Friday, February 23, 2018
Beauty Ads Kinda Gross Me Out
At a glance, it might seem that the "Fear of Missing Out" (or "FOMO") best fits social scenarios. It's second nature for our generation to gush about nights out with our friends on Facebook and post pictures of that amazing bonfire or that life-changing seminar on Instagram, knowing full well that our friends who weren't there might see these posts and feel like they missed out. But FOMO also drives consumerism, and it's become a powerful marketing ploy that can be hard to shake.
Logically, we know this. We know brands are going to make every product seem like the end-all-be-all, launch limited edition collections, and have two-day-only sales to get us to impulse purchase. People are much more aware of these tactics these days. And retailers have realized we're aware and are using it to their advantage, like when Sephora created a "NOFOMO" coupon code. It's like they're saying, "We so get that you're trying to be fiscally responsible! ...so we're giving you a coupon that will give you more."
But really, it's the same trick in different wrapping paper. They offer you two deluxe samples instead of the usual one-per-coupon because, hey, they wouldn't want you to experience that FOMO.
One of the creepiest things websites do, particularly beauty retailers, is email you if you walk away from your online shopping cart. To get you to come back and make that purchase, they imply that you've earned more products ("Shouldn't this be yours?") or, like the Sephora ad above, tap in to your FOMO. This ad outright suggests that I might miss out on Makeup Forever HD foundation...despite the fact that it's one of the brand's best-selling products, it's not limited edition, and the new formula was only recently released, so nyooooo, it's not going anywhere. Nice try, Sephora.
Again, logically, we can spot this, and we usually talk ourselves out of it in ten seconds flat. But don't you experience this with limited edition products, too? I'm not gonna lie, when MAC had another limited edition release and Nordstrom emailed me about a lipstick I'd let sit in my online cart for a day, the whole "it's selling out quickly!" bit almost got to me. I was able to talk myself out of it by going through my lipstick collection and realizing I already own several similar shades, and by reminding myself that I have a fuckton of lipstick. The point, though, is that even the most obvious marketing scare tactics can get to us. Brands are here to make money, and they know how to do it.
A more insidious and uncomfortable marketing tactic in beauty advertisements is the implication that overspending is always justifiable. Sometimes it's very subtle: the above B-Glowing ad doesn't mention bills or money, but it does say that "there's always room for more." On top of the obvious suggestion that it's a decadence worth overindulging, it's also subtly pointing to the fact that makeup takes up relatively little space. Okay, maybe you don't need another blush, but it's only $25, and it barely takes up any room! What's the harm?
I justified a lot of unnecessary purchases with that train of thought. That's one of the reasons why I've told myself I'm only allowed to own all of my current lipsticks if they can lay flat in one of my organizer drawers. Setting a really specific space goal for myself limits how much more I can bring in. Yeah, each lipstick is small compared to a book or a shirt, but that drawer space is finite.
Now, you'd think that the ads that outright mention overspending would be more stomach-churning than effective. The problem seems to be that they're written in cute little phrases that make light of a potentially harmful shopping addiction. Most of us have wasted money on something we really didn't need instead of putting it in our savings or paying off a bill; brands know this, and they use it to tap in to a sort of "we all oopsy-daisy sometimes" togetherness. The above ad from Honest Beauty's Instagram makes a joke out of an apparent lack of impulse control. And I've seen plenty of ads that chortled about how bills are adding up and the house is falling apart, but "at least my lipstick looks great."
I think this bothers me so much because it's a tactic I only see aimed at women. Ads for men's products definitely feed male insecurities about attractiveness and sexual prowess, but I don't see many ads aimed at men that say, "This want-not-need product is way more important to me than dealing with the responsibilities of an adult life, tee hee, aren't I silly!" Why is that? And why are so susceptible to it, even when it's rather insulting?