ON BEAUTY, ITS INDUSTRY AND ADVERTISING IN GENERAL. The Gambit: There is a young woman, a Harvard B student and self-described serial inventor, who has found a way to create 3-D printed makeup. In this video you can see her give a speech in which she says nothing of the quality of the makeup printed and little about how it’s going to actually change things, instead relying on the implication that all women, everywhere, who buy cheap, mass market makeup will shell out $300 to buy her printer and get any color they want at home, never needing to buy it at the store again. She briefly mentions her demographic (the mass market shoppers) and the market size.

The Flaw: Okay. I saw. And really, I’m calling it now, it’s going to be an uphill battle for this chick to get women to change their beauty brand preferences. In fact, she’s just making YSL more covetable. But I digress.

Her speech gives so few details, except for the cost of the initial unit and the ability to use basic software we all have, eschewing the need to buy it.

She also seems to have forgotten that over the years the beauty industry sells the same old, same old, by promising better, more effective ingredients. If I know that Revlon mascara is supposed to give me the fattest lashes ever with some special ingredient that this printer couldn’t possibly have, would I go Revlon? Probably. Can she print 24-hour wearing lipstick? Or organic lipstick that includes moisturizing jojoba oil? No.

She might say, well I’m not going after niche beauty brands or products or their buyers. I’m going after teenagers and college-age girls shopping at Wal-Mart for their necessities who just want the hottest color, and the hottest color I can give them with my printer. To which I say, Darling, these girls want the hottest color, but they’re also poor. What do women strapped for cash often buy to feel pretty (instead of a $200 pair of shoes?) The hottest color in the prettiest package with the sexiest designer name. What do they ask for as a gift? The same. What do they gift each other on birthdays? The same. Especially if their dorm mate already has it or the the captain of their field hockey team.

Will she sell her product? Probably. Will it be the runaway hit she seems to hope it will be? Meh, probably not. Like Go-Go My Walking Pup was to the 90s, it’ll likely be a high-end novelty gift that will likely sit in disuse until the owner grows up or Mom sells it in a yard sale. Will it disrupt the beauty industry? Not unless competitors come along (as with eReaders) creating a saturation point that heightens desire and awareness. She needs to create a market and then share it to succeed.

The Fault in Our Logic: But this is actually indicative of a bigger cultural issue here. In the video she says her motivation is to allow the consumer to “take control” of her own beauty, not let the “corporations” dictate what it should be.

She has made the illogical conclusion that advertisers and corporations are arbitrarily picking trends, forcing them on consumers and raping them of the $20 they spend on high-end lipstick.

In truth, fashion designers and makeup artists use their creativity each year to make art in clothing and makeup. This art gets sent down runways. Editors, corporations and retailers pick what they think consumers want (not what they want consumers to wear, they don’t give a fuck) copy it, mass produce it and sell it.

That’s how it works. The age old question of evil fashion magazines making people feel ugly and fat and beauty companies telling you you’re worthless unless you have this product–that is all a projection of YOUR insecurities.

You cannot hate Glamour magazine for talking about beauty unless you’re already feeling impossibly un-beautiful. You can’t hate Self for talking fitness unless you feel hopelessly unfit. You can’t hate Facebook for helping people endlessly throw their marital and childbearing status in your face, unless this is a sensitive issue for you to begin with.

Why Advertising, So Far, Works: I agree on the general principle that consumers are (thank god) much smarter than ever before. And for that reason the blatantly condescending Mad Men era ads need to be altered.

However, traditional advertising works because it speaks to aspects of our inherent, never changing, human nature. The need to fit in, feel part of something bigger than ourselves, along with the contradiction to feel like an individual; the need for father and mother figures long after we’ve left our parents’ nest (Hey, religion!) guiding us through life and our choices.

Studies have shown humans prefer to be guided. We sort of break down when we’re faced with too many options, we’re immobilized. Instead of choosing, we do nothing. Traditional advertising helps us choose, whether we like it or not. (And, ps, studies have shown we do like advertising when we’re expecting it and it’s good–Hello, Superbowl).

It’s okay to like something just because it makes you feel special (little gold lipstick tube) or like a movie star. The traditional form of beauty marketing actually speaks to the inherent nature of a woman, to her femininity. A simple, rather benign, desire going back thousands of years as evidenced by archeological findings: a desire to be pretty. A desire to be admired.

Originally published at itsaculturething.com.

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