Question: How are western beauty brands expanding into the developing world?
Geoffrey Jones: As Russia and China and now India really opened up to global capitalism, to foreign firms, the very first reaction of consumers was a great hunger for western brands. Local products, if they were made at all were poor quality, dangerous, and absolutely lacking in aspirational value whatsoever. So, these new markets, these so-called "BRICs," have proved incredibly attractive to beauty companies and have grown incredibly quickly. China in 1980 didn’t have a beauty industry. Mao Tse-Tung had abolished it, as a matter of fact; it was regarded as a sign of bourgeois decadence. It’s now the fourth beauty market in the world. Let’s see, it’s the third biggest, Russia is eighth biggest. So all of these markets have seen this in-pouring of western brands.
The interesting thing is that over time we’ve seen, particularly in the case of China, growing confidence among consumers in traditional beauty ideals and practices, and this has increasingly obliged companies to consider and implement what we call local customization of various kinds.
So, in China today, there’s a huge demand for local ingredients, you know, ginseng skin cream, or whatever. And so even if a brand is a global brand, like Olay, or L’Oreal Paris, actually the ingredients often reflect a sort of local content. But it’s more than that. Companies have shifted, again in China in particular, from using western models—which a brand like L’Oreal Paris always did—to using local models. But it’s more than this, because they increasingly, or no pretty much always use local photographers, local agencies to do all the shots because they are very, very anxious to capture local feelings.
So, we live in a, I think, in an interesting period where globalization and tribalization are sort of dramatically interacting in the global industry.