Branded Beauty offers a comprehensive history of the standards of beauty from the ancients down through the modern era.
This history launches key insight into how the beauty industry evolved into a monolithic market. Mark Tungate retells the humble beginnings of major brands like Elizabeth Arden, Estee Lauder, L’O’real, Proctor & Gamble, Nivea, and Revlon and the role that sales and marketing played in the building of these brands. Intrinsic in how each brand built its empire is the concept of selling luxury and glamour to everyday women, as well as how packaging and design influenced those perceptions.
These brands remained close to women, learned their fears and subtleties, and delivered solutions in upscale packaging and slick advertisements. They also used a narrative style of marketing that women even to this day respond to. Tungate retells, for example, how Charles Revson “would wear nail varnish and lipstick to bed just to see how it looked the next morning” (37) and how Estee Lauder would rub cream on potential customers giving them a first-hand account of the texture. There were countless other instances that bring the level of detail and attention these beauty industry pioneers paid to the predicament of their customers in full focus.
Tungate weaves ubiquitous mantras like “Maybe she’s born with it” and “Real Beauty” into section dividers along with “Beauty Tips” which sum up the major points of the preceding chapter. This structure makes it easy for the avid reader who prefers to soak in details and the skimmer to follow along. From a marketing standpoint, offering these two ways to participate resonates with readers—women readers especially—who have heavy demands on their time but also have some interest in the subject matter. Tungate shows that beauty brands serve a purpose, despite how deceptive their marketing practices can be, in serving up “comfort, hope, and sensual pleasure," which has its own merits in its own right, giving a strong indication into where the industry is headed. To this, Tungate offers this prediction: “It seems that, as long as beauty brands carry on telling us stories, we will carry on listening to them.” (256)
This book’s greatest credit is in bringing to life the evolution of beauty brands (and their founders), how they broke into pseudoscience, and spelling out the enduring quest for youth in the human appetite in pure storybook form. Rather than touting statistics and playing into corporate biographies, Tungate probes questions and presents new angles in understanding ‘the tyranny of beauty’. In many ways, Branded Beauty is a textbook, offering marketers and entrepreneurs alike insight into the makings of successful businesses. Tungate understood that the values of a brand lie in the experiences of its leaders and he eloquently allows the reader to connect the dots and appreciate the challenges and triumphs that occurred behind the scenes. An important take-away: at the root of each brand is the principle of hard work—often stemming from immigrant backgrounds and personal set-backs—and the undeniable drive to better the best.