US lingerie brand Aerie is showing the rest of the advertising industry how inclusive imagery is done – including not patting themselves on the back for taking action.
The brand's latest online product pages include women with a range of disabilities, illnesses, ethnicities, ages and shapes. Wheelchairs, crutches, insulin pumps for Type 1 Diabetes, ostomy bags and mastectomies feature among the diverse group of women of all backgrounds, ages and sizes seen sporting the full product range – from bralets to performance wear.
Instead of orchestrating a big launch to shout about the new visuals, the brand simply added them to existing product pages – doubtlessly counting on customers to share them on social feeds in their own time. Response was vocal and overwhelmingly positive, with advocacy groups lauding the casual inclusion, and many people saying this was the first time they saw themselves in commercial imagery.
The move is a continuation of Aerie's previous efforts to shift the needle when it comes to keeping it real. In 2014, the #AerieReal campaign abandoned retouching its models, revealing the realities of stretch marks, scars, and all the ways flesh organically bunches and spills when even the trimmest bodies twist and bend – a move that led to drastic sales growth.
The takeaway is as straightforward as Aerie's approach: if a brand expects to sell to any type of consumer, it has to make every type of life experience a part of its brand identity. For more on navigating inclusive branding, check out No Offence: Speak the Language of Now and A Fashion A'woke'ning.
Blurring the line between physical and digital retail is high on many retailers’ agendas. L’Oreal has announced a digital advice tool that plans to engage consumers seeking the convenience of shopping from a mobile device while also receiving a personalised experience.
The digital tool is powered by augmented reality (AR) and live-streaming technology, and connects shoppers with beauty experts through live video chat. This allows users to receive real-time, one-to-one tutorials from home.
Consumers can book live consultations with beauty assistants via video chat, bringing the traditionally exclusive in-store experience to shoppers’ mobile phones. The AR and advanced facial recognition technology enables beauty experts to show customers how products would look on them, demonstrate application techniques and explain product benefits – all while tailoring the advice to consumers’ specific beauty needs. Customers can then purchase the recommended products directly through the app.
The platform reaches the very heights of convenient and conversational shopping, providing a make-up store experience that can be easily completed from home with the touch of a button. Stylus retail expert Stefanie Dorfer says the AR technology – provided by L'Oréal-owned facial recognition software company ModiFace – “will break down the silos of digital and physical retail, finally blending the best of the two worlds”.
The platform will launch later this year via L'Oréal’s sub-brand NYX, and is expected to be rolled out in 65 countries. For more on live and interactive mobile beauty advice, see Estée Lauder x Google: Voice-Activated Beauty, Interactive & Shoppable: Live-Video Shopping Platform, and Facebook x Rimmel: Voice-Activated Make-Up App.
There is an epidemic of alcohol-driven sexual assault in American college campuses. New wearable blood-alcohol monitor Buzz helps college students stay safe while having fun, by digitising consent and alerting the wearer's chosen contacts when assistance is needed.
Created by US design firm New Deal Design and OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Lang, the Buzz wristband analyses the wearer's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) through their skin and records it on an accompanying app.
Wearers build a community of friends on their app, creating a ready-made support group in case of over-intoxication. The wristband physically alerts the wearer to elevated levels of intoxication via vibrations and flashing lights. Additionally, it sends notifications to the wearer's friends through the app, alerting them if there is a risk to their friend's physical wellbeing.
Buzz wearers can link their device to a date's while on a night out by bumping them together. From that point, both their BAC levels and locations will be monitored, and they can control the pace of interaction through messages sent via the device. For example, a triple tap on the band sends a "good vibes" message, while a tap and hold sends a "back off, we're moving too fast" notification.
Planned for release in 2019, the band will be free with a $1/month app subscription fee.
Buzz taps into a user's biology to provide a personal service to the wearer – an evolution of the consent-tech apps and digital contracts discussed in our Female Sexuality in Focus report. Considering some consent-tech applications have been criticised for victim blaming, the safety device's emphasis on the health and wellbeing aspect of wearers is a smart strategy.
Consumers are increasingly investing in personal safety devices, especially given the growing conversation around the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. For more on this area of growing opportunity, see Safeguarding Security and CES 2018: Female Safety Devices.
Gen Alpha (aged nought to eight) is promising to be an empathetic and socially conscious cohort, raised by parents with an increased awareness of inclusivity. As explored in Gen Alpha: Raising the Superkids, brands should cater to this new generation’s progressive parents by developing toys that represent diverse lifestyles – a feat that’s been achieved by Dubai-based doll brand Salam Sisters.
