Brands Still Matter Part 1: Adapting to the Modern Consumer

Euromonitor International presented on a beauty panel at Jefferies’ Brands Still Matter conference. The conference explored the prevalence of brands in consumer packaged goods industries amid a rise in emerging, niche and private label brands. Through presentations, panel discussions and networking opportunities with experts across the brand building value chain, Brands Still Matter demonstrated that brands still hold a prominent place in the world of consumer packaged goods. The conference also generated a gripping discussion on how the modern consumer and emerging brands are putting pressure on established brands to change and adapt.

The modern consumer sets a new criteria of brand values

Brands Still Matter featured several discussions on how today’s consumer is changing. Younger generations expect more from brands – a point emphasised by several panelists and presenters. Millennials and Generation Z selectively choose brands that not only anticipate their needs and help them discover new things, but also support their ethos and are consistent with images they want to convey.

In the beauty world, purpose-driven brands are dominating the conversation and successfully capitalising on these changing consumer values. For example, Briogeo promotes “6-free hair care” to focus on the free-from-chemical, non-toxic ingredients in their products. Another example is Tarte’s athleisure line, which folds fitness and on-the-go lifestyles in consumers’ everyday beauty routines.

Brands that have unique founder stories present a point of differentiation while also emphasising purpose. Amanda Baldwin, the President of Supergoop!, recounted her company’s founding story at Brands Still Matter. Supergoop! Founder Holly Thaggard established the premium sunscreen brand after her close friend was diagnosed with skin cancer at a young age. Faced with a decision to either start a business or a non-profit organisation, she created Supergoop!, which is entirely dedicated to incorporating SPF in innovative beauty products for daily usage, such as setting powders and mists.

Due to these shifting values toward purpose, exploration and accessibility, consumers have begun to perceive brands more like people, rather than distant corporations, and are choosing to surround themselves with like-minded brands. Furthermore, Millennial marketing expert Jeff Fromm articulated the need for brands to embrace “story-living” rather than “story-telling”, emphasising that brands should communicate its values through its behaviour, rather than relying on positioning and marketing of its products. The changing criteria set by today’s consumers present many opportunities for emerging beauty brands to create a loyal following, but also pose challenges for established brands that struggle to change fast enough.

Brands still matter, but both emerging and established brands must adapt to stay relevant

The consensus from Jefferies’ Brands Still Matter is that brands matter in beauty, but consumers’ beauty bags are increasingly brand diverse. Jefferies Analyst Stephanie Wissink said, “The beauty and personal care industry is evolving at a rapid pace due to reducing barriers to entry, inspiration from and utilisation of social media, and changing consumer preferences. Disruptive brands are able to gain share through compelling origin stories, dependable products, and improved commercial experiences.”

Regardless of whether brands are established or emerging, independently-owned or acquired, Jefferies’ Brands Still Matter reaffirmed that brands will have to adopt a consumer-centric approach in order to stay relevant.

In order to better understand the consumer, brands cannot ignore megatrends, such as ethical living, healthy living, connected consumers and multi-culturalism, which will continue to drive changing consumer values. Instead, brands should perceive these changing values not as threats, but as opportunities to reach and delight new and current audiences. These shifting values give established and emerging brands opportunities to present themselves as a friend with a clear purpose and a story that transcends its products in the minds of consumers.