The Impact of Gen-Z on Luxury Beauty Brand Storytelling
By Spencer Ball

While the definition of luxury hasn’t changed, the way in which consumers—particularly Millennials and Gen-Z—interact with the luxury landscape has fundamentally shifted, and brands must find new, creative ways to reach these demographics to gain their attention and loyalty.

Commit to Eco-Responsibility
As time goes on, consumers look for brands to reduce material wastage and amplify sustainability practices, so brands are working to make these shifts very rapidly.

There is a growing backlash, often starting with bloggers and influencers, against the amount of waste that comes with the packaging and shipping of products, or in the case of cosmetics it is often the products themselves. Consumers are increasingly using social media to call out brands or retailers for excessive packaging or using materials that harm the environment.

More luxury brands are taking a proactive approach. One example is L’Occitane, which now ships their products in recyclable, refillable pouches as a method of reducing plastic waste. Another is Stella McCartney, who has integrated sustainability into the business, from using recycled nylon for bag linings to becoming a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative.

These practices may have been unexpected for a luxury brand to initiate 5-10 years ago, but now, due to consumer demands, luxury brands are seeking ways to be more responsible. Concern for the planet and its people is no longer at odds with the world of luxury.

Utilize a Variety of Cultural Influences
The influence of Asian culture continues its steady rise and emergence in every avenue of the luxury market, reshaping luxury sectors like airlines and hotels, with global brands levelling up their service to meet the expectations of well-healed Asian consumers.

Fashion and beauty have been quick to embrace a variety of Asian cultures to remain relevant. This is clearly manifested in packaging and marketing campaigns. But we can also see changing beauty rituals as well. The 10-step Korean beauty routine, new regimens and innovative ingredients and technology is spreading from Asia to the rest of the world.

An example of this is Ponds’ Thailand, which created a new “Instagram-worthy” range to target the Gen-Z audience. By collaborating with a well-known Thai beauty influencer, Ponds’ new packaging created an authentic connection with a new, social media savvy generation, which elevated the brand experience for both online and offline shoppers.

But luxury brands need to do their homework when engaging with different Asian cultures. High profile missteps, such as Dolce & Gabanna’s insensitive campaign for China, illustrate how a lack of genuine cultural respect can not only miss the mark, but create hostility towards the brand.

Connect on a Personal Level
A notable trend in luxury that high end consumers are now gravitating toward are those that bring a human touch to the buying experience. Connection is so scarce now that direct contact with a person is, in a way, a luxury item in itself.

Customers are seeking things like concierge services, or even connections to the founder of a company, to make the experience feel more personalized. Creating a sense of closeness and a deep human connection is what ultimately brings high value and prestige to a brand.

Tiffany’s opening of the Blue Box Café in New York was a prime example of how creating a tangible experience can bring luxury consumers closer to the very essence of the brand, in this case reliving the film that elevated the brand to iconic status.

Another example is Frederic Malle, a self-described perfume ‘editor’ who collaborated with some of the world’s foremost perfumers or ‘authors’. Every facet of the brand experience uses storytelling to bring the customer closer to the individual creators, allowing them behind the scenes to witness the creative process, watch personal interviews and delve into their personal stories. The faces and voices of the editor and his authors are integral to the customer journey, from portraits in the stores, to rich social media content, to in-person events.

Environment, culture, and connection are all more valuable, more engaging than any amount of technology or convenience. They amplify authenticity and creativity, placing them at the heart of true luxury.

About Spencer Ball
Spencer has over 30 years of experience in retail branding, packaging design and corporate identity for local, regional and international brands across Asia. He has headed strategic design programmes for 3M, Friesland Campina, Danone, Coca Cola, Philips, Tesco, Timberland, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Zespri. Prior to joining Anthem, Spencer was Creative Director with Interbrand, and before that, with Fitch in Singapore, where he established himself in the creative and design industry in Asia. Spencer is based in Singapore and has resided in Asia, where he built his career, for the last 25 years.