Beauty goes tribal

Gone are the days when skincare brands were targeting traditional demographics. Instead there is a trend towards skincare brands identifying with distinct tribes connected by values they share, that go beyond age, gender or geography. It’s a trend that is reflected in the wider beauty industry and it’s one to take note of in today’s increasingly fragmented world.

While a range of consumer tribes exist within the beauty sector, this report does a deep dive into three: The Norm Rebellers, Superchargers, and Ambitious Multitaskers. We explored how beauty brands are standing out and driving engagement by connecting with these tribes thoughtfully across every touchpoint – from package design and forms to claims and comms. 

The Norm Rebellers

Norm Rebellers is a tribe connected by the shared values and behaviors of going against the standards that have been dictated within the beauty industry. 

“Anti-aging” claims are a long-standing and broad-reaching industry standard.  However, we see consumers within this tribe rejecting the notion that we need to fight ageing, and are looking at products which deliver the benefits without cueing age. They don’t want to be punished or pitied for getting older, they want to be celebrated. And most of all they want to look fantastic. Look at brands such as Drunk Elephant which has removed the “age” from the anti-aging benefits their products provide. Drunk Elepaphant’s C-Firma serum boasts vibrant and fun packaging with language that includes radiance and luminosity. There is no sign of the word age anywhere. And it’s one of the buzziest skincare brands around, across age brackets. 

Another trend we see within Norm Rebellers are skincare products turning against gender stereotypes. Boy de Chanel gives male consumers the opportunity to buy and wear make-up brands that are targeted at them. With beautiful and premium classic Chanel packaging, sporting a matte black finish and white text, in classic Chanel colors, this is a make-up brand designed for the needs and styles of modern men. As gender is becoming more fluid, men are increasingly likely to use makeup functionally for example a concealer to cover up a blemish, or as a tool for self-expression such as a bold eye liner. 

Norm Rebellers are also transforming topics that were once hush hush into loud and proud platforms for brands. Why shouldn’t men be able to talk about hair loss or women be able to talk about vaginal health? Taboos are being shot down left, right and center. Brands such as Hims, which amongst other things, provides men with haircare products that help them to prevent baldness, sports vibrant packaging with a fun tone of voice. Queen V is another shining example – from the name to the tone of voice, their mission is to normalize and bring a youthful spirit into the conversation around feminine hygiene.

The Superchargers

This next tribe demands performance, and seek out (and pay for!) powerful products that deliver results they can see and feel.  

As consumers at large seek out brands which align with their own lifestyles, within this tribe, it’s about finding brands that work as hard as they do. We’ve seen this translate into workout-inspired skincare regimes from brands such as Proverb, which takes its inspiration from the world of sports nutrition and applies it to skincare for men. 

Freshness has also become a cue for power and efficacy for this tribe – the fresher the product, the more potent the results. We’re seeing fresh power come to life through formats like ampoules, which ensure the freshest product with every application. And for the larger format products, this tribe is investing in skincare-specific refrigerators to make their investment in power go further. 

This group also isn’t afraid to take the power of skincare into their own hands. Brands like The Ordinary offer single-ingredient formulas that allow consumers to boost up or down their regimen depending on their skin needs at any given moment. 

Ambitious Multitaskers

Our final beauty tribe is defined by the always-on, want it all lifestyle that demands finding creative ways to achieve everything.

With the concept of health becoming more holistic and well-rounded, this group is looking for products that optimize their well-being from the inside out, and outside in. Origins CBD face mask calms your skin and your spirit, while Hum promises beauty-focused results you can see from a vitamin supplement you consume.

These time-strapped consumers are also looking for ways to incorporate once time-consuming beauty regimens into their daily routines.  Products like Ren’s 1 Minute Face Mask can be applied while brushing your teeth. And Sakara’s Beauty Chocolates combine an indulgent snack moment with beauty boosting ingredients.  

Also as a result of never-enough-hours-in-the-day, this tribe is moving away from time-consuming and expensive 12-step skincare programs, and instead embracing “skipcare.” This streamlined approach to skin and beauty products is driving interest in beauty products that have multiple uses and benefits in one.  Supergoop’s Poof Part Powder is a great example of this – delivering a dry shampoo and SPF protection in one shot. 

It’s a truism that to speak to everyone you must speak to someone. As we look to the future, wide reach and high brand engagement will be achieved by appealing to the mass niches. As new social and eco-ethical debates take on more importance, targeted products with specific uses will win out as consumers seek out brands that over-deliver but do not over-promise. Within the beauty space, brands that design for, and speak to these (and other) tribes are setting up a future-facing outlook for success.