some operators have already switched to this new model.

Coty’s launch of a personalised e-coaching programme for Home Skin Lab, and Olay’s offer of a personalised beauty consultations are illustrative of the increased individualisation of services… As far as eco-responsibility is concerned, Aveda’s “100% wind power” campaign is the epitome of the sort. Commitments to information, education and transparency are well illustrated by Burt’s Bees’ informative messages regarding cosmetic ingredients, or Yves Rocher’s new Culture Bio organic range. Eventually, the best achievement of real-life marketing is certainly Dove’s campaign for real beauty.

Re-enchanting beauty

In the meantime, beauty must remain a dreamful industry and must carry on creating emotional relationships with consumersNathalie Dessirier insists. Consumers do love paradoxes! Especially when they simultaneously are affluent Indians eager to enjoy a luxury Western lifestyle and tight-budget European employees.

However, dream enhancement initiatives in other industries may be instructive. Nespresso, for instance, successfully marketed a mass consumption good as a luxury product.

There are similar achievements in the beauty industry. Serge Lutens, for instance, who welcome its customer in a private parlour where the brand’s make up line is presented and explained.

A crisis is a breakthrough period from which new opportunities (such as the e-commerce), new markets (such as organic cosmetics) or technical innovations can emerge. But in order to be audacious and innovative, listening consumers is important, such as developing a better market knowledge and being curious about everything happens, in particular on side markets,Nathalie Dessirier concludes.