Who doesn’t want to know what the future holds? I know I wouldn’t mind a glimpse every now and again, and I’m sure beauty and cosmetics marketers feel the same. Unless you have access to a crystal ball, that’s unlikely to happen. However, strategic foresight can help you identify predominant trends and patterns affecting your target audience. These can guide your planning and allow you to optimize the latest trends in the massive—and growing—digital beauty advertising industry.

The Burgeoning Beauty Advertising Industry

The health and beauty sector is a billion-dollar industry, generating retail sales of almost $100 billion in 2020. Statistics show advertising expenditure reached around $7.5 billion in 2021 and is estimated to grow by an additional $200 million in 2022. Cosmetics and toiletries comprise 6% of the global ad spend. While television is the leading medium, digital advertising accounts for 34.1% of overall ad expenditure.

In this massive, saturated market, it can be challenging for upcoming and less well-known brands to communicate their message effectively. However, digital marketing trends on social media and in stores are changing how the industry interacts with and attracts consumers. The use of digital advertising levels the playing field, allowing smaller brands to compete on an (almost) equal footing with the big brands.

In this high-energy, active marketplace, planning ahead is critical for beauty companies of any size to anticipate change, prepare responses, and create robust digital strategies. That’s where strategic foresight comes into its own.

How Strategic Foresight Works

Strategic foresight is a structured, systematic way of using data-driven projections to explore plausible future scenarios, and the opportunities and challenges they represent. These projections aren’t based on guesswork, either. They’re the product of careful data collection, forecasts, analysis, and feedback used to develop possible alternative futures.

Strategic foresight looks into the future using a minimum time frame of two to three years, with the maximum range extending significantly beyond that. Beauty and cosmetic companies can anticipate developments that could shape customers’ behavior five to ten years ahead, and they can map alternative evolutionary paths for their products and services.

The results allow these businesses to anticipate changes that could emerge in the future, experiment with innovative approaches, and stress-test their existing or proposed strategies and policies. This is a relatively new approach for many organizations. It enables them to evaluate how their marketplace is changing and how they can make the best use of the changes. It’s not just about predicting the future, but preparing for potential developments.

Applying Strategic Foresight to Beauty Advertising

Applying this concept to digital beauty advertising means detecting the signals, trends, and forces that have the potential to disrupt the industry, before the disruption occurs. By recognizing these indicators ahead of time, marketers can adapt their business models, rework their go-to-market strategies, and develop digital advertising roadmaps accordingly.

Facebook’s 2022 “Culture Rising” Trends Report combines original research and forecasting with insights grounded in the analysis of social media conversations and behavioral signals like hashtags used worldwide. Key themes emerged that are likely to impact digital marketing, and social media advertising, in particular. These are:

  • diversifying identities,
  • historical reckonings,
  • the rise of virtual relationships,
  • greater digital expectations, and
  • expanded values, such as overall wellness and planet positivity.

Data triangulation and expert analysis revealed possible futures that determined the trends most likely to move from niche to norm, becoming essential to tomorrow’s business strategies. The result is a novel way of viewing the world that shows how people will connect, create, and consume in the next few years.

Trends Shaping Future Digital Beauty Advertising Strategies

This knowledge helps empower strategic beauty and cosmetic marketers to move more confidently into the future. Some trends that will shape future digital advertising include:

  1. Adopting a more gender-neutral approach to their marketing that goes beyond the binary, ranging from gender equality to gender fluidity.
  2. Meeting consumer expectations for historical reckoning with purposeful statements followed by meaningful actions, such as ads featuring multicultural products used by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) communities.
  3. Openly embracing celebratory activism and partnering with relevant groups to amplify community pride, promote acceptance, and drive real change. This includes practicing awareness and understanding of people with disabilities (PWD), including those whose disabilities may not be immediately obvious.
  4. Moving from token actions to transformative deeds that harness marketing as a force for good. For example, when brands embrace more inclusive PWD advertising and practices, it makes PWD more visible. Consumers express growing concern for the community, society shifts from “not seeing” to mindfully accommodating, and tangible actions and outcomes typically follow.
  5. More use of hashtags to promote growing awareness of social issues. People are embracing being both global citizens and local champions, with 61% of respondents considering themselves global citizens and 59% making an effort to shop locally, even when it’s more expensive.
  6. People will continue looking for the chance to make deep connections and hold open conversations online with like-minded individuals, even if they never meet them in person. This goes beyond small talk to more intense conversations about topics that were once stigmatized, like the state of one’s mental health.
  7. Sustainability continues to grow in importance, and forward-looking companies increasingly take positions that go beyond neutrality. These include aiming for “carbon positive” status instead of “carbon neutral.” As Millennials head for their peak spending years, they will hold businesses accountable. For example, organizations will have to back up their words with concrete actions to reduce emissions, or risk accusations of greenwashing.

Strategic foresight indicates consumers will continue to demand media and advertising be inclusive, representative, and authentic. Brands in sectors such as beauty and cosmetics may lead the way by launching campaigns that celebrate non-traditional standards. Still, the opportunity to show the audience you really see them has a relevance that transcends industry.

Making It Happen

Today’s consumers see no difference between online and offline channels—it’s all just shopping, and people demand the best in every interaction. Expectations for increased channel interconnectivity challenge advertisers to find ways to convey touch and trust in digital environments. Social media advertising for cosmetic brands offers a ton of opportunities for reaching target audiences.

Consumers haven’t run out of attention. They just need a good reason to spend it on you. People may not remember what you say, but they’ll never forget how you make them feel. Strategic foresight will empower you to construct the potential scenarios necessary to plan digital advertising that meets your audience’s future emotional needs.

About the Author: Kim Pham is VP of Digital at DASH TWO, an agency that blends expertise in OOH and digital media buying. Being on the agency side, she works with clients to create media plans that reach intended audiences and support their respective business objectives. Responsible for the development and management of digital strategy, Pham works with both lifestyle/consumer brands.