I am usually a big fan of beauty events...
In fact, I'd even go as far to say that I love attending them. I like getting to know new beauty brands, learn the tricks of the trade and of course meet other make-up, skincare and hair care enthusiasts. However as you can probably tell from the title I am unfortunately not writing to tell you about one of my favourite events of the year.
Before I get into this post I just want to say that this is in no way a witch hunt on the organisers of Beautycon. This is just a post on my thoughts of the beauty industry as a whole. The only reason I am including Beautycon London in this is because the event this year illustrates the points I am going to make extremely well and if you've ever been (which I am sure many of you have) then you'll be able to directly relate to my frustration I have been having with the beauty world recently.
First of all, I just want to talk about the deliberate targeting of a younger pre-teen to teen audience. It's no secret that the beauty industry have been lowering their target age group year after year and when you attend beauty events as frequently as I do this becomes even more evident. Before you think that I'm not a supporter of young people being passionate about the industry I just have to tell you this isn't because I think beauty is only for people over the age of eighteen. In fact, you couldn't be more wrong.
From a very young age I used an array of skincare, haircare and makeup products - at first it was because I was a dancer who very often was on stage where using such products became second nature. As time went on using beauty products as an essential was replaced with using them for artistic freedom and expression - which as a angsty but shy teenager was a great way for me to really show people who I was. So where my problem with Beautycon and other beauty events like it lies is not with the age group they target - but with why and how they target this age group.
From a marketing perspective, when you break down a product or event strategy to its bare bones, a target audience is chosen for one reason and one reason only - to make money. Now, while teens and pre-teens don't have a lot of this, their parents usually do or at least have more than their child. Of course I know that businesses, including those in the beauty industry, have to make money. However extorting it from unsuspecting parents through their children is a pretty short-sighted way of becoming "successful". There is no denying it that events like Beautycon are now directed towards a younger audience. I know this not only because I recognise the aesthetic and literary elements beauty events use in their marketing but also because when you attend these events a large majority of the attendees are dragging around an uninterested, supervising adult or two. But what's so wrong about this?
Let's get real, quite a lot of beauty fanatic teens would do pretty much anything to get their hands on the latest Kylie Jenner beauty product escapade and after a whole lot of nagging, their parents usually give way and foot the bill. And for me, beauty events like Beautycon know this all too well. However selling beauty products isn't the worst way these events are making money off teens.
Event organisers spend months in the lead up to these events targeting teens through social media and even getting some of their favourite social media stars to come along. Did I mention that if you wanted to see your favourite influencer at Beautycon you had to hand over almost £200 or over $200 if you're in the USA? That's pretty ridiculous. However if you're a young follower of one of these stars it's a pretty reasonable price to pay, especially if you've spoken to your parents about how much this person has helped you or related to you both physically and emotionally through their content - which let's face it a lot of these influencers do.
Although using emotion to create a desire for a product is a well respected strategy in marketing, I think it's extremely unethical to use parents emotional connection to their child and their child's "happiness" to gain profit. As I've said before, children and teens can feel like they have a special connection with these influencers and view them as more of a friend rather than a social media celebrity. Manipulating a teens' and parents' emotions in this way for profit simply doesn't sit well with me. However you could also argue that it's not the events that are at fault here but the influencer themselves. It's pretty obvious that none of these stars show up for free.
I don't just have a problem with how influencers are used as emotional bait, I also (like many other people in the beauty industry) have a problem with how beauty standards are represented and presented at some of these events that are frequented by many young people. As we all know pre-teens and teenagers alike are a very impressionable group. They consume media every day and although I am not trying to illustrate their naivety towards the beauty standards thrusted upon them, I am only stating their vulnerability towards it.
It's no surprise to me that beauty events plaster traditionally beautiful looking people all over their marketing - after all beautiful people sell. However if you're not traditional looking like these slim, gorgeous and probably photo-shopped models, it can become harder for you to see yourself as a part of the beauty community when the only people you see representing it are flawless ethereal type beings.
We all know that the beauty industry has a problem with diversity - not just through body type, hair colour and skin colour but also through personality, style and in general how you are as a person. When I look at this more closely the beauty world only wants to be presented by people who seem to be increasingly happy, peppy and quite frankly dishonest about real life. This creates the impression of not only physical perfection but mental perfection - something that we all know to be impossible.
Unfortunately, many young people don't see it this way. They'll see that they don't fit in and wonder why they don't have an increasingly peppy personality or perfect mental well-being like these influencers and models. It can feel demotivating and really chip away at their self-esteem and confidence. I recognise that while the beauty industry tries to preach that they're diversifying in appearance and that being "different" is a good thing, some young people can't but help feel like they're the wrong kind of different.
Of course, I'm not saying that these beautiful, happy people shouldn't represent the industry - they should. I just feel that the beauty world needs to diversify the way it's being represented and that brands and influencers should be more responsible about how they connect with younger audiences.