Wednesday Thinking: Is Fenty Beauty the new business model we should all follow?

WED THINK

Is Fenty Beauty the new business model we should all follow?

Fenty Beauty - picture source Rihanna/Instagram
Fenty Beauty – picture source Rihanna/Instagram

Fenty Beauty, for those not in the know, is a new celebrity beauty brand by singer Rhianna. The music industry no longer commands the great revenue from album sales for popular musicians as it once did. World tours have become too much of an expensive risk for record companies to finance bands. So to supplement their income, and to boost their social profile, many artists have branched into other creative and business ventures, including the world of fashion and beauty. Examples include Beyonce’s Ivy Park, Robbie William’s Farrell, Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B., Pharell Williams’ Billionaire Boys Club, Madonna’s Material Girl, Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green and Victoria Beckham with her eponymous label, to name just a few.

Many of the artists have applied their business savvy to their new ventures, with varying degrees of success. Of the above, only Beckham has made the most successful transition from popstar to fashion icon. However she has faced severe criticism for her ultra exclusivity in terms of product pricing, and the lack of models of colour for her catwalk shows and advertising. Beckham’s newest venture into makeup, a collaboration with Estée Lauder, whilst highly successful, again fails to cover the full range of skin tones.

So when news of yet another singer launching a new beauty range, I didn’t have much hope.

Then came the news that the range included no less than 40 shades of foundation, with reportedly more on the way.

Question – if a singer, who isn’t yet 30, with self admitted limited professional background in beauty, let alone the beauty industry, can somehow manage to produce a makeup range that includes 40 foundation shades, how come other beauty companies, some boasting over 100 years in existence, with a host of scientists, experts, managers, marketing specialists and beauticians, with millions if not billions of dollars in revenue at their disposal couldn’t manage it?

The instant success and sell out of the new Fenty Beauty range suggests that the big companies didn’t want to cater to people of colour.  It has been proven that Black women for instance, spend a higher percentage of their income on beauty products than women from other ethnicities. This despite the fact that they are statistically paid less than women of other skin colours. Further, products which are specifically designed and marketed for this demographic statistically cost more than the equivalent in the top brand ranges.

Excuses

One tried and tired excuse was the belief there wasn’t a sustainable market for Black makeup. Another popular excuse, that it was too expensive to develop a specialist beauty range for people of colour.

Fenty in less than 1 week of launch has shown up the big beauty brands, in their product development, marketing and advertising. Their attitude towards certain consumer groups has left a huge gap in the market for Rhianna to exploit, and I hope she keeps doing so. In fact, I would even suggest – ditch the music career and concentrate on beauty!

Fenty Beauty Picture source https://www.instagram.com/p/BYxS1QCFR3B/?taken-by=fentybeauty
Fenty Beauty Picture source https://www.instagram.com/p/BYxS1QCFR3B/?taken-by=fentybeauty

Rhianna’s brand has proved once and for all that catering to one minor section of the world’s population can only continue for so long. While there is a huge need to develop products and services for people of colour who have been for decades deliberately left out of the loop, my argument is there are only ever be 2 outcomes for Black Owned Businesses (BOB) in a market dominated by those, who for various reasons, don’t want to see BOBs flourish;

1) The BOBs fail as they run into financing issues because they can’t expand quick enough to accommodate the market, or

2) The dominate businesses find some way, legitimate or otherwise, to prevent the continued growth of BOBs, such as promising to use their resources to expand the brand, but after the takeover, they cash in on the Black Dollar and slowly run the original product or service down to the ground.

Rhianna has done something, which I am convinced could be the biggest change to business models since Adam Smith’s Economies of Scale.  Unlike other celebrity brands, Fenty Beauty did not simply follow established business norms, but challenged them, then bettered them. By focusing on diversity, individuality and inclusivity in terms of skin tone, Fenty Beauty has in a single stoke exploited the gaps unfilled by not only the beauty industry, but possibly every industry.

Major Beauty Leaders

7 companies, L’Oréal, Coty, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Shiseido, Johnson & Johnson and Estée Lauder between them own over 180 beauty lines. (Source http://uk.businessinsider.com/companies-beauty-brands-connected-2017-5). Yet between them, they’ve all spectacularly failed to adequately cater for the beauty needs of the Black consumer.

Screen Shot 2017-09-16 at 13.37.05.png

Picture source: Skye Gould/INSIDER

The beauty brands, particularly the luxury sector, justify their high prices by their exclusivity. In fact exclusivity is often a key marketing tool, as it implies quality, luxury, scarcity. The result of course excluding the vast majority of the population based on their income, and indirectly contributing to racism, sexism, homophobia and even xenophobia.

Naturally, a makeup brand is never going to significantly contribute to world peace – but it can go some way to level the playing field. Fenty Beauty is by no means perfect. 40 foundation shades isn’t nearly enough to accommodate all skin shades. The current adverts features teens and 20 somethings, able bodied women, with a western cultural background. However, it’s important to remember that this is a brand in it’s infancy and can never hope to atone for everything that the major manufacturers have failed to do in just a week. That said, Fenty Beauty has smashed through many barriers and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here.

Exclusion is not the aspiration of Millennials. They want to be catered for as valued individuals in their own right regardless of income, social background, and of course skin colour. The sooner the big brands react to this the better, because if Fenty Beauty becomes the bench-mark business model, many of today’s top brands will lose a huge chuck of their current market share. Some may even think – serve them right.

What are your thoughts on the Fenty Beauty and it’s brand ethos? What do you think about the marketing strategy? Do you think this brand will stay the course, or will it go the way of so may other celebrity brands? Please like and comment below.

Thanks for reading.

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