The social stigma surrounding female menstruation is evolving as progressive start-ups, brands and designers dare to confront social taboos. We examine the brands stepping in with body-positive marketing campaigns and sustainable solutions to capitalise on an enthusiastic market of women seeking new alternatives.
UK start-up Dame has created a reusable applicator tampon made from a self-cleaning antimicrobial material. Combining medical-grade materials that naturally sterilise the device, the applicator remains safe and hygienic after multiple uses. Featuring a smooth semi-gloss finish and shaped to suit the contours of the body, Dame is designed to be comfortable and easy to control.
Similarly, new UK femcare brand Callaly has created the Tampliner. Offering the functions of both a tampon and a panty liner, the Tampliner promises greater absorbency to give users better peace of mind. Co-founded by gynaecologist Dr Alex Hooi, Callaly is the culmination of years of working with, and listening to, the frustration of women who don’t feel adequately protected with existing product.
Also from the UK, graduate Kaye Toland developed Mcycle, a tampon delivery service concept that transforms tampons into compost. Mcycle proposes a system where organic tampons are delivered to subscribers by bicycle. After use, the tampon’s packaging can be used as a bin that is later collected and composted in non-food soil.
Read Breaking Taboos in Packaging Futures: Diversity and Beauty Inspired by Menstrual Cycles for examples of body-positive brands tackling the topic of female menstruation. Also see Tackling Taboos for more on the brave marketing campaigns winning over consumers.
L’Oreal showcased a standout piece of beauty tech at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas (March 9-18). The cosmetics giant’s Innovation Lab developed a dispenser that can create 8,000 bespoke blends of foundation.
Le Teint Particulier (LTP) uses artificial intelligence to formulate foundation tailored specifically to the user. An analyser comes into contact with three points on the user’s face at a short distance, so light is prevented from disrupting the colour-matching process. The data is picked up by an algorithm, which maps out the levels of cyan, magenta and yellow that are present to identify the customer’s skin tone. Before the machine blends and dispenses the precise shade, users can select the desired coverage and finish.
LTP was originally developed for L’Oreal’s colour cosmetics brand Lancôme in 2016, debuting exclusively at luxury US department store chain Nordstrom. L’Oreal shared the technology at SXSW because LTP is still the most advanced custom-blend foundation machine in the world – offering more shades than a supply chain could produce.
Shrewd brands such as Fenty Beauty and Huda Beauty have acknowledged the diversity of their consumer bases by launching foundation ranges of up to 40 shades, but L’Oreal’s device taps into a more valuable strategy – complexion colour matching. In 2017, Pinterest data revealed saves for complexion colour matching rose to a whopping 378% on the image-pinning platform, confirming the consumer desire for this bespoke offering.
The Phluid Project – America’s first gender-free lifestyle store – opened this month in New York’s NoHo neighbourhood.
The shop sells clothes, make-up and lifestyle items that transcend traditional gender stereotypes. Owner Rob Smith’s mission is to “[create] a space where strangers, allies, friends – people – can be unapologetically themselves.”
Streetwear-inspired fashions are arranged by colour and style. Most are designed in-house with gender-free sizing, which runs from one to four instead of small to large (size one fits like a womenswear medium). Outfits are displayed on specially designed gender-free mannequins, which have a pronounced flat bust and narrow waist to present as either masculine or feminine.
Phluid also aims to position itself as a community hub for gender-curious customers. The back of the store features seating for events such as lectures and networking nights. For more on stores as culture coders and thought leaders, see Beta Blends in our Industry Trend Liquid Retail.
Customers can also purchase limited-edition garments and accessories featuring cartoon-style characters from local Brooklyn illustrator Jeremy Villesca, who also created an in-store mural depicting portraits of diverse New Yorkers.
For more on the rise of gender-neutral fashion and retail, see Diversity Rules (part of The New Fashion Landscape 2017), Zara Launches Gender-Neutral E-tail Category, John Lewis Goes Gender-Neutral and Brand Watch: Mother’s Gender-Neutral Agenda. For more on body-inclusive mannequins, see Progressive Fashion: February Round-Up.
As discussed in our report Pop Culture Round-Up: Winter 2018, the values, desires and attitudes of Gen Z have recently been amplified by two very different experiences. One was the reaction to the tragedy of the Parkland high-school shooting in the US; the other was the success of a new generation of young, multicultural and LGBTQ athletes at the Winter Olympics.
