MarketWell voices: Beautygeek Janine Falcon on misinfomarketing
This month, we spoke to Janine Falcon. A longtime beauty editor, blogger and the founder of Beautygeeks, Falcon shared her insight on how
marketers can improve their communications. While the advice is aimed at beauty brands, it’s certainly relevant to all wellbeing marketers.
As someone who has been a beauty editor since before social media influencers were a thing, how do you think sharing information about beauty products has changed since the inception of blogs and influencers?
Beauty product information has… expanded. There’s so much more detail to be found now. In print, writers are constrained by space, by word count, by the number of pages sold to advertisers. (So often during my time at a print magazine I had to whittle the text down to next to nothing because the name of the actual product involved a lot of words to begin with!)
Online has no such restriction. Many bloggers dive deep into every aspect of the products they feature, noodling about ingredients, textures, efficacy and comparisons against all similar items they’ve tried.
Not all product features are really detailed, however. Some lifestyle influencers can simply feature themselves using a product, or put it in a pretty photograph, and make an impact. Depends on how they’ve “trained” their audience, really.
Has the value or accuracy of the information changed?
One of the best things about online beauty reviews is that consumers can easily look to someone who shares similar concerns, whether it’s age, skin type, hair type, budget and so forth. From a trusted source, that information is valuable guidance in regards to quality, potential satisfaction and value for the price tag. As well, readers can ask questions or request clarification in the comments if need be. That’s not so easy when you’re dealing with a publication.
One of the worst things about online beauty information is the absence of fact-checking. Misinfluencer Gwyneth Paltrow is the worst offender because she’s got a huge reach and a credulous following, but few influencers and bloggers ever really bother to make sure they’re sharing accurate information. Most simply react to the most frightening stuff they see or hear. Misinformation, disinformation and something I like to call misinfomarketing is rampant.
What mistakes do you see beauty marketers making? And why are they mistakes?
Beauty marketers often seem to make the same mistakes misinfluencers make. They don’t take the time to consult proper experts such as cosmetic scientists and formulators who have the training and exper
tise required to read and understand accredited studies. (Also an issue: cherry-picking data that supports a pre-formed theory.)
We’re still seeing silly things such as a large retailer promoting a “chemical-free” (the entire earth is chemical) sunscreen, brands calling oils “hydrating” when they contain no water, and the continued blacklisting of parabens (still our safest preservatives) based on one old, flawed, retracted study.
“Reef-safe” sunscreen is another false move; it’s based on a less-than-scientific “experiment” involving a broken-off piece of coral reef in a beaker.* On top of that, one of the authors of that so-called study profits from certifying sunscreens as reef safe.
More recently, misunderstood reports of benzene** (a carcinogen and common environmental contaminant) and PFAS (man-made degrade-proof chemicals “widely used to make various types of everyday products,”*** got the media hyped up about “toxic cosmetics” again, but the fact is that neither benzene nor PFAS is ever deliberately added to makeup or skincare, and the trace levels at which they were detected aren’t as worrisome as the reports suggested.
The benzene and PFAS reports aren’t marketing issues quite yet, but if smart marketing people consult the right experts – cosmetic scientists, for example – they won’t ever become marketing issues.
* https://www.instagram.com/p/COiIqyCHSZ0/ (reef safe)
** https://www.instagram.com/p/CQD94H0nHFV/ (benzene)
** https://www.instagram.com/p/CPa69UFHSpo/ (benzene)
*** https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/pfc/index.cfm (PFAS)
More PFAS: https://www.instagram.com/p/CQYulFZAj4t/
Based on the feedback you get from your community, what are consumers looking for from beauty brands in terms of content, education and/or marketing?
We all want the same thing: the truth, transparency and a bit of education w
ere necessary to avoid fear mongering and misinformation. And hello, good timing: Deciem is setting an example with a new “Everything Is Chemical” campaign strategy that seems to be built on combating some of the misinformation clogging our social media channels. It’s not an easy route; the brand was called out on Instagram for mixing up adrenaline and adrenochrome in their debut ad. Oops. But 24 hours later, they acknowledged and corrected the error thanks to the scientists who had pointed it out. Respect.
Drawing on your work as a brand partner/ambassador, what should marketers keep in mind to make the most of their relationships with influencers?
The best thing marketers can (still) do is know who they’re working with, whether that partner is focussed on the science of a product or excels at highlighting an experience. Knowing what your ambassador likes to talk about or WHO your ambassador would like to interview is basic to a strong campaign. For the most part, I think that already happens; I’ve been quite fortunate in all my partnerships. (A quick look at my Instagram grid makes my stance on certain things quite obvious, too.)
Knowing facts from fear mongering is just as important, though. The number of social media accounts devoted to mythinformation/misinformation-busting is growing larger and louder. A smart person in the marketing field would keep up to date with experts such as Dr. Michelle Wong (@labmuffinbeautyscience), Jennifer Novakovich (@theecowell) and Caroline Hirons (@carolinehirons), to name a few, are talking about.