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Consumers and designers have noticed that beauty standards now apply to fewer people, so they have simply decided to change them. Or at least, they are trying to. Beauty in The Americas has been associated with extreme thinness, an above-average height and, of course, youth.

Slowly, though, via social demands or governmental pressure, both trendsetters and the apparel and cosmetics industries are including different ways of being beautiful in real life. Moreover, the business of looking good has now expanded to health, wellbeing and the spiritual dimension. Still, something remains the same: the need of people to look beautiful. And in this new world, we all are gorgeous.

Key trends

  • Natural beauty and other new concepts derived from looks;
  • Botox standard, the Viagra of the beauty world;
  • Avatars, the digital look.

Commercial opportunities

  • Promote your consumers’ beauty. Hiring “traditionally” good looking models for advertising campaigns is a thing of the past for some companies. Amongst them; Dove, that books women with real sizes for their campaigns, and Western Union, which has ads featuring migrant consumers of varying ethnic backgrounds;
  • Natural Beauty. The “going green” of many cosmetics brands is not the only way of showing a natural look. The new beauty, for many, responds to what nature gave to each human being. They aim at highlighting their consumers´ beauty rather than selling them the idea of how to be gorgeous in an artificial way;
  • The importance of having a digital identity. Avatars are the way internet users choose to show themselves. Through them, consumers hint at what their needs are. Study them and use a similar language to show your brand on the web.

Background

Kate Winslet had to put on several pounds to star in the blockbuster Titanic, because the beauty stereotype in the early 20th century was to be a bit “overweight”. The 1990s brought skinny models to the New York runways, for being extremely thin was in. In this new century, where users and consumers enjoy more power, being beautiful is all about your personal look, where each individual chooses their own look according to the features they came into the world with.

In the Americas, from southern Chile all the way up to Canada, a melting pot, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, alongside many similar initiatives, represented the turning point in the way people recognise beauty. “Women and teenagers all over the world wanted to be thinner, taller, blonder and bustier”, the Dove Foundation explained; “but, in time, much of the insecurity that damaged the body is being overcome, facing beauty from a new perspective”.

The advertisements for Unilever soap that feature women with real sizes have inspired many brands and companies to do the same, some of which now want their products “not to promise the impossible, but to guarantee a healthy life and a natural look”, expresses a press release by the Self Esteem Foundation, financed by Microsoft and other American companies. Maybe this change of mentality explains why the movie “Precious” has been so successful.

Directed by Lee Daniels, it shows how a teenager that has everything you wished you did not have discovers herself to be beautiful. The new beauty, for many, is the real beauty, your own beauty, the one that fits in sizes 12, 13, 14 and above.

Natural beauty and other new concepts derived from looks

The new beauty concepts bring new consumers to this industry, especially those who had been excluded for not being blond, thin and rich enough. In this context, “the concept of beauty has escalated to a new level: while traditionally associated with image and fashion, beauty is gradually converging with the medical, health and wellbeing, and food industries”, explains specialist beauty market publication, GCI Magazine, in its 2009 year-end issue. Among all the trends, what is natural and organic appears as the most important new trend in the Americas.

The trend was named by the Beauty Research blog as the “Era of the Natural Beauty”, for more consumers “are becoming aware of ingredients in everyday products and are increasingly concerned about their effects on the body. The industry has responded to consumers´ demands, offering an increasing number of products that are high in natural ingredients and lower in chemicals, says the blog, which mentions brands such as Decleor, L’Occitane and bareMinerals.

Consumers not only demand natural products for themselves and their families, they also claim companies should produce them in a natural way. A study by The Kline Group published in January, 2009 “clearly demonstrates that consumers are selecting certified natural products over and above ‘natural-inspired’ brands”, affirms an article by Julia Brandon, editor of the Natural Beauty Yearbook.

Health and wellness food and beverages market in selected countries: 2004-2010
Growth index (2004 = 100)

Source: Euromonitor International from trade sources and national statisticsNote: Value at constant 2007 prices; data for 2007-2010 is forecast.

“Botox standard, the Viagra of the beauty World”

“I do all my own manicures and eyebrow grooming at home, and I shave instead of waxing. That way, the money I save can be spent on the cosmetic injections. Now, I have Botox every four months and fillers every six to nine months. To me, it is money well spent, because the benefits are clearly visible”. The phrase appeared in Newsweek magazine and belongs to Sara Taylor, a 44 year old woman who spends over seven thousand dollars a year on cosmetics products.

She is not alone: for many, the new standard in the beauty market is Botox, a product often related to medicine and that is highly used in The Americas, not only in the USA, but also in countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico. “Botox standard, the Viagra of the beauty world” was the title in the latest reports by Diagonal Reports, a research company, on the global professional beauty market.

According to GCI Magazine, “as the beauty industry becomes more medical and scientific in nature, surgery treatments become more cosmetic”. The article, which quotes experts in the sector, stresses that invasive plastic surgery techniques are being replaced by “minimally invasive treatments” and “beauty devices to be used at home and to higher priced anti agers claiming technically advanced formulations”. These new products tend to enhance the beauty in each person and keep them young, rather than creating “artificial looking faces”.

Global sales of Botulinum toxin (Botox): 2001-2008
US$ million

Source: Allergan Inc. and The New York TimesNote: Sales include cosmetic and medical use.

Avatars, the digital look

It was not James Cameron’s film that made them popular, and it seems to be more of a trend to analyse rather than a short term fashion statement: avatars are the representation of consumers in their digital guise, and they have a lot to say about who they represent. In the Americas, Asian-Americans – Americans of Asian descent, living in the United States were responsible for putting avatars on the scene, due to their obsession for Anime.

Yahoo included them for the first time in their users’ accounts in 2003… and now, everyone has one, if not several. Avatars appear as the look and the identity of many users that comment in forums or post in blogs or on Twitter.

Avatars have become more important because they are a symbol of what users are, what they want to show to the world, or how they see themselves. Like in real life, there are festive times: in Halloween there are ghosts and during Christmas red and white are everywhere. They are themselves trend-prone. On aznraps.com, for instance, they speculate on the next hot avatar trend. And people offer the craziest answers: Anime, alcoholic beverages, serial killers, rappers, snacks, TV networks, logos, NBA Players, shoes etc. Everything goes in the avatar world.

There are dozens of sites where one can create one’s own avatar, like Marvel.com, faceyourmanga.com, simpsonizeme.com, sp-studio.de, doppelme.com and myavatareditor.com, among many. The avatar craze has pushed many companies to create advertising campaigns in which avatars appear. The Argentine beer brand Quilmes, for example, broadcast one in which consumers appeared as caricatures alongside breathtakingly beautiful women.

Outlook

Current consumers, more active and aware of the importance they have for companies, still hold their personal image as a superlative factor in relation to the world. Moreover, they choose which beauty standards they follow and set. Instead of being part of a homogenised mass, they tend to be a part of smaller groups.

They change without giving notice and demand that their beauty be respected, because they all feel precious. In a post on the film “Precious”, Clay Cane, a New York City-based writer said that “no matter who you are, we all have tinges of Precious in our lives”. A reader replied that no matter whom we are, “we are all precious”. Her voice, actually, is a chorus.

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