Category Archives: beauty

Cultural Dimensions and Possible Futures

There is a distinction between uncertainty and ambiguity.  We live in ambiguous times, not uncertain times.  There is relevant information available for us to better understand the possible future ahead.  The key to robust foresight is the ability to effectively combine distinct analysis tools to clarify the details of social change.

Central to the toolkit I teach to students and use with clients is a method of applied semiotics called Culture Mapping.  Culture Mapping allows us to analyze language as patterns of social change.  It provides a matrix to measure the way language migrates in meaning as it is used to express our affirmation or dissent from established societal codes.  

Other tools are useful in providing additional context to establish hypotheses for analysis. For example, Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions allows us to establish benchmarks of distinct contextual meaning from county to country.  This is particularly useful when determining how social language might affirm or deviate from norms in a country.

The foundation of these cultural dimensions is very useful for discourse analysis.  The key is to see how the emerging language is deviating from certain norms. The signifiers of these deviations provide taxonomies that indicate the dynamics of change within that country.  Evaluation of the distinction between probable and possible futures is determined by that taxonomy more than any other factor.

In the examples, here, I propose how EV adoption might differ in China vs. the USA.  The language in the commercials provides examples of linguistic differences that confirm the hypothesis established by the cultural dimensions.  How EV adoption evolves in each country will reflect the expressed synergy of dissonance in each cultural power system.  How well each country trusts or mistrusts the social order they are in.

How South Korea emerged as the center of the beauty industry is another interesting case study of cultural dimensions related to the semiotics of everyday life.  Beauty in South Korea has become an expression of the tension of cultural dimensions.  The innovation in the category has a lot to do with the dynamics of rapid socio-economic growth, rigid competitiveness, perfection, and an emerging desire to break away from all that and be relaxed and comfortable in one’s own decisions.


TikTok Is Changing What It Means to Be ‘Old’

“I started noticing this trend of people who are essentially your peers, they’re a few years younger than you, addressing people who are older than them like they’re elderly, talking to them like they’re a senior citizen,” says Laurier, who is based in the US state of Georgia. In January, she made a TikTok about the “rampant” ageism she sees on the app. “The way that it is normal these days for someone in their late teens or early twenties to call someone in their late twenties or thirties ‘old’ or ‘washed up’ … I just find that really disturbing,” she said in the video.

The Golden Era of Celebrity Beauty Brands Is Ending

The bubble is bursting as shoppers increasingly favor quality over star power.

More than 50 celebrities and influencers — from singer Lady Gaga to tennis phenom Naomi Osaka — have launched cosmetic, haircare and skincare brands in just the last three years, according to a Bloomberg News tally. The US beauty industry is particularly alluring due to high operating margins and the daily-use nature of many products. Like other parts of the consumer sector, the boom was also fueled by cheap digital advertising and all the money sloshing around the economy due to low interest rates.

But rates have surged, fears of a recession linger and consumer preferences have changed. Post-pandemic shoppers are more interested in skincare than makeup. They’re also more discerning and increasingly considering a brand’s quality and authenticity — or the lack thereof — thanks to the flood of product reviews on platforms like TikTok and Reddit. A celebrity’s backing doesn’t matter to a majority of female shoppers, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence survey of 650 cosmetics and skincare users in January.

Post-Orgasm: Why this era of sexy beauty is different

The resurgence of sexy beauty is a strong swing of the pendulum, then, back to the ways of Y2K, and comes as somewhat of a surprise seeing as Gen Z are reportedly going through a sex recession. The stats around this so-called celibacy are a little shaky (most are based on a study from 2017), yet the reasoning tracks; experts believe Gen Z are having less sex due to the distractions of social media, a decrease in drinking culture and living with their parents for longer — not to mention the pandemic. Young people are also living in a post-Roe v. Wade society where attitudes towards sex sometimes seem to be becoming more conservative and are far more aware of both sexual violence and the emotional risks of dating, contributing to a more cautious approach to sex. That being said, this all remains generational speculation — for now — and sex-forward apps such as Feeld suggest the appetite for sex is still there after all. So what is actually true?

Lipstick’s Complex History

Lipstick is a surprisingly political product. From the early uses in ancient societies, to rebellious years of the 1970s when it was “adopted by both sexes of the punk-rock music and cultural movement to express sex, violence and general nonconformity,” to current debates over the use of animal testing to ensure consumer safety, it’s now a common if still sometimes controversial sight. But, as Schaffer cautions, lipstick’s pattern of going “from the heights of popularity to the depths of social unacceptability make[s] it much more likely than most people probably imagine for lipstick to go severely out of fashion.”

The Chinese Consumer’s Sense of Identity vis-à-vis Brand Communication

In China, whenever there is a felt dissonance between the Self and the external world (e.g., disagreement with authorities or media), the external mask solidifies to play along. Having said that, Chinese citizen do seek to balance personal, cultural, and national narrative & identity layers (and more so than Westerners): to reduce unnecessary friction that may impact relationships, the feeling of security, and indeed one’s Sense of Identity.

How Niche Beauty Brands Can Attract Investment from China

A compelling country-of-origin association can also help make a foreign brand attractive to Chinese investors. Geoskincare is a natural skin care brand founded by a dermatologist Penny Vergeest in New Zealand in 2000 and acquired by Chinese businessman Liu Xiaokun (also known as Aaron Liu) in 2014.

When asked to describe his brand in a few words for an interview published on trade show Cosmoprof’s website, Liu says simply: “Natural, new-tech and New Zealand.” Its credentials, in terms of being “natural” are bolstered by coming from New Zealand and continuing to source products there, a country widely associated in Chinese consumers’ minds with a pristine environment.

‘Teenage dirtbag’ nostalgia catches on in beauty

Founded in 2016 and launched in Sephora in 2018, Good Dye Young saw a sales surge during the hair-dye craze of the pandemic lockdown, said O’Connor. He pinpointed this as a turning point leading to a more rebellious streak in beauty overall. “People realized that they had the freedom to be themselves. There was no job, employer or office work setting; no school administration; no teacher telling you, ‘You can’t do that because it’s distracting,’” he said.

TikTokers have taken up “deinfluencing.

“Deinfluencing” is a term that’s been recently invented by creators who are urging viewers not to buy something, or calling criticism to cult-favorite products. Because influencers are known to shill products — at any unethical cost peril to their reputations, as we’ve seen with MascaraGate — “deinfluencing” is meant to invert that notion.