Parent company Zileej designs technology and children’s games to aid Muslim users in practising their faith. Sub-brand Salam Sisters has created a collection of plastic dolls depicting a culturally varied group of friends who all share the Islamic faith.
The five characters – Layla, Yasmina, Maryam, Karima and Nura – each have different facial characteristics and coloured and textured hair to represent a range of ethnic backgrounds. Each girl comes with an undercap and hijab scarf that are easily fastened with Velcro. The headscarf encourages creative expression, with the elasticated material able to be worn and decorated in different ways.
Salam Sisters advocates for young girls to be motivated and confident and to “dream big”. Veering away from the softer interests that are usually prescribed to dolls, each Salam Sister is assigned socially minded passions, such as wellbeing, outer space, charity and social leadership.
Salam Sisters offers an accompanying app that mimics Snapchat, allowing users to take selfies with their favourite characters and decorate the images. Also available is a playmat that users can scan via the app to create on-screen augmented reality animations, bringing the characters to life.
As we saw at this year’s London Toy Fair, toy brands are starting to appreciate the important role that spirituality and emotional wellbeing has in the early stages of development. Now is the time for brands to support the invisible needs of their users and create more engaging and meaningful product.
Revlon’s latest venture aims to expand its make-up offering, as global beauty brands are influenced by the inclusive 'Fenty effect’. Could this revamp the company’s image among millennials?
In a bid to revive declining sales and remain relevant in the contemporary beauty market, cosmetics giant Revlon has created a brand for millennials that’s grounded in inclusive values.
The luxury make-up line, called Flesh, is a collaboration with American retailer Ulta Beauty. It aims to satisfy growing enthusiasm among consumers for broader representation within the beauty industry. The core collection features 40 shades of stick foundations – distributed among warm, cool and neutral undertones.
The brand’s core ethos is to reduce barriers for people of colour by offering them shade-inclusive products – beyond multi-tonal foundation. The brand follows the example of US singer Jennifer Lopez’s collaboration with Polish brand Inglot, which stocks eight hues of nude lipsticks catered to different skin tones.
Flesh’s range includes 14 shades of highlighter, 30 lipstick tones and eight blush hues. The products provide users with a neutral palette and subtle pops of colour – in contrast with cult US brand Fenty Beauty’s collection, which also touts inclusive ideals but sells neon lipsticks and shimmery eye shadows.
For Revlon, Flesh’s partnership with Ulta Beauty could really help the conglomerate remain connected to this key demographic, as its core brand is struggling. Estimates suggest that Revlon’s sales have declined by 5.9% in comparison to 2017’s first quarter (Nielsen, 2018).
Brands seeking ways to give mass-produced design a handcrafted feel should take note of Cedit's tile collection, which celebrates the beauty of imperfection through intentional inconsistencies in colour.
As the middle market search for more nuanced, individualised products, the challenge for brands is to produce randomness and even imperfection at scale, without impacting the cost.
Italian ceramics manufacturer Cedit has collaborated with Amsterdam-based design duo Formafantasma to develop Cromatica – a range of tiles which uses subtle nuances of colour to create surfaces with a handcrafted feel. This approach subverts the norms of manufacturing, which typically strives for consistency and even colour across batches.
The collection offers six colours with two surface finishes: natural or glossy. Based on a palette created for Cedit by Italian designer Ettore Sottsass in the 1980s, Formafantasma extended each colour group to its widest range, and applied these hues to the tiles.
A gradated scale of colour is visible in each of the large porcelain slabs. These can be cut into smaller tiles and shuffled, so that a range of hues is included in each pack. For example, the Binaco (white) colour group includes blush tones and hints of green, yet still works as a set.
In our Look Ahead for 2018, we highlighted the growing importance of crafted imperfection in surfaces and products. The challenge for brands and manufacturers is achieving this at scale – a conundrum that Cedit has solved, inspiring others to follow. See our S/S 2019 Materials Focus report Human-Made for further inspiration.
Inspired by old-school TV shopping channels and new-age live mobile game shows such as HQ, Gravy – the world's first live shopping mobile game show – turns buying online into addictive entertainment.
Airing daily at 8.30pm ET for around 15 minutes via its app, US tech start-up Gravy's mobile live shopping show enables consumers to get discounts on products, compete with other users in real time for cash prizes and raise money for charity.
