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Young consumers are demanding more from companies; they expect brands to add value beyond the products and services they sell and to step up on the important social issues of our times. And, in return, they’re showing their commitment at the point of purchase. Seventy-seven percent of respondents (ages 13-25) in a recent DoSomething Strategic survey have purchased products solely because they support the brand’s values. And roughly 2 out of 5 young people do this regularly.
Kantar’s Purpose 2020 study showed how brands that consumers see as having a positive impact grow at 2x the rate of other brands. And perhaps even more valuable, brand purpose creates a consumer loyalty based on shared values—something a competitor’s hot new product or lower price point simply can’t overcome. Brand purpose is how you future-proof your business.
These five beauty brands are doing just that and earning Gen Z’s support. Here’s who they are and what they’re doing right.
Putting Cause Front & Center: Love Beauty And Planet
The DoSomething Strategic survey showed that even when young people feel they are familiar with a brand, it’s no guarantee that their understanding of that brand extends beyond the brand’s products. The hair and body brand Love Beauty And Planet launched in 2017 with a goal to capture the “sustainable living” market and includes its cause platform—sustainability and the environment—right there in its name. And yet, only 43 percent of those familiar with Love Beauty And Planet associate it with…the planet. But, it was still among the highest cause associations in the beauty category, and having its purpose right in the name certainly helps this brand stand out by putting the issue literally in the hands of consumers. In a competitive beauty category where price and convenience still matter to young consumers, being overt about its mission helps create a quick differentiator for consumers in the aisle.
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It’s tempting to want to follow the hot trend and jump on a popular wave, or to simply spread your efforts across a multitude of cause platforms, but having a singular focus can provide clarity to consumers amidst the ever-increasing marketing noise. Dove has stayed laser-focused on its commitment to raise self-esteem and body confidence, from its 2004 “Real Beauty” campaign to its latest “#ShowUs” effort to build the world’s largest stock photo library that shatters beauty stereotypes. And young consumers have taken note—an impressive 53 percent of respondents to the DoSomething Strategic survey associate Dove with body positivity, which is among the highest associations with a single cause area across all the brands we surveyed.
Being Authentic: Haus Laboratories
This new cosmetics line from Lady Gaga hasn’t even launched, but it is catching the attention of consumers and marketers alike for its commitment to authenticity. For young people, authenticity doesn’t mean that the cause has to be in lock-step with what your brand sells. Rather, authenticity simply means you’re walking the walk; living the values you’re espousing, and wholly supporting the issues from the inside out. Lady Gaga has always been true to herself, and in marketing videos announcing Haus Laboratories, it is clear that her mission is to drive forth a message of self-acceptance through beauty—something she has spoken (and sung) about for years. “There are companies that see me and what I stand for and the way that I view the world, and if it’s not perfectly in line with what they do … they’ll be like, ‘Can you just change half of the equation?’” Lady Gaga told Business of Fashion. “The answer is no. No deal. No message of self-acceptance, no deal.”
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Being Wholly Inclusive: Fenty Beauty
Among cosmetics, Fenty Beauty—incredibly popular among Gen Z—also has a single story: inclusivity. Launching in September 2017 with a very clear (and sadly novel) position of Beauty for All, the brand created The Fenty 40: a line of foundation in an impressive 40 shades, including for those with traditionally hard-to-match skin tones, and it has since added 10 more shades. The brand, with Rihanna as its founder, launched a beauty revolution known as The Fenty Effect, spurring other cosmetic brands to expand their own shade offerings. Young consumers are not only flocking to Fenty Beauty for their cosmetic needs, but they have a clear understanding of their fave brand’s ethos: according to the DoSomething Strategic survey 50 percent associate the brand with body positivity, 42 percent with racial equality/justice, 27 percent with women’s equality/rights, and 22 percent with LGBTQ+ equality/ rights—all representative of its core pillar of inclusivity.
Fighting For the User: CoverGirl
“Fighting for the User” is when brands are willing to step out of their safe lane and put more of a focus on their consumer. CoverGirl moved in this direction with its support of the LGBTQ+ community in tapping its first “Cover Boy.” The brand certainly went out on more of a limb than the other cosmetic brands and in the DoSomething Strategic survey received plenty of top of mind credit for it. Without a doubt, there are important cause platforms that could be strengthened by having big successful brands be a part. By normalizing and furthering a conversation around gender fluidity, CoverGirl is reflecting a genuine care about the consumers themselves. One way to stand out among the “cause marketing” noise is to use the issue itself as a brand differentiation. Be unique in the category: Take risks, celebrate differences, and push the envelope.
About the Author: Meredith Ferguson is the managing director of DoSomething Strategic. Her career has spanned both client and agency roles, where she’s led youth-focused engagement and business-driving strategies for national retail, health, and restaurant brands. She speaks globally on the power of young people and purpose at conferences including ANA, YMS, PSFK, PromaxBDA, &Then, IEG, and Brand ManageCamp. Meredith is an adjunct professor of Public Interest Marketing at Fordham University, a Women@Forbes contributing columnist, and has served as a judge for the Positive Change Effie Awards and the D&AD Impact Awards. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Law School where she was a founding member of the Vanderbilt Child & Family Law Clinic. When not striving to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie, Meredith can be found watching a musical or walking through Central Park with her husband and two kids.