Question: Is beauty becoming homogenized?
Jones: I think most of the 20th Century saw a huge wave of this
homogenization, but I think it’s also important to remember that this
wave of homogenization was never complete. And this proved to be really
difficult for companies as they sought to globalize the industry. To
give some examples... So as companies pushed out their brands and went
to different markets, they discovered, often to their surprise that
different cultures, different societies continued to have some very
distinct preferences that were very hard to shift.
United States was a huge consumer of makeup. Europeans and East Asians
spend much greater on skin care. East Asians hardly spent on perfume and
whatever companies did, they have so far failed to raise that. The
French had disproportionate spending on perfumes. So for all the
homogenization going on in how we meant to be beautiful, persistent
national differences were still noticeable. And my argument is that
globalization in the last 20 years has started to work in the opposite
direction from how it worked previously. I think globalization is
spreading diversity now rather than constricting it. And there's a
number of reasons why this is happening. One is that in the major
western nations, the United States or France, populations are ethnically
very diverse now, so there was simply a lot of different marketing
opportunities that companies wish to take advantage of.
the rise of power and wealth of countries like China, India, and
Russia, is suddenly making their beauty ideals aspirational, perhaps.
Certainly impossible to ignore. So the major players in the industry now
are very interested in supplying those markets, for sure. But also
experimenting with taking their beauty ideals and brands derived from
those ideals back to western countries as consumers now increasingly
seek greater diversity in what it means to be beautiful.
Recorded on April 21, 2010