A highly coveted product (such as Oculus Go VR headsets, iPhone Xs or North Face jackets) is presented by a host to a live audience. Viewers can buy the item at any time at a highly discounted price – but the quantity available is unknown. The longer they wait, the cheaper the item becomes or sells out.
Shoppers can also guess when the game will sell out to win cash prizes ($200) – a smart way to engage those who are not interested (at least initially) in buying. Echoing the activist mindset of younger generations (see Retail's Activist Brands), Gravy donates part of the proceeds to charities selected from a list by consumers.
Gravy aims to become the shopping entertainment platform for the youth – an audience that increasingly opts out of platforms interrupted by mobile ads. Currently, thousands of viewers tune in daily (80% are millennials), with the audience growing by about 20% a week (Star Tribune, 2018).
Department stores are facing a challenging time. To maintain its allure among other intriguing ventures, British retailer Harvey Nichols has refurbished its womenswear department to cater to modern luxury consumers.
The intimacy, sense of exclusivity and personal service standards of a luxury boutique are at the heart of the department’s redesign. Located on the first floor, the 22,000 sq ft space challenges the norm and deliberately moves away from traditional branded shop fits. Modular in its design, the open-plan space is furnished in marble, textured glass, pale blue timber and raw steel. Exposed original windows introduce natural light, adding a sense of domesticity.
All represented brands were invited to co-create the space, adding ‘soft touches’ such as furniture and décor. This soft personalised approach cleverly taps into the booming consumer interest in brand storytelling, to the extent that it’s almost as important as the actual process of buying products – something we’ve explored in Reengineering Exclusivity and Next-Level Department Store Strategies.
Chris Dewar Dixon, founder of British agency StudioFourIV, which designed the department, said: “It’s important to create a shopping environment where there’s more than a rack of clothes. The idea of intellectual shopping is becoming more important, and brands able to introduce additional value to the shopping experience are winning.”
There’s also an emphasis on improved service in Harvey Nichols’ new department. Consumers are rewarded for time spent in-store and online, while knowledgeable Style Advisers are on hand to offer advice on products, trends and styling. A digital tool by British start-up Hero (see here) gives remote online shoppers access to live-streamed guidance direct from the shop floor.
As new technology emerges, designers are reconsidering everyday household items – creating innovative updates that offer improved functionality and respond to shifting consumer habits. Here, we explore two projects that illustrate how a simple design tweak to a conventional electrical plug can have an impact on practicality and user experience.
Mi Plug is a creative redesign from Northumbria University student Will de Brett. It is a circular device encased in plastic with a flat surface that is indented inwards on the top and outwards on the underside – and the plug doesn’t include the metal prongs traditionally inserted into a socket. Instead, the plug features an internal magnet that jumps into position and sticks to the receiver, which has a corresponding circular indent.
The magnetic tessellating shape allows multiple plugs to be stacked onto one another, simultaneously connecting several appliances to electricity without the use of excessive power points. It is also easier to use for people with limited mobility and eyesight.
The use of magnetism is also explored in the Ball-Tab extension cord by Korean designers Kim So Young and Jo Sung Ick. The extension cord features four round indented sockets with a magnet at each base to hold a spherical receiver. This allows the receiver to swivel in the direction of the appliance, reducing bends in cables and avoiding potential damage.
A thin light is embedded around the rim of the receiver to clearly indicate when it is in use, and each sphere can be turned upside down and safely tucked away so it doesn’t gather dust when not in use.
By refreshing everyday products, brands can unveil new creative and commercial opportunities. See, Redesigning the Everyday: Retuning Daily Habits for how design is elevating mundane utilities into covetable must-haves.
At Brooklyn Eats 2018 (June 28), local companies demonstrated mass-market appeal with product launches that echoed themes spotted at New York’s Summer Fancy Food Show (June 30 to July 3). These are our top picks for products that capture the culinary innovation brewing in the borough.
Convenience stores – and, most recently, drugstores – are the latest retail category to undergo a reinvention. We highlight an innovative concept that’s the result of an unusual partnership between France’s Casino Group and beauty giant L'Oréal: a new urban take on the convenience store.
Le Drugstore Parisien stocks everything from beauty and pharmacy products to healthy snacks and treats. It also provides free wi-fi, phone-charging points, water fountains, shoe-shine machines, parcel pick-up points, sinks and dressing tables, and even a “light therapy area”.