The power of this Gen Z cultural moment comes as no surprise to anyone aware of this demographic's savviness, individuality and diverse outlook. But it underscores how important they're becoming as a consumer force. However, that's not to say they can be easily defined.
This year's Youth Marketing Strategies (YMS) conference (London, March 21-22) will gather social media experts, marketers, start-ups and young consumers to explore Gen Z trends and attitudes, and help brands better understand this complex generation.
YMS's parent company, youth insights business Voxburner, will be launching its latest Youth Trends Report at the event, "busting any misconceptions you may have on the attitudes, values and behaviours of this generation". Attendees will also hear from the likes of social media marketing firm Social Chain, Chinese digital agency Qumin, and marketing experts from liqueur brand Jägermeister and ice-cream giant Häagen-Dazs.
Stylus will also be participating. Christian Ward, head of Media & Marketing, will be chairing a panel with Sony, Three, BBC Radio, US entertainment company Refinery29 and UK production company Mad Cow Films on how to create truthful and innovative digital content.
If you'd like to attend YMS, we're offering a 20% discount. Use the code STYLUS20 when buying tickets here.
The stark realities of the crisis in media and advertising were faced head-on at this year's Guardian Changing Media Summit (London BFI, March 7). From the gender pay gap, to better representation of women and minorities and the ad world's battle with Silicon Valley, the BFI echoed with loud calls for change.
The #MeToo Revolution
There was anger from a number of panellists at what's been lost as a result of women feeling forced to leave the industry because of sexism and harassment. British media writer Jane Martinson pushed Martin Sorrell, chief of UK advertising giant WPP, on the need for change in his own business. "Women in our industry are more effective than men," Sorrell commented – prompting Martinson to ask: "Why don't you promote more women then?"
British advertising consultant Cindy Gallop saw this gap between words and deeds as a key problem. Gallop emphasised that the biggest issue facing the ad industry today is sexual harassment. "It keeps out of leadership and power the leaders who would make equality, diversity and inclusion happen," she said. She called for action through demonstration: "Don't do stunts about diversity, or create content about diversity – be diverse."
In the "fake news" era, the question of trust is crucial. Sam Baker, founder of UK female-focused platform The Pool, commented that "the only value you have is the audience's trust". Farrah Storr, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan UK, agreed, pointing to the value of print in establishing that image of trustworthiness. "Advertisers are understanding the role that print plays in building trust," she said.
There was concern over the way social media forces people into "echo chambers", where they only hear opinions that they agree with. However, Matt Kelly, editor of pro-EU newspaper The New European, vehemently disagreed. "The media has never been more plural; the echo chamber has been completely blown apart," he said. "The problem is the fact-checking. We're suckers for a story, and journos have become lazy in grabbing onto tags [like fake news]. We need to be much better in establishing facts."
Kelly sees this as an opportunity: "Brands will gravitate to being trustworthy," he commented. Nick Robinson, presenter of BBC Today, agreed: "Brands will re-establish themselves," he said. "People will realise that they need to go to brands they can trust, because you don't have time to assess for yourself the truth of stories."
Brands Take Back Control
This idea of brands reasserting themselves as arbiters of truth and authenticity was important for many speakers, who believed that brands have for too long been doing whatever the tech giants demanded of them.
Sacha Berlik, managing director, EMEA of global programmatic agency The Trade Desk, said: "Advertisers can vote with their money. They can make a decision [about] if they want to fund unmonitored social media content, or fund quality journalism." He believes that "we need to be educating the advertising world" on the responsibilities they should be taking on to ensure trustworthy journalism survives.
Gallop came at the same problem from a different angle. "We have a responsibility to redesign the future of technology," she said. "The founders of the big tech companies hate advertising. When you hate advertising, you will never leverage your resources and talent to innovate completely new forms of powerful new advertising on your platforms."
Gallop views this as a massive opportunity for brands and marketers to take back control. "The future is not ad units – it's ad products," she said. "Things of utility and value that surprise and delight consumers in the way they're delivered. We have the opportunity to create those. Look at those platforms and decide how you'd like to use them."
As such, she advised brands: "Blue-sky it. Don't look at what exists now – project out five years down the line; go sci-fi and magical."
As the fashion industry’s month long schedule of womenswear shows draw to a close, Gucci and Balenciaga – named the hottest brands of 2017 – are embracing political initiatives and social movements – building on their lucrative brand hype, while ensuring a lasting impact after the season ends.
