Author: Mark Tungate

Publisher: Kogan Page, 277 pages

Book Review by Laxmi Chaandi

This is a revealing book on the business of beauty, which Mark Tungate, a writer on advertising, branding, communication and marketing, says is a $350 billion industry.

He looks at the beauty industry as it grew from infancy – from its origins with Queen Cleopatra in Egypt – to its evolution into a mammoth business worldwide, with its capitals in Paris in Europe and New York in the United States, to now having spread its wings into the emerging markets in Asia and South America and the rest of the world.

Mark Tungate takes a look at numerous beauty brands and how the owners built their brands from Aesop to Zara and how many of them became household names, such as Avon, Body Shop, Chanel, Clinique, Dior, Elizabeth Arden, Estee Lauder, Helena Rubinstein, Lancome, L’Oreal, Max Factor, Nivea, Revlon and Shiseido, to name a few.

I discovered as I read this book that the beauty industry, which includes, but is not limited to cosmetic products for the face, hair, hands, toes and other parts of the body, is a highly competitive one, with well-guarded secrets not only on the product formulas themselves but also on brand-building and marketing strategies.

Does advertising of beauty products make us want to buy them even if we hadn’t thought we need them? It looks to be so. For example, there are companies out there whose advertising promises to lighten wrinkle lines or marks. Do they keep their promises? Apparently so, otherwise consumers will stop using them.

And until the recent past, most of us did not even think this was possible. But in today’s marketplace, sales of wrinkle-removing creams have grown at a brisk pace, whereas at one time, such items were non-existent.

So the answer to the question of whether we need a product or not is that human beings are more likely than not willing to try a product because their desire to look better is strong. And once they buy and use the product and are pleased with the results, they will keep buying that product and may even try a similar product of a competitor.

Because there is a great want among people in general to look better – be it to have lighter skin tone, fewer wrinkles or lighter wrinkle lines, shinier hair, a better-shaped body, etc., the number and sales volumes of companies selling beauty products has grown tremendously.

Today there is intense competition for customers among these companies. Referring to the growing beauty industry, the basic theme of this book is described in its flap in this way: “Over the years, it has used flattery, seduction, science and shame to persuade consumers that they have to invest if they want to look their best.”

In Branded Beauty, author Mark Tungate looks at products by visiting the labs where they’re created, and strategies used by the makers to market, advertise and sell their products. His visits in surveying the beauty business have taken him from Paris with its “luxury boutiques” to as the tattoo parlors in Brooklyn, New York.

In his Conclusion, Mark Tungate asserts that the beauty industry is not an “outright villain” trying to push beauty products upon women and some men.

He says that over the ages and in many cultures, “their desire to appear more beautiful can be attributed to many things – status, sexual selection, even empowerment – but it cannot be entirely ascribed to pressure from male-dominated cosmetics companies abetted by a misogynistic media.”

A lot of hard work by Mark Tungate seems to have gone into writing this book as reflected in the mention of so many companies, their strategies at competing with one another and their brand-building activities. He is to be congratulated for this unique work

on the business of beauty, which has obviously changed the way we look. And I assert that we certainly look better than our ancestors.