This week, I take a close look at a men’s grooming brand that expanded its focus to include women, amid a bigger boom in unisex and gender-neutral beauty. Scroll down to use Glossy+ Comments, allowing the Glossy+ community to join discussions around industry topics.
Gender-neutral and unisex beauty make up a buzzy category, and existing gendered brands are plotting to get in on the action.
As unisex or gender-neutral beauty continues to find its footing in the beauty industry, and customers shed inhibitions regarding gendered marketing and branding, traditionally gendered brands are finding value in going gender-neutral. A recent example includes the 7-year-old brand Geologie, which came to market to simplify the skin-care experience for men. In early 2021, Dave Skaff and Nick Allen, co-founders of Geologie, noticed a small but growing percentage of female customers, based on data from Geologie’s skin-care quiz, which asks people what their sex is. Today, women represent 30% of the brand’s customers. And since mid-2021, when Geologie evolved its branding to be unisex, women have comprised 40% of all new customers. Geologie is distributed through its DTC website, as well as Amazon. Amazon comprises 10% of its sales, and Geologie doubled its overall annual sales in 2022, said Allen.
It’s a universal truth that pretty much all beauty products are unisex – no product prohibits a specific gender from using a fragrance, for example. It’s merely the marketing that is gendered. But as a brand originally tailored toward men, Geologie risked alienating its core customer base as it shifted to a unisex positioning.
“The younger audience already understands a bit about skin health and has more gender-fluid attitudes. That helped inform us, as well. Strong male and female [branding] preferences are not quite as rigid as perhaps in the past,” said Allen. “[Becoming gender neutral] actually helped reinforce our messaging, which is, ‘There’s a lot of noise in the skin-care world. … But [what’s effective] comes down to the ingredients and what’s tried and true, and clinically tested.’”
Key changes to the brand included updating its packaging to reflect the exact percentages of key ingredients like niacinamide or retinol, to address the needs of more sophisticated female shoppers. Packaging also adopted colors like yellow, light purple and soft green. In addition, Geologie’s new product development pipeline broadened to cover more skin, body and hair-care needs. And more universally appealing scents like clove and jasmine were incorporated. In the last 18 months, Geologie has substantially added products to its portfolio, including hair care, body care, a vitamin C serum and a deodorant.
There is strong evidence to suggest customers are amenable to the idea of gender-neutral or unisex brands, and that they would welcome the uncoupling of gender and products from previously gendered brands. A 2019 Pew survey of 10,000 Americans found that about 59% of Gen Zers said forms that ask about a person’s gender should include options besides “male” and “female,” compared with 50% of millennials that said the same and 37% of baby boomers. Notably, Geologie customers of both sexes are typically under 30-years-old. According to Traackr data, between June 2019 and June 2021, there was a 35% increase in gender-neutral social media beauty posts, plus a 24% increase in the number of influencers talking about gender-neutral beauty online.
Other brands have also dipped toes into the unisex space, if not outright embracing it in the name of inclusivity. In 2016, MAC Cosmetics sold a unisex product collection before going further in 2021 by launching a gender-fluid line with fashion designer Harris Reed. Of course, buzzy brands have recently launched as gender-neutral, mostly in skin care. Namely, Harry Styles’ Pleasing, Non Gender Specific, Very Good Light and Gen-Z-focused brand Fieldtrip. P&G also launched an ungendered skin-care line, Good Skin MD, in June 2021. Fashion brands have also tackled the gender-neutral and unisex concept, with notable sub-brands like Altuzarra’s Altu, Marc Jacobs’ Heaven and Pacsun’s Colour Range.
In step with the rebrand, Geologie also realized the need to shift its online advertising strategy on Meta. It switched off the option to target only men. Its Meta ads predominantly feature a $5 offer for its trial set of five products or a $9 offer for its hair care when people take a product recommendation quiz and use a coupon code. In addition, as part of its paid influencer marketing, Geologie solicited more female content creators in 2021, including professional surfer Tia Blanco. However, the brand’s influencer marketing spend is not 50-50 male and female, said Allen; Geologie spends “slightly” more on male influencers overall. Geologie still maintains other channels where it previously worked to target men, such as Twitch and Discord. Notably, Geologie dedicates most of its influencer marketing investment to YouTube.
As for its owned social media, Geologie beefed up its content by adding more in-depth education around products and ingredients to address a more skin-care-savvy female audience. Before 2021, the brand’s Instagram account featured various pictures of men using Geologie, sports references and customer testimonials, often of the humorous variety. Currently, there is a mix of beauty tips or hacks, pictures of men and women, and videos of female employees and influencers explaining ingredients and products. Allen said that, since Geologie began targeting and addressing more women in its social media and advertising, engagement via its comments and questions has increased.
“We receive more detailed and tougher questions from women. That gives us even more opportunities to educate everybody,” said Skaff.
By evolving into a unisex brand, while also expanding its product line, Geologie has a stronger potential to score coveted retail shelf space. Allen said Geologie is ready for retail and is in discussions with “major” potential partners.
“We’ve been known for skin care; as time goes on, we hope to [solidify the idea] that we’re not just a skin-care brand, and we’re not just for men,” said Allen.
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