Italian mega-brand Gucci has joined the anti-gun movement, donating $500,000 to March For Our Lives – the student-led protest organised by the friends, families and survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14. The brand is keen to support the cause using more than just capital, with its politically minded millennial fan-base increasingly demanding authentic showcases of activism and political engagement.
‘‘I am truly moved by the courage of these students,’’ said Gucci creative director Allessandro Michele of his position to join the march. ‘‘My love is with them and it will be next to them on March 24. I am standing with March for Our Lives and the strong young women and men across the United States.’’
Luxury French fashion house Balenciaga has similarly intertwined social change with its brand DNA of late – unveiling a collaboration with the World Food Programme at its A/W 18/19 show. The brand has announced an ongoing collaboration with the charity, including a $250,000 donation and a percentage of sales from the Balenciaga x WFP collection.
Shrewd brands would do well to outwardly embrace their core values. Against a volatile political climate and the rising spending power of millennials – neutrality may prove a riskier strategy.
For more on how brands can avoid ambivalence in tense political times see Brands Take a Stand.
Learning how to talk about sex and sexuality is vital for brands today, said Sarah Forbes – author of Sex in the Museum – during a lecture in London on February 22. Organised by global talk curators Rising Minds, the event explored key themes including:
As detailed in The New Fashion Landscape 2017 Update, fashion is altering its approach to sizing, diversity and gender. These topics animated the Fashion Institute of Technology’s symposium in New York on February 23, reflecting issues explored in its current exhibit The Body: Fashion and Physique (see blog). We recount the highlights.
One Shared House 2030 supposes a future of augmented urban developments and housing shortages in 2030, to which co-living arrangements could be an effective response. The survey asks participants what type of people they would like to live with, what spaces and amenities they would be willing to share, and what they believe would be the positives of living in a communal settlement.
The findings show that overall, people would prefer to live in the city with individuals from all walks of life. Four to 10 is the ideal number of people in the community and ideally, all members would enjoy equal ownership of the house.
Participants are open to sharing, particularly regarding use of the internet, garden and workspaces. However, the boundaries between public and private spaces are important, with the majority wanting their private space to be unfurnished and off limits when they are not present.
Despite a common concern about the potential lack of privacy, interviewees acknowledged the benefits of co-living environments, citing socialising and reduced living costs as the two greatest benefits.
From adopting a more charitable outlook to promoting the beauty of body ‘imperfections’, the fashion industry has finally started to wake up to informed consumers’ expectations.
Here’s a round-up of our favourite progressive initiatives from the past month, which other brands would do well to learn from.
For more on the lucrative opportunities inclusivity presents to brands, read our report A Fashion A’Woke’ning. For more on diversity, sustainability and the challenging fashion environment, see our Industry Trend The New Fashion Landscape 2017.
Nine students from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts have designed and constructed a range of furniture pieces that aim to help schoolchildren stay focused in the classroom.
Presented as part of the Furniture and Light Fair at Stockholm Design Week 2018, the collection envisions a future where children are required to study for extended hours within densely filled classrooms. The resulting pieces encourage a more playful and active learning experience to help kids stay focused.
The designs acknowledge that children need a changing and transformable environment in order to stay engaged. Each piece encourages interaction: children can move and adjust the furniture to better suit their purposes, while also exercising their creativity.
Predominantly comprised of experimental seating designs, the furniture features adaptable elements and unusual materials to pique children’s interest and offer greater user control. The Shift chair, for instance, can be changed so that the backrest becomes the seat and the seat becomes the backrest, and can be sat on from any direction.
The Alert stool has a flat seat attached to a cone-shaped base via a moveable joint, allowing children to be active while seated. Meanwhile, the Log stool is made from a lightweight squishy foam, making it easy to be picked up and moved around by young children.
For more open-ended furniture designs giving kids creative control over their environment, see Toniture: Life-Sized Meccano for Kids. For more playful and flexible classroom furniture designs, read Designed for Fun: Home, Work & VR.
Chinese Alibaba-owned online marketplace Taobao has launched a senior-friendly version of its e-commerce app. The easy-to-use app features a simple interface and a family chat button, engaging with members of China’s ageing population who are keen to participate in the digital economy.
Currently, 30 million Taobao users are aged over 50, representing 6.5% of the mobile app’s total 468 million active users (Taobao, 2017). The number of Chinese people aged over 65 is expected to rise from approximately 100 million in 2005 to around 330 million in 2050 – roughly the population of the US (Forbes, 2017).