The target market of the new retail concept is the urban young, for whom “the lines between work, culture and fun are being blurred, creating a new way of living”, according to Jean Paul Mochet, chief executive of convenience banners at the Casino Group. Around 55% of products are priced at under €10.
The first two stores opened in late June in Paris on rue de la Chaussee d’Antin (360 sq m) and rue du Bac (150 sq m). A third is planned for the city, with a view to roll out the concept to other European locations and possibly even Brazil and Colombia, where Casino Group has subsidiaries.
Jean-Charles Naouri, chairman of Casino Group, hailed the launch as proof “that major companies are able to come together to invent and create unique, original places in line with contemporary lifestyles”.
For its first foray into Instagram TV (IGTV), Instagram's long-form video format, spirits brand Bacardi used poll widgets in Instagram Stories to let its fan community direct a music video shoot in real time.
The brand collaborated with Grammy-nominated Canadian DJ A-Trak and French dancers Les Twins, who have performed with the likes of Beyoncé and Missy Elliot. During the nine-hour shoot, Instagram Story polls were posted on Les Twins' account, letting fans vote on different aspects of the video. With the audience picking background locations, dance moves, colour filters and camera angles, the final clip arose from 1,024 possible variations.
Using Instagram Stories, a media format consumers are already familiar with, was a canny move by creative agency BBDO New York to draw Bacardi's audience into the new IGTV channels. The resulting Live Moves clip is part of Bacardi's ongoing #DoWhatMovesYou campaign, which focuses on self-expression and liberation.
"It's a much deeper, more meaningful level of engagement that pushes fans to really think about what moves them and take control of the narrative," said Bacardi's director of creative excellence, Laila Mignoni.
As we explored at length in State of Media: The Fan-First Revolution, interactive, personalised and crowd-sourced content will play a central role in brand media strategies going forth. In our round-up of developments from E3 2018, we also note how the latest developments in cross-platform gaming will unlock great potential for interactive brand storytelling.
From extreme colour to unisex make-up, the 2018 edition of annual cosmetics and packaging trade show MakeUp in Paris (June 21-22) highlighted strong beauty directions, with brands and formulators prioritising sustainability with sex appeal.
Here are the top five trends from the show:
A Chinese e-commerce giant that invented a shopping festival, ostensibly to celebrate the anniversary of the company’s launch, saw sales soar again this year. JD.com reported $24bn in sales for the 18-day event.
Chinese consumers’ enthusiasm for festivals and special events was highlighted again in June with the runaway success of the 618 Shopping Festival, created by JD.com.
The e-commerce giant reported RMB 159.2bn ($24.6bn) in sales for this year’s version of its annual shopping celebration – 37% up on the 2017 event.
The festival, which ran from June 1-18, neatly coincided with Father’s Day in China and the traditional Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. Top categories were mobile phones, PCs, air conditioners, other digital products, and food and beverages.
Rival e-tailer Alibaba’s shopping event Singles Day, held in November, reached sales of $25.3bn in 2017, up 40% compared to 2016 (NY Times, 2017). Meanwhile, in the US, Amazon is expected to run its annual Prime Day event in July this year.
Stefanie Dorfer, Retail editor at Stylus, commented: “These kinds of self-made events are producing exceptional figures. As a marketing exercise, they have proven to be outstandingly successful. The lead retailer’s partners and even its competitors are all able to benefit from these festivals.”
A wave of supportive heroine hubs is emerging as Gen X and boomer women reinvent middle age with a positive, open and youthful spirit. More than 80% of American women aged over 40 feel younger, sexier or cooler than they'd expected to (Fancy, 2018). Brands need to catch up to this new reality.
We've been talking about the rise of heroine hubs – supportive women-only platforms – for a while (see Power Girls). Now, middle-aged women are filling a void and creating platforms focused on this stage in life.
While boomer women (aged 54 to 72) are 'reinventing life past 50' (J. Walter Thompson, 2018), only occasionally do brands reflect this new reality.
In forums such as What Would Virginia Woolf Do? and MegsMenopause, the tone is optimistic and positive, but frank about the challenges unique to this life stage. Women are seeking the same from brands: vibrant, multidimensional portrayals and a meaningful grasp of their difficulties, along with new solutions.
For more strategies to help achieve this, see Mature Beauty: Entering a New Age, The New Fashion Landscape 2017 Update: Diversity Rules and A Fashion A'woke'ning.
Also, look out for upcoming reports The Middle-Aged Gap (publishing July 12) and Gen X: Beauty's Untapped Demographic (publishing July 16) for further insights on attracting this cohort.