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How Being Relatable Glamorized Overconsumption By Andrea de Leon

The “So Relatable” Social Media Marketing

The humanization of brands has been a common marketing tactic for some time now. It attracts plenty of attention and garner engagement on social media, which is one of the most important mediums for marketing today. There are many ways to effectively go about it, but companies within the beauty industry all seem to use the same strategy: taking on personas that closely mirror their target audience. Emails and ads nowadays always include slang and buzzwords that mimic the current internet slang and trending memes to lure attention. For instance, slang terms such as “vibes”, “don’t be shy”, the list goes on...

Source: Promotional email from Colourpop email subscription

When Relatable Marketing Becomes a Problem

It’s expected from any corporation to generate profit in a capitalist society and try to sell as much of their products as possible. But, in an attempt to humanize their corporate organization, companies have gone down an arguably morally ambiguous path and have begun to promote overconsumption. The biggest offender thus far is Colourpop, an indie-brand-turned-mainstream that sells makeup and skincare. In an attempt to mimic their target audience’s personalities, they take it a step further from using internet slang and try to relate to their customer’s financial problems. These problems stem from overspending on products that they sell. Colourpop’s content hinges on “relating” to wanting more makeup (an expirable product) when you already have enough and the feeling of overspending when going on a “treat yo self” spree. Examples from other companies include Brigeo, a hair care company, tweeting about using shopping as a way to cope with “being sad”.

Source: Twitter (@ColourPopCo) Source: Twitter (@BriogeoHair)

How Did It Get Here?

This was all made possible by the rise of beauty gurus. Beauty influences are constantly reviewing new beauty products and recommending the next “holy grail”. They accumulate and show off massive collections of makeup, hair, and skincare products. Often makeup enthusiasts will watch influencers like James Charles and Jackie Aina. This conditions people to think that this lifestyle is “normal”. The large influx of products coming in everyday is enabled through PR packages, sponsorships, and paid for advertising. It makes sense to have mass amounts of products when your job is to review makeup and continuously upload makeup content. This disconnect is not alway recognized by the average consumer. For us, it’s simply not a sustainable financial way of life to buy every new product and participate in every trend. But consuming hours of content featuring beauty gurus and internet celebrities who market themselves as regular everyday people, can condition us to think otherwise.

Source: Twitter (@ColourPopCo)

Where It’s Heading

Social media marketing and memes aren’t the only way beauty companies are promoting an overconsumption lifestyle. The makeup industry has begun to adopt the same business model that is at the forefront of the fashion industry: fast makeup. Just as popular and affordable clothing brands are continuously pumping out new clothes that fit the most recent trend every week, makeup brands are beginning to release collections more frequently than ever before. Once again, Colourpop is a big offender, so much so that beauty enthusiasts have created online discussions denouncing the business model for its negative environmental consequences. The negative attention isn’t entirely for nothing. From July 13th to August 20th in 2020, Colourpop released four entirely different makeup collections with only one to two weeks between each release. Another company that has been receiving backlash for adopting the “fast fashion” business model is Anastasia Beverly Hills. The company has undergone a lot of PR nightmares ranging from influencers claiming they were never fairly compensated for their work to collaborating with a multi-level marketing company that’s notoriously predatory. However, most of the beauty community has attributed the company’s “downfall” to the incessant releases, claiming it’s made the once luxurious brand tacky and that it’s compromised the quality of Anastasia Beverly Hills used to deliver. Most brands have also started selling makeup kits and PR packages as another way to capitalize products.

There’s room to argue that makeup brands are just functioning exactly the way they should. They see a marketing opportunity, a niche that is yet to be filled, and they exploit it to deliver value to their customers and capture value back. Beauty gurus created an opportunity for companies to be “relatable” to their customers, which meant using marketing to normalize overconsumption culture. However, there is something to be said about the morality of using a business model that promotes overconsumption. It contributes to the waste that adds to a world already on fire...

Jackie Aina promoting her palette in collaboration with Anastasia Beverly Hills

Cosmopolitan Magazine, “Anastasia Beverly Hills has teamed up with Jackie Aina to make the eyeshadow palette of your dreams”

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