Cristina Martella: ‘The pandemic changes make-up’


The beauty market it was already in great turmoil and full change before the pandemic.

In particular, to put it in the words of a recent international report made by McKinsey & Company, “How COVID-19 is changing the world of beauty” ¹, signed by Emily Gerstell, Sophie Marchessou, Jennifer Schmidt, and Emma Spagnuolo:

Even before the pandemic, the definition of “beauty” was becoming more global, expansive and intertwined with an individual’s sense of well-being.

Of this new definition of beauty, reticent (finally!) to the diktats of exclusive and more inclusive aesthetic trends and canons, also in terms of genders (well beyond the male / female division), we spoke with Cristina Martella, Group Digital Marketing & Digital Pr Manager at the Sodalis Group which includes, among others, Deborah Milan, a historic Italian company, spokesperson for a concept of accessible beauty.

Not surprisingly, during the first lockdown, Deborah Milano launched a social campaign with a significant title: “The New Beauty”: “We asked 50 influencers and social icons to show themselves without make-up to tell us what it means to them to feel beautiful and their relationship with makeup”.

A short film came out in which an awareness emerges in line with the global moment (already pre-pandemic and consolidated by it): “Today, wearing make-up for us women is no longer a gesture we make for others, to show ourselves to the public. But a gesture we make for ourselves, to feel better ”.

Social networks have certainly contributed to this home make-up approach and, thanks to the pandemic and the smart home work revolution, it is clear that, again to quote the McKinsey & Company report:

Consumers around the world demonstrate with their actions that they still find solace in the simple pleasures of a “Sunday of self-care” or a swipe of lipstick before a Zoom meeting.

The effect, moreover, is known and is called the Lipstick Effect and is regularly recorded in those moments of great bewilderment and world crisis (those that the Lebanese philosopher and mathematician naturalized American Nassim Nicholas Taleb call, i “Black swans”:

rare events, of great impact and predictable only in retrospect, such as the invention of the wheel, 9/11, the collapse of Wall Street […]

The lipstick effect, simplifying the concept, is

that tendency to buy luxury goods at an affordable price, like a branded lipstick, in moments of profound economic crisis or in those immediately preceding it.

As Martella says, “in the pandemic, more than ever, I have rediscovered the pleasure of putting on make-up for ourselves, to feel better, even with respect to a situation that has put us and is putting us to the test even on a psychological level”.

Confirming exactly that lipstick effect that was seen first of all in China, the first market to be sunk by Covid (in February 2020, the Chinese beauty sector fell by 80%), but also the first to flap his wings to get up (in March 2020 it had already risen to -20% ).

Which, of course, leaves no doubt as to the severity of the backlash, if anything, it allows us to predict a long-term hold. In this regard, Cosmetica Italia, the National Association of Cosmetic Companies writes:

At the end of the year it is estimated that the global turnover of the cosmetics sector will record a contraction of 11.6% for a value of 10.5 billion euros; to affect this result is the domestic market (-9.3%), but above all the export which marks a decrease of -15%.

The comparison between the trade balance of the first half of 2020 and that of the same period of 2019 records a negative change of 311 million euros, a much better performance than other contiguous non-food sectors.

In short, the blow did badly, but much less than in other sectors and, above all, data in hand, it did good to digitization.

A look at the trend of the channels reveals in an even more evident way some important changes in consumption habits. It is in fact thee-commerce the only channel that records a positive trend with an estimated growth of + 35% at the end of 2020.

“We are called to a great challenge – confirms Martella -. Surely the pandemic has forced us to accelerate, for example, on digital innovation. Otherwise we would have taken it more comfortable. The in-store beauty experience must also necessarily be rethought, which will hardly be the same again “.

Which is the same conclusion that McKinsey & Company arrives at:

The crisis is likely to accelerate pre-existing trends that were already shaping the market, such as the global rise of the middle class and the use of e-commerce, rather than marking entirely new ground.

Another big change that can be seen on the horizon is a slowdown in the rise of organic and natural cosmetics. At least as it has been conceived so far.
Mintel, a global marketing intelligence agency, gives an interesting analysis. Starting with the alarm raised by Forbes at the end of 2019, in an article with the alarmist title – “Are dangerous microbes hiding in your makeup? The new study says yes “-, which reports the results of a survey carried out by the University of Aston and published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology: the pandemic has reinforced the fear of the safety of “clean” products, made with natural ingredients and with shorter deadlines.

According to Clare Hennigan, Senior Beauty Analist Mintel:

The future of clean ingredient formulations will be based on safe synthetic ingredients, which can improve shelf life. Brands are intercepting the new problem and to prevent a feeling of mistrust from arising they will tell us more about the advantages and stability of the synthetic ingredients chosen, providing more tests and certifications that guarantee their safety.

And a “revolution” is also expected in containers with formulations and packaging touchless that prevent contamination of the open product (eg powders, sprays, sticks…).

Revolution that Martella confirms and watches with curiosity and entrepreneurial courage:

We will have to find new solutions, be creative. The world was already changing, as an approach to beauty, and it is essential that brands become ambassadors of this, in an inclusive perspective and in the construction of a new narrative of the concept of beauty itself. Now we are forced to rethink everything else: it is difficult, especially if we look at this moment with the eyes of the present, but it is equally true that moments of profound crisis are also an opportunity. We have the opportunity to shape a different world and to do it however we want. A better world”.

And in the meantime it grows unstoppable real beauty, that new concept of more authentic and inclusive beauty, which also in this case was imposing itself pre-pandemic, and anxieties and new global awareness have made it even more necessary. Moreover, according to Martella it is a real responsibility of the brands: “The cosmetics and beauty companies have a fundamental role in this: we must normalize a more realistic narration of beauty; we must tell women – and men, because they too wear makeup and finally no longer have to hide – that their strength is within them, not in adhering to a canon. The role of brands or at least of a brand like Deborah Milano is this: to help women not to be more beautiful, but to feel more beautiful “.

Original article published on November 30, 2020

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