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Malcolm Gledhill

How the Selfie Generation Revitalized Makeup Sales

by Malcolm Gledhill | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

May 23, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Makeup sales are up, dramatically and suddenly. Market leader L’Oréal saw 19% sales growth in its makeup division in 2015; LVMH’s perfume and cosmetics department grew 26%. Something has stirred in the makeup market — and that something is social media, specifically the “selfie generation.”

In modern parlance, you could say that the now-ubiquitous front-facing selfie camera has “democratized” makeup. The fundamentals haven’t changed — Queen Cleopatra is testament to the enduring need for eyeliner — but Silicon Valley servers are now groaning under the weight of dizzyingly complicated YouTube and Instagram makeup tutorials that enable women to achieve results once the preserve of film stars and catwalk models. The old gatekeepers have been swept aside by the great flood of a social media-led knowledge share.

I don’t wear makeup; I don’t know anything about it. But a dip into Instagram’s amateur makeup scene was eye-opening. There are diagrams, complicated diagrams that indicate precisely where to apply bronzer; where to apply blush, gloss, and matte finishes; where to apply contouring; and where to apply highlights (this is known as “strobing”). There are memes. And there are brands.

Brands have cottoned on to makeup being the second-most-important factor in taking a good selfie (after lighting, of course! — but you knew that) and have introduced lines that directly reference the selfie look, like Revlon Photoready and Smashbox Camera Ready. Sales are booming — highlighting products in particular rocketed nearly 50% in 2015 on the prior year. L’Oréal’s 19% makeup growth came after a flat 2014, and Coty Inc. saw unit volume in its Color Cosmetics division climb by 5% in 2015, suggesting that this market explosion is very much a nascent phenomenon.

Taking a global view, the increasing purchasing power of the Chinese middle class has led to a rise in consumerism and fashion- and appearance-consciousness, particularly among young women, and, mirroring trends in the West, the Chinese makeup market saw double-digit growth in 2015. Western cosmetics brands also hold a particular cachet among Chinese consumers, particularly at the high end of the market, which may represent opportunity for sales growth.

The rise in social media has also changed advertising strategies. Some brands have seen the benefit in forking out for endorsements from the biggest Instagram celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, who command tens of millions of followers and who have been known to charge upwards of $400,000 for one photo. However, the likes of the Kardashians and Jenners attract followers for a wide and varied number of reasons, and there are smarter and more direct ways to engage with makeup fans.

The biggest users in “makeup Instagram” may not be household names but can still boast thousands or even millions of followers. An endorsement from the likes of Lauren Curtis (@lozcurtis, 1.4 million followers) or Chloe Morello (@chloemorello, 767,000 followers), whose audiences are not only large but highly engaged, may provide a superior return on investment.

London-based Malcolm Gledhill is Dun & Bradstreet’s expert on the European marketplace, and has a background in macroeconomics. Malcolm joined Dun & Bradstreet’s Macro Market Insight team in 2014 before moving to the Company team in 2016, and has a BA from the University of Southampton.


Photo courtesy of L’Oréal.

Catherine Colbert

Even though you do not wear makeup, Malcolm, your insight into the beauty industry is refreshing! Armed with YouTube how-to videos, women of all ages are now in control of putting their best faces forward for the ubiquitous selfie. Happy to know, too, that the makeup-free selfie is a popular way for celebrities like Queen Bey to show off their at-home faces. With all the expertly contoured flawless faces floating around in social media, young women (particularly Gen Z) need to be reminded what a high-profile woman’s freshly washed face looks like.

Welcome aboard, Malcolm! Your article was so much more than a cosmetic coverage of the topic!

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