Will the UK follow the US lead in the ethnic beauty market?

Black%20is%20beautifulBlack and Asian consumers in the UK are not being properly catered for by the beauty industry, according to research from Mintel (MW last week). A new report says the market for ethnic cosmetics in this country has grown by 24% since 2002, but is still worth only £65m, a scant 2% of the total £3.7bn UK beauty market.

In the US, it’s a different story. Procter & Gamble (P&G) has developed an ad campaign entitled My Black is Beautiful. The packaged-goods giant says it is a movement, rather than just simply advertising, but it is being aimed at a group with huge spending power. As well as traditional advertising, the campaign has a website that encourages women to give feedback and talk with each other, and there are plans for grants for organisations that operate community-based projects to support black women.

Saul Gitlin, executive vice-president of K&L Advertising, a US-based multicultural marketing agency, says: “In the US, companies and brands that are engaged in national promotions can no longer claim comprehensive programming without strong and consistent multi-cultural marketing efforts.” 

Neglected niche
The UK is lagging behind the US in this respect – even P&G has no plans to bring the My Black is Beautiful campaign here. There is no significant UK ad agency that specialises in ethnic-specific campaigns and there is a lack of new product development for ethnic needs. In the lucrative ethnic hair care market, most brands are US imports – with only Toni&Guy’s Model.Me Jamelia range a recent exception.

Despite a growing demand for ethnic-specific products in the UK, manufacturers tend to diversify brands in other directions, such as skin creams for particular age groups, rather than niches within the ethnic market.

Manufacturers may lack new product development, but another hurdle is poor availability. In the black hair care market, most ethnic brands are sold in areas where there is a high ethnic population. Products are retailed from specialist independent retailers in premises that often double as grocer shops. Mainstream retailers, such as Boots and large supermarket chains, have been reluctant to devote shelf space to ethnic lines as they do not consider the market to be large enough.

Ogilvy Advertising senior account planner Haruna McWilliams says: “It is more to do with business priorities than political or ethnic considerations. Decisions are being based on Caucasian needs and wants, and there hasn’t been any clear segmentation in terms of marketing for ethnic minorities.” Experts say the opportunity to develop the female ethnic-specific cosmetics and toiletries market is there, but commitment is required from brands and retailers. They believe mainstream brands may develop more ethnic lines as extensions to existing brands.

Sports brands such as Adidas and Nike have successfully marketed ranges to young black males by positioning them as urban fashion, making prominent use of music and sports stars.

But targeting women from black and other ethnic backgrounds is fraught with difficult issues. These groups of women with growing spending power often feel alienated by the lack of ethnic minority models in the media, especially magazines, both in advertising and editorial. The UK’s most successful black model, Naomi Campbell, said recently that magazines “sidelined black beauty”.

Token gesture
A study by Weber Shandwick Worldwide into UK attitudes of ethnic groups, aged between 18 and 35, revealed 71% of black people and 67% of those from Indian communities believed consumer brands used ethnic faces in advertising only as a token gesture, and that 75% of black people between 18 and 35 years old believed brands are not aware of how to market to individuals from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Weber Shandwick head of multi-cultural communications Rakhee Vithlani says: “Trends from the US, where brands integrate ethnic-specific campaigns within their communications strategies, will increasingly have an effect on the UK and European marketing industry.”