Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Personal Care Has a Makeover

The personal care category is at the forefront of a huge revolution in terms of consumer adoption, writes Khalid Naseem.
Published 18 Oct, 2023 02:42pm

As gender norms crumble, the world of personal care is undergoing a makeover. From Asia to America, people are embracing a revolution in personal care, and this movement is creeping into our society as well. What is hot in the USA today will be popular in Pakistan soon. The future of beauty is now borderless.

The lines between ‘his’ and ‘hers’ are fast fading. Gender stereotypes are in retreat and no one can dictate which lotion goes on our skin or which razor touches our face. Men are now embracing skincare as if it were the latest tech gadget and women are rocking grooming products that were once labelled for ‘men only.’ In this world, shampoo is not for ‘him’ or ‘her,’ and fragrances don’t play by gender rules. This is a world where gender norms are fusing, where authenticity is being celebrated and marketers are being challenged. It is not so uncommon to see men wearing lipsticks and earrings. Women’s hair is becoming shorter and men’s is becoming longer – although both want fairness because it’s a highly sought-after trait in the marital and job markets.

From childhood, we have been told that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. These norms are then reflected in the ‘pink’ buses for women and the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness. But are these distinctions nothing more than societal labels? The trend towards breaking these norms is a pivotal moment in our evolution. In some market research surveys, the questionnaire will state that ‘housewife’ need not necessarily be the lady of the house, but anyone who does most of the household chores.

Gen Z are rewriting the script by refusing to allow gender norms to define them. Maybe it is because they don’t like to be defined, or because it compromises their individuality. Whatever the reason, the walls of conformity are crumbling as young men wear makeup and skirts. It reflects a determination to stand out and be authentic; one that is reshaping the landscape of self-expression. Covid-19 brought with it the opportunity for Gen Z to re-look at life. Amidst the solitude of quarantine, many found the space to rediscover themselves. Reflecting on who we are is the first step towards dismantling gender norms. The courage to embrace one’s appearance as an expression of authenticity is born from introspection. The seeds of this change were sown by icons such as Michael Jackson and Prince, who shattered barriers, using their art to challenge conventional expectations and their influence resonates today, inspiring a new generation to break free from the chains of conformity.

Colours and styles don’t define us; they are threads in the fabric of our identity. It is about embracing the freedom to be oneself; to wear whatever resonates with our soul.

Social media has turned into the catalyst for acceptance. The ideal of self-expression is spreading like wildfire, inspiring others to shed their inhibitions and embrace themselves as they truly are. Platforms like TikTok (which has become a global stage for individuality) foster communities where authenticity is celebrated.

No doubt with progress comes resistance and there are many people who yearn for a return to the ideals of masculinity. Nevertheless, the tide has shifted. The notion that appearances determine competence is increasingly seen as absurd and that the time has come to acknowledge that clothing is a canvas, not a cage. Colours and styles don’t define us; they are threads in the fabric of our identity. It is about embracing the freedom to be oneself; to wear whatever resonates with our soul.

So how do marketers prepare for the gender-neutral marketing revolution? The playbook of gender norms has been tossed out the window and there is more to it than catchy slogans. It is now about celebrating everyone and making them feel seen, regardless of gender identity.

1. Be Inclusive
The new era demands messages that speak to men and women alike. It’s time to champion inclusivity by embracing gender-neutral language, diverse casting, and showcasing a variety of skin types and body shapes. Campaigns should be a warm hug that welcome everyone to the beauty party.

2. Products for everyone; not labels
Embrace gender-neutral products. From moisturisers to haircare, this is now in a world of ‘equal-opportunities’. I have never hesitated to buy pink razors for my underarms; who’s watching me anyway? By developing products that transcend gender expectations, brands are not just tapping into trends, they are leading the charge for a more open-minded future.

3. Shattering norms
Campaigns that break gender stereotypes and celebrate individuality are the new secret weapon. By showing that beauty has no bounds, you are not just selling a brand, you are shaping culture. News is no longer a touchpoint for men only, and dramas are not only watched by women. We need to re-look at our content as well as where and when we share it.

4. Educate and empower
It’s time to demystify the nuances of gender. Brands need to collaborate with activists, spread awareness, and drive the conversation about the intersection between personal care and gender identity. The message is not just about a product; it’s about moving ahead. It’s not only ‘women who are worth it’, men are worth it too. L’Oréal may have to revisit their communication soon. In this world, personalisation reigns supreme, so use data to your advantage and align your message with each person’s unique style and needs; from the scent that captures their essence to the skincare that reflects their vibe.

In a world where people are redefining themselves, particularly the young, the personal care category is at the forefront of a huge change. The new narrative is about inclusivity and challenging the norms that no longer serve us. Let us all make looking good a celebration for everyone.

Khalid Naseem is a brand and marketing strategy consultant and freelance writer.