Vanity, Branded

I am a beauty junkie.

On a rare shopping trip with my mother, she picked up a random blusher from the display and asked me, “What does M.A.C stand for?”

I had never thought about it. Never mind that she continued asking me questions such as “Where is it from? Who invented it?” instead of directing them to the staff.

So I was pleased to find “Branded beauty: How marketing changed the way we looked” by Mark Tungate. The book is a mini encyclopedia and history chronicle of the major brands in the beauty industry. I was half-expecting a ‘textbook’ about the marketing of beauty products, but Tungate begins with an interesting overview of ancient beauty trends, which provide an insight into the industry today. Think Egyptian kohl to line the eyes, perfumed soaps in Greek and Roman baths, and hair color in the Dark Ages.

Such were the vanities of the ancient times that eventually led to the existence of brands such as L’oréal, Estee Lauder and Shiseido. Of course, it is relatively easy to scour information about these brands from the Internet, but Tungate adds a personal touch by providing many fascinating and inspiring details about the individuals behind these famous brands, including hard truths from their experiences in making their brands big. He also addresses the impact of the global beauty brands in the digital world and on men; surgical cosmetics; the rise of organic beauty; and the future of beauty.

I was instantly struck, with fascination and horror, by a quote from Helena Rubenstein in chapter one: “Some women won’t buy anything unless they can pay a lot.” You don’t have to be a beauty junkie to read this enjoyable and informative book; it could very well provide an insight on how these brands have shaped consumer perspectives the next time you walk past the beauty department.

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