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How to Tell a Richer, More Diverse Brand Story

Published June 6, 2023
Published June 6, 2023
Olamide Gabriel via Unsplash

Seldom do we find a beauty brand uninterested in diversity and inclusion today. Over the past three years, we’ve watched retailers like Sephora, Ulta, and Macy’s make investments in diversifying not only their brand founder portfolios, but also the ways in which they speak to the patrons whose dollars and loyalty they continuously vie for.

After 2020’s industry awakening, the endeavor to resonate with audiences dominated by people of color remains a top priority for retailers, for brands, and especially for the creative practitioners behind the scenes who craft the stories.

Enthusiasm toward “getting it right”—the ways in which richer, more diverse beauty brand stories are told—is now underpinned not just by momentum but also by data-backed urgency.

Two Words: Spending Power

Today, the Hispanic market is the largest minority market in the US, per the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. The group’s spending increased 87% from 2010 to 2020, reporting $1.9 trillion in buying power. And according to Mintel, as reported by Women’s Wear Daily, Latinx women spent over $2 billion on cosmetics alone in 2019. Additionally, these consumers spend 30% more than other ethnicities on beauty products: $167 annually versus $135 spent annually by the general population.

According to the University of Georgia, Asian Americans, including Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, represented 6.3% of the US population and accumulated a buying power of $1.3 trillion in 2020, larger than the annual economic gross domestic product of all but 13 countries. A portion of this segment is contributing to the rapid rise in beauty brands inspired by Indian traditions. The global Ayurvedic products market is expected to more than triple in growth from 2017 to reach $14.9 billion by 2026.

The Black community, also lucrative and influential in beauty’s global landscape, amassed a buying power of $1.6 trillion in 2020. As observed in a McKinsey & Company report, Black consumers accounted for 11.1% of total beauty spending in the US in 2021.

It goes without saying that the demand to diversify our brand storytelling strategies is there. What some brands lack, however, is a clear understanding of how to do it in an authentic way that meets brand goals and consumer expectations.

How do you resonate with groups of people who hold their own sets of deep-seated values, fresh perspectives on how brands fit into their lives, and culturally held beauty standards and behaviors that defy the rules of mainstream brand-to-consumer connections?

The answer is as simple and cross-culturally expectant as it is complex: Go beyond the baseline.

Here are three ways to tell richer, more diverse brand stories:

1. Disband Monolithic Thinking.

Whether you’re looking to attract Latinas in coastal regions of the US, South Asian Alphas (and their parents), or more Black women luxury shoppers, the first realization you must make is that there is no single profile to describe an entire generation or ethnicity. Asking the question of what will attract and convert more [insert whatever demographic is of interest to your brand] is almost always the wrong one to ask.

According to WGSN’s 2025 Beauty Personas, tomorrow’s consumer markets are grouped by the values they hold rather than surface-level demographics.

With such a shift, we must disband monolithic consumer segment thinking—which is at the crux of the most publicized, apology-worthy mistakes in storytelling.

The strategic approach to engaging more diverse consumers through stories should begin with a deep dive into the layers that lie beneath characteristics we see on the surface. That means homing in on the nuances within a market on key storytelling drivers such as perspective, personality, and preference.

One strategy is to begin with psychographic segmentation, a relatively new approach that helps brands understand how values and beliefs motivate consumers to engage and take action. Uncovering your target’s behaviors and the psychological characteristics that drive these behaviors is key to creating a rich consumer story foundation.

2. Build Empathy to Grasp Emotion.

In her book, Marketing: A Love Story, Bernadette Jiwa states that “people place a premium on the things that you can never hand them over the counter—real or virtual.” She’s referring to the intangible assets of a brand, and as a strategist, I can’t help but believe that the most powerful asset any brand can have is how it makes people feel.

Some of today’s most celebrated diverse brand stories are narrated by beauty founders who first gained a deep understanding of their target customers’ behaviors and emotional desires and then focused on how to evoke them through every method, message, and the manifestation of their purpose.

Diarrha N’Diaye-Mbaye, founder of Ami Colé, aims to create conversations that evoke joy within the melanin-rich community her brand caters to. An emotional theme of “energized excellence” permeates all expressions of the Senegalese-derived clean beauty story, from its vibrant orange packaging to its “Brown Is Not Vanilla” proclamation on product inserts.

Carolina Contreras, founder of Miss Rizos and graduate of the 2022 Sephora Accelerate Program, worked to hone the emotion of empowerment for her new haircare line, which appeals to a global community of Latinos looking to embrace their curls and impact their communities.

Michelle Ranavat, CEO of Ranavat, the first South Asian-founded Ayurvedic skincare brand to launch in Sephora, consistently shares Ayurvedic rituals and her Indian heritage to connect emotionally with a diverse community of prestige consumers. The brand’s origin story beautifully shares the reason for such emotional prioritization in storytelling today:

“With that in mind, I revealed Ranavat in 2017 because I truly believe that right now, more than ever, we want to feel something. A product is a product. I know that. You know that. There’s enough out there in the world that can take us from point A to point B.”

3. Message with Insight and Intention.

If psychographic segmentation is the first step in this storytelling exercise and defining an emotional core is the second, then the natural next step to telling a richer, more diverse brand story lies in the message that expresses it all.

Beauty brands must apply deep consumer insights to ensure their brand stories are both distinct and believable. The answer to achieving success in this regard will be different for each consumer segment.

Recently, BeautyMatter highlighted the Chinese beauty market’s tendency to use influencer champions in storytelling. Key Opinion Leaders, as they’re known in China, are seen as the most trustworthy source for brands and their products. This group is such a significant part of Chinese society that it’s the number-one career ambition for 16- to 18-year-olds. With that much power, brands vying for the attention of Chinese consumers often use influencer campaigns to deliver their brand messages.

What’s more, Black consumers make up the majority of value-driven purchases in the US. A combination of strong community and family principles coupled with an instinct to protect those that they love leads many Black women and men to support brands that do more than sell products.

Also, interestingly, about 30% of Black consumers are categorized as trendsetters. This presents huge opportunities for brands diversifying their targeting strategies to build credibility through two-way dialogue on Black consumers’ social networks.

Crafting an insightful message that appeals to a more diverse audience shouldn’t just be for the moment; it’s a long-term strategy worth taking the time to get right.

As your beauty brand endeavors to tell a richer, more diverse brand story, I urge you to approach your strategy through the dual lens of intentionality and reality, recognizing that you don’t have to be all things for all people...

...just the right thing for the right people.


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