Is the Premium Beauty Industry in Danger of Losing the Trust of its Consumers?


So much has changed in the premium beauty industry over the past ten years - new brands, new retail concepts adding excitement and theatre to the high street and the emergence of online.

The same is also true of the relationship between brands and their customers. Possibly one of the most important drivers of this change has been the dawn of the Internet and the important role that it now plays in all our lives.

While the Internet has been boon for marketers wanting to build relationships with existing customers and attract new brand advocates, it has also provided a lens through which the public can judge whether a brand is deserving of their loyalty.

The Internet empowers consumers to access information on products easily, find out what others think and question product claims. The information is available in blogs, forums, You Tube, Twitter and Facebook, in fact everywhere in the social media space.

Today, consumers no longer have to take what brands tell them at face value. They can investigate, review and challenge what they are told. They are far more knowledgeable and will avoid products and brands whose claims don’t stand up.

I heard this situation neatly summed up by Joey Wat, Managing Director of Superdrug, at this week’s CEW {UK} mentoring talk. She said: “Consumers really know what they want. There’s no need for brands to be clever about their offer.”

Not so many years ago, consumers were willing to accept what beauty brands told them, even if it was cloaked in pseudo-science and nebulous claims.

Consumers wouldn't question the validity of research based on tiny sub-samples and were persuaded by made-up words used to describe new technologies and breakthroughs.But gaining consumer trust is far more challenging these days. If a product doesn't stand up to scrutiny, they will move onto one that does.Worryingly, some beauty brands have persisted in behaving in much the same way as they have done in the past. Nowhere is this more evident than in masstige and premium skincare, where advertising claims still hope to persuade based on flimsy evidence.The media is still full of the following types of advertising:

  • Exaggerated skincare claims based on a tiny sample of respondents

  • Young and/or airbrushed women fronting campaigns for anti-ageing products aimed at the over 50s

  • Lash inserts on models advertising volumising mascaras

And if women don’t believe the ads, they won’t trust the brand. And without trust, beauty brands will struggle to build a loyal fan base.

Perhaps the time has come for premium brands to reevaluate how they interact and communicate with their customers. If they are going to continue to charge a premium, they need to find more meaningful ways of communicating. That communication now needs to work both ways through listening and responding to what their customers are saying.

Next month, we are launching a new report that examines the defining events from the past 10 years of premium beauty. Entitled 10 Years of Premium Beauty, this landmark review looks at the tactics that have been successful in gaining consumer trust, those that have harmed it and offer recommendations on what beauty brands need to do to get back the trust of their customers.