In India, traditional ideals of beauty based on ancient wisdom are still prevalent, and women take great pride in their appearance.
Creating Relevance Within Emerging Markets

As the beauty industry moves into various global cultures, success rides on understanding consumers’ unique beauty ideals.

The emerging economies of Asia, the Middle East and India are gaining attention from the beauty industry. All are areas that are benefitting from rising middle class populations and cultures where beauty ideals have traditionally played a powerful role in daily life. While global brands and manufacturers are actively establishing a presence in these markets, many brands are targeting the affluent consumer with comfortable living standards and disposable incomes. However, as the middle class continues to rise, consumers within the lower socio-economic classes will be a powerful segment. While these consumers are culturally diverse, there are unique similarities in their beauty ideals, shared experiences and desires. To appeal to these women at mass, beauty brands must understand their daily, often pragmatic needs in order to provide products that offer convenience, health and dignity.

Many emerging markets are still characterized by low literacy rates, regional differences in language and religion and the limited availability of resources, including water and electricity. Multigenerational living is a common experience in India, China, Indonesia and throughout the Middle East and within this highly communal context, word of mouth and tradition play a key role in the daily beauty regimen. There is fierce brand loyalty, and product preferences are often passed down from generation to generation. Change, along with new products in the market, is often met with skepticism and scrutiny.

Traditional Ideals

Traditional ideals of beauty based on ancient wisdom are still prevalent and women take great pride in their appearance. Health is a quality not necessarily linked to physical well-being, but one defined by external appearance. Traits associated with a higher social status like clear, light skin or shiny hair can be an indication of an individual’s health. In an environment where the median age is often near 30, women look for the immediate benefit that beauty products can deliver. For example, women in emerging markets are more likely to use higher quality ingredients such as olive oil as part of their beauty regime and save the lesser quality ingredients for their cooking.

Beauty ideals are closely tied to social class with clear, fair skin often serving as the most desirable beauty trait for women. While self-tanning lotions are popular in Western cultures, skin-whitening products reign within emerging markets and women will often apply lighteners to the most visible areas of their body like their face and arms if they can’t afford to cover their entire body. In Asian markets, skin-whitening ingredients are increasingly prevalent throughout the entire beauty routine, from moisturizers to sun protection and deodorant.

Scent is a reflection of personal hygiene and in cultures that understand purity and cleanliness to be moral characteristics, the fragrance of a beauty product can help to reinforce the efficacy of a product and provide an important incentive at shelf. Traditional ingredients that have been trusted for generations for their medicinal and healing properties still play an important role in the beauty regime. Olive and coconut oil are seen as multi-use moisturizers for dry skin and hair. In Asia, where the ideal fragrance is a subtle yet powerful touchpoint, skin and hair care products often include ginseng extract, pearl protein, green tea and white flower fragrance. In India, neem oil, similar in fragrance to peanut oil and garlic, which is derived from an evergreen tree, has traditionally been used an important antibacterial agent, while lemon, aloe vera and mehendi are commonly found ingredients and added fragrances in beauty products.

Packaging Strategies

In developed markets, beauty products employ sophisticated packaging strategies with larger bottles with ample space designated for instructions and brand copy. However, in emerging markets with widespread regional language differences and low literacy as barriers, the end benefits of a product are often visually conveyed in a clear and pictorial manner. Women in developing markets are also more likely to continue to purchase products that are easy to share. In India, where women purchase beauty products for the entire family on a weekly allowance, sachets are the preferred packaging medium, because they help in determining dosing allowance per use. In China, beauty products that use more Western-styles in packaging are viewed as higher quality.

Despite limited resources, consumers in emerging markets are often willing to spend a higher percentage of their incomes on their quest for beauty. As education and literacy increase among the younger generations, education around beauty products and hygiene will also increase. Brands that utilize trusted platforms of the consumer’s tightly knit community and employ a sensitivity for regional nuances, ethnicities and religions are likely to win a lifetime of loyalty as this consumer increases spending on discretionary purchases rather than necessities.

About the Author

Elle Morris is vice president and general manager, LPK Beauty. Known by her clients as a “beauty junkie,” she is a passionate esthete with an innate understanding of how the notion of beauty translates from culture to culture.