Benefit reviews its brand DNA to keep up with Gen Z

Benefit is updating its brand positioning to ensure it is relevant among a new wave of consumers looking for inspiration rather than aspiration and as it faces growing competition from direct-to-consumer brands.

Benefit is plotting an update to its brand DNA as it looks to ensure it is relevant to a new generation of consumers more interested in inspiration than aspiration and amid growing competition from direct-to-consumer brands.

The beauty brand is currently “knee-deep” in the review, which has taken 18 months so far. Updates are set to include a change in colour to make the brand brighter and “streamline pink”. But Lou Bennett, head of marketing in UK and Ireland for Benefit Cosmetics, is adamant it would be “wrong of us to change our core DNA for a generation”.

“Our brand values, that were established in 1976, are still so pertinent today. We are going through a brand DNA update, which is really exciting, but it’s more of an evolution to make sure we’re still relevant,” she explains, speaking to Marketing Week at an Impero event this morning (13 February).

“”It would be wrong of us to change our core DNA for a generation. But if you take the value of being girly, that means something so different today to [in 1976] so we wanted to make sure that feels relevant and not alienating.

“We also took the San Francisco scene, which has always been one of our brand values, and updated it to the San Francisco spirit. It’s about the vibe and attitude rather than the place.”

The move comes as the beauty market shifts, with the next generation of consumers demanding more diversity and brand purpose, and a focus on inclusive beauty. Bennett highlights that Gen Z has buying power worth £44bn globally, meaning the brand has to check it has “the right tone of voice, the right tools in place, our values are aligned and we are still relevant to the customer of tomorrow.”

Bennett adds: “The whole definition of aspirational has changed, particularly in what Gen Z views as aspirational. With millennials it was all about the aspirational money-can’t-buy and Gen Z is the total opposite of that; it’s ‘I want her to look like me’ , ‘I want her to feel like me’, ‘I want to know I could be up there’.

“We are a global authority on so many things it’s really important we don’t become an inaccessible authority because premium beauty has traditionally been very exclusive rather than inclusive. It’s all been about what you needed to fix and what flaws you had and how to fix those wrinkles, whereas we say embrace it, laughter’s the best cosmetic.”

The market is also changing as the beauty industry sees an influx of direct-to-consumer brands such as Fenty Beauty and Glossier. But rather than react by expanding product lines and radical updates, Benefit is going “as deep as we can on the things we are good at”.

READ MORE: Why direct-to-consumer beauty brand Glossier is ripping up the marketing playbook

Bennett explains: “We have approximately 250 products in our range. Other beauty brands probably have that [just] in lipsticks, but it’s really important that we stay in our lane and go as deep as we can on the things we’re good at.”

So far, that focus seems to have paid off with the brand selling the top three mascaras, the top primer and the most popular cheek colour in the UK.

Despite that success, Bennett still sees Benefit as a “disruptor”. She explains: “We’ve never behaved like a traditional premium beauty brand and even within [owner] LVMH we are probably the Gen Z and the disruptor.”

If anything, Bennett thinks brands like Glossier, which reached £77.7m in sales last year, are having a “a really positive” effect on the industry.

She explains: “They’re making everyone really up their game and sit up and see how quick and agile brands can be in terms of serving consumers and being really consumer-centric.”

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