Senior users register an account through their mobile number and can link the account to their children. Features such as mobile shopping, personalised shopping suggestions and live-streamed content all remain – but with an enlarged interface.
Consumers also have the opportunity to make contact with their families within the app. A photo of a relative is displayed on every page, with users able to easily share products or initiate a chat or voice call by tapping the image. The app also features a ‘pay for me’ option, allowing children to pay for products that their parents have selected.
This venture into empathetic retailing is an example of the sophisticated targeting of consumers by Alibaba. Chinese seniors typically purchase 44 products a year online, spending around $800. The senior citizen online shopping market in China is estimated to be worth $200bn a year (Business Insider, 2017).
For more insights into how brands are embracing diversity and inclusivity, see our Diversity Outlook Innovation Platform.
Thailand's cabinet has approved a new Smart Visa in a bid to attract investors, start-up entrepreneurs, high-level executives and skilled professionals.
The Smart Visa does not require a work permit and will give recipients a four-year visa instead of the current one-year option. It also gives dependents the right to live and work in the country and extends the standard 90-day reporting period to immigration to an annual check-in.
According to officials, "the Smart Visa is intended to increase knowledge transfer and skill development in desirable fields such as technology and medicine". Eligible applicants will need to prove a minimum monthly income of 200,000 baht ($6,258). Applications for the visa began on February 1.
Other countries in Southeast Asia are also making efforts to attract digital nomads. Working in partnership with Malaysian urban regeneration group ThinkCity, the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) is aiming to repopulate Kuala Lumpur's centre by creating co-working spaces that will attract foreign and local creative workers.
"Digital nomads will come in and bring new ideas," said Duncan Cave, ThinkCity's programme manager. "The synergies between them and local Malaysians should be great."
The Work/Life Revolution is gaining momentum across the globe. For more on the flexible workers who are swapping the nine-to-five for a nomadic lifestyle, see Tomorrow's Wandering Workers and Digital Nomads.
For Valentine’s Day, Swedish beauty tech start-up Foreo has launched a limited-edition gift set exclusively for same-sex couples, offering a refreshingly modern approach to LGBTQ-targeted Valentine’s Day marketing and gifting strategies.
With the launch of its His & His Foreo Issa 2 gift set (which includes two black silicone sonic toothbrushes), the brand is tapping into its inclusive roots. Foreo is short for “for everyone”, with its products aimed at all consumers – regardless of gender, race, age or sexuality.
This all-embracing strategy has been harnessed by brands in the past via advertising campaigns – see & Other Stories’ Valentine’s Campaign and Same-Sex Tiffany Ad Fuels Wider Rebrand. However, the brand asserts that this is the first product launch dedicated to same-sex couples. For more on tapping into the LGBTQ market, see Retailers Capitalise on LGBTQ Pride Celebrations, Marketing to LGBTQ Consumers and Make-Up for the Trans Community.
The silicone toothbrushes themselves showcase innovative design, with flexible heads that adapt to every tooth while gently cleaning teeth and gums. Users can also choose between 16 different tempos, although each speed offers 11,000 high-intensity pulsations per minute to break down plaque gently.
The Valentine’s Day promotion also allows customers to try out the toothbrushes at a discounted rate before their full global release on February 22. For more Valentine’s retail innovations, see Valentine's 2018: Best Digital & In-Store Strategies.
Global children's aid organisation Unicef has launched an online tool that asks PC gamers to mine cryptocurrency to help children in war-torn Syria.
To participate, players can head to the Game Chaingers site to install software that will start generating Ethereum coins (the second highest valued cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin) and automatically send them to Unicef's electronic wallet.
The campaign specifically targets gamers because gaming PCs have the high hardware capabilities (specifically their powerful graphics cards) that make mining possible. Between gaming sessions, a high-end machine could generate the equivalent of $2-3 per day for Unicef's efforts.
Tools like Game Chaingers let consumers redirect their existing resources into positive action. These habit changes in turn create lasting awareness of the brands that enabled them to take such steps.
"What interests us is to use this cryptocurrency as a painless way to contribute," said Unicef on its website. "Through the use of mining, we create an opportunity for those who cannot give, or have never had the opportunity to do so."
For more on how brands can make consumers an active and integral part of initiatives to create a better world, see Creating Shared Value: Sustainability Marketing. To read about prominent digital channels of the moment, check out 7 Platforms to Watch in 2018.