How can global beauty brands compete with newer rivals?

Established beauty brands are in a strong position to innovate, yet they are at risk of being outshone by young, independent startups. In her article for Creative Review, Executive Creative Director Heidrun Angerer explores what established brands can learn from their competitors.

"Changes in the beauty sector didn’t start with the COVID-19 crisis. If the big players had previously held up a mirror before the crisis struck, the first worry lines would already have been visible. Their financial strength has naturally allowed them to develop innovative products and tools, but young independent brands have outstripped them. And now the stores are closed, brands are forced to communicate more online – and newer brands are performing better. And why? In short, they’re doing a better job of differentiating themselves, standing out with their clear positioning and personal approach. This is what set them apart on the shelves before the pandemic. There’s no reason this won’t continue to work for them after the crisis, when people start going back to brick-and-mortar shops to discover new beauty products and cosmetics. That is unless the established brands learn from these young high-flyers – and their own mistakes.

Let's take a quick look at the time before the crisis: I would stroll through my local drugstore every Saturday. And on weekdays, I’d check out the most expensive beauty boutiques in the world. This had been my routine for the past two decades, and even now, I can confidently say that beauty has never been this exciting. No matter what price category I’m checking out, I encounter a dozen new products, brands, packaging, sensations, crazy ideas, and a barrage of inspiration every time I go.  Suddenly, the coveted eye-level shelf space is occupied by five new brands of hair soap. Testing lipstick has become fun and even practical with augmented reality mirrors.

And then there are new perfumes. Of course, these niche brands have their price. But at long last, it’s possible to obtain fragrances that don’t just look great in their beautiful packaging, but produce a genuinely unique scent that lingers on the skin. Let’s take a closer look at Laboratory Perfumes, WienerBlut or Michelle Pfeiffer’s Henry Rose, for example. These perfumes are based around unusual ingredients – components long ignored in mass-market perfumes because of the fear they might polarize opinions. And there are also Manufacturers noticeably focusing on quality again: in terms of the harvesting of raw materials, their origin, and skin sensitivity. The results are artistic exhibitions of the very best of the perfumer's craft: creating sensual experiences that transport people to far-flung places and dreams, or memories of beloved destinations. And we all enjoy a little escapism, especially right now."

Curious to learn more? You can read the entire article of Heidrun Angerer online at

We have also compiled a consumer insights study based on 750 responses from China, Germany and Japan. The study explores cultural perceptions of beauty, the drivers that inspire consumers to make a purchase, and the key touchpoints that beauty brands should be focusing on. Email to request an extract.

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