Make-up has always been around. Even the Neanderthals used colour to adorn their bodies. Back then, many thousands of years ago, it was less a question of attaining aesthetic ideals, but more about fertility rituals. But this would change, by the 20th century at the very latest.

Make-up has been part of everyday life for many women – and some men – ever since. While new trends are always changing the face of the industry, beauty products have never gone out of fashion. Today make-up is so popular that the market is actually expanding (analysts expect it to reach EUR 48bn by the end of 2018). And the German-speaking countries have long since adopted the English word for it as their own. Today, make-up is increasingly being marketed by beauty brands that have an intrinsic understanding of how to constantly reinterpret cosmetics and skin care. And which manage to turn make-up back into a genuine experience.

What all of the big players in the beauty business have in common – from Sephora to Glossier – is that they are constantly finding new ways to reach out directly to their customer base. More importantly than that: they take care of them. Rather than just playing lip service to the feedback they receive, they go ahead and act on it.

Instead of offering up an endless selection of products, they concentrate on what their client base actually needs: one mascara, one lipstick, two shades of rouge. Successful beauty brands also learn from their customers and worked out just how to cater to all their different needs a long time ago. They know that some people are looking for a solution to a specific ‘problem’, while others only want to modify a minor aspect of their appearance. Then there are those who are on the lookout for something for their best friend’s wedding. And they find it on all of the channels they use.

Beauty brands are mobile first, instagrammable and willing to experiment.

They understand how to sell their products on all platforms. Their customers take their messages on board without batting an eyelid; sometimes influencers step up and take over. And even if brands aren’t actually physically present with bricks and mortar stores, they are still around to offer tips and tricks. With videos that have echoes of YouTube tutorials: quick, colourful and easy to copy at home. So that winged eyeliner will definitely be on point this Friday night.

More than just shopping
Sephora is a French cosmetics chain that makes people sit up and take notice all over the world.

The best way to identify a new store opening is from the inevitable crowds of people queuing up outside. Sephora is well known for having one of the most loyal followings out there – its very own social platform, the Beauty Insider Community, is always abuzz with countless customers exchanging info on the latest products at all hours of the day or night. It is also famously technologically minded.


Sephora uses augmented reality better – and has been doing so for longer – than the majority of its competitors. AR mirrors in its stores and an app to use at home let its customers try out different make-ups at the press of a button. And in 2015 the brand launched its free Beauty TIP workshops, with TIP standing for “teach, inspire, play”. This not only gives customers a chance to try out the products, it also exposes them to the rest of the range. Even if they do not end up committing to a purchase. Sephora knows that beauty is not a question of the product itself, but is all about a certain feeling that they want customers to take away with them: i.e. ‘they know what they are doing at Sephora, and I’ll definitely be telling my friends’.

Instagram first

Glossier takes a similar tack. This store, primarily found online, grew from a beauty blog set up by Emily Weiss in the US. And because the statistics say that 80 percent of Gen Z-ers – young people born between 1995 and 2010 – are influenced by what they see on social media when it comes to making a purchase and 72 percent of Instagram users have bought something that popped up in their feed, Glossier had an Instagram profile long before it launched its website. As a result, the packaging is always particularly attractive or inventive – after all, the makers want users to share it on Instagram.


And the same rules apply for its two physical stores, one in New York and the other in Los Angeles. Rather than being about shopping, they want to get people through the doors of the pastel-shaded store to take photos. And there is something else that Glossier does to generate as much attention as possible: every six to eight weeks it brings out a new product – with the full cooperation of its customers, with whom it has its own Slack channel – generating a huge amount of hype every single time. Around the product itself and because people like Beyoncé have been spotted with them at events like the Grammy Awards.

Talking of stars…

…the fact that beauty is so hot right now is down to celebrities. More and more of them are launching their own product lines: Jessica Alba, Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth Paltrow – the list goes on and on. But nobody can hold a candle to the heights hit by Kardashian clan member Kylie Jenner. Her brand Kylie Cosmetics is one of the best-known beauty brands out there and is well on its way to making its 21-year-old namesake the youngest billionaire of all time. Lip Kit, her first product, sold out in minutes. How did she do it? For about 116 million different reasons. Which, coincidentally, is the number of fans she has on Instragram alone…