Open a magazine or simply turn on the TV and the ads for cosmetics are unavoidable. That’s not anything new. Advertising has always been a war paint battleground. What has changed are the faces showcasing these products. Where these promotions used to be filled with Caucasians, today they’re just as likely to feature African-Americans, Hispanics or Asians. Though it’s unclear how much of this shift has to do with a changing standard of beauty in the U.S., one thing is apparent: the cosmetics industry has recognized women of color as a growth opportunity.
Though the slate of Black, Latino, Asian and Indian spokesmodels is long now—Rihanna for Cover Girl, Halle Berry for Revlon, Eva Longoria Parker and Aishwarya Rai for L’Oreal and Jessica White for Maybelline, to name a few—it’s important to note that the first African-American model wasn’t signed to a major brand until 1992 when Cover Girl tapped Lana Ogilvie. This means that all but the youngest of today’s adult women came of age without seeing themselves reflected in cosmetics ads or offerings.
Before these companies can capitalize on this market, many beauty brands will need to kiss and make up with communities that often felt marginalized by the industry. After all, as a recent study by market research firm Mintel revealed, black women don’t believe the majority of beauty advertisers are speaking to them. Further, only 35 percent of these women feel they are positively reflected in the media in general.
Strength In Numbers
While consumers might be hesitant to embrace this new inclusive normal, today women of color often take center stage in the marketing and R&D initiatives for many entrepreneurial brands as well as cosmetics conglomerates. According to Bob Wallner, national sales manager for Milani Cosmetics, this shift occurred for one very good reason. “As a result of the 2000 census, all of the major retailers selling cosmetics in this country focused on the browning of America,” he said. “All of them initiated a search for brands to answer that constituency—not just African-Americans but also Hispanics.”
And taking a look at the numbers, it’s easy to see what sparked merchants’ interest. According to the Census, both the African-American and Hispanic populations had a higher growth rate than the overall U.S. population from 1990 to 2000. While the U.S. expanded by 13 percent during that time, African-Americans grew by 15.6 percent to 34.7 million. And the number of Hispanics in this country jumped 61 percent to 35.2 million.
Taken as a whole, these statistics add up to big potential for brands that can address these demographics. While accurate numbers are difficult to come by for cosmetics specifically, market research publisher Packaged Facts has reported that ethnic haircare, makeup and skincare products combined constituted a $3 billion business in 2009.