Why Beauty Matters Today
By Abigail Posner
Abigail Posner is EVP, Strategy Director at Publicis New York, leading the development of brand and communications strategies for key clients such as L'Oreal and Nestle. Prior to joining the agency, Abigail spent 11 years at DDB New York, where she co-directed the Strategic Planning department's efforts for a range of clients. Abigail has spoken on beauty and luxury trends and blogs at beautyskew.com. Abigail has also been published in Advertising Age and Ad Map.
With so much turmoil and suffering surrounding us -- double-digit unemployment/underemployment, revolutions in the Middle East, famine in Somalia -- one might argue that the pursuit of beauty should be way down on society's list of priorities. But I see it differently. Now is the time to focus on appreciating and creating beauty.
Why? Art historians and philosophers alike have recognized the tremendous societal value of beauty. When we see something beautiful, it not only elevates our spirits, but forces a hard question on us: Is our current reality as magnificent, harmonious and vibrant as the beauty we are currently seeing? If not, maybe we should change that reality.
Additionally the fact that human beings can produce such beauty affirms our power to mold and shape other things -- like a better, more just world. The pursuit of beauty is really about the quest for improvement. While this analysis is usually applied to works of art -- architecture, landscapes, paintings -- the same holds true for our personal beauty quest. In my study of people's relationships with beauty products and brands, I have seen how deeply transformative this pursuit truly is. Beauty rituals, e.g., make-up application, dressing, hairstyling, tend to be regarded as fun and frivolous at best, vain at worst. But these rituals are actually meaningful and powerful.
On one level, feeling attractive gives us additional confidence to succeed. But on a deeper level, consideration of our own beauty -- like experiencing a beautiful work of art -- can inspire us to change our world. As philosopher Andy Martin writes in his New York Times article on the origins of philosophy, even getting a haircut reminds us that improvement is within reach: "That original, self-conscious, slightly despairing glance in the mirror is a great enabler because it compels us to seek improvement... The inevitable dissatisfaction with one's own appearance is the engine not only of philosophy but of civil society at large."
Yet, my study of beauty rituals reveals that beautification can serve another uniquely important role. Until recently, Americans tended to separate the physical being from the spiritual one (thanks to the lingering effect of our Puritanical past, among other things). And, modern science, perhaps in reaction to religious doctrine, has often exacerbated this separation by either dismissing or downplaying our non-physical side. In today's digital age, many feel this disconnect even more acutely as so much of our daily lives (our friends, fantasies, creativity) is conducted via an electronic device.
But as Eastern medicine has long taught, our bodies and emotions are inextricably linked, and physical nurturing affects our physical and emotional health. Many medical studies have proved the healing benefits of touch. It communicates love, and therefore, triggers and reconnects us with our emotional selves.
My work on the beautification process reveals a similar phenomenon. When we care for our bodies i.e., primping, caressing, and touching them, we're caring for and reconnecting with our whole selves. And, as sources ranging from Buddhism to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs teach us, it is only when we feel whole and emotionally fit can we truly look outward, concentrate on, and undo the suffering of others.
Yes, the world may be full of problems, but the appreciation of beauty may actually help us solve them. So when you get ready in the morning, try on new lipstick, or buy a new tie; realize that you're not just trying to look better. You may just be giving yourself the spark you need to improve the world around you.
1. Beauty, Roger Scruton (2010)
2. On Beauty and Being Just, Elaine Scarry (2001)
3. The Architecture of Happiness, Alain De Botton (2008)
4. "How Important is Physical Contact with Your Infant?" Katherine Harmon, Scientific American 5/6/10; The Power of Touch, Phyllis David, Ph.D., 1999; "The effect of therapeutic touch on behavioral symptoms of persons with dementia," Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 11(1): 66-74
5. "The Phenomenolgy of Ugly", New York Times. Andy Martin (August 10, 2010)
Ultra Chic ... Ultra Accessible ... Ultra Diamonds
Founded in 1991, Ultra Diamonds has grown into the fifth largest retailer of fine jewelry in the United States. Operating 165 stores in 33 states, they recently unveiled their new JGA-designed prototype at Woodbury Commons in Central Valley, NY. The new environment is chic, unexpected and accessible, recognizing the breadth of selection, categories and designers that are core to this broad and diverse collection. With fresh merchandise arriving daily, their ever-changing selection provides the Ultra Diamonds customer with the means to satisfy their taste for luxury and value, featuring items perfect for self-purchase or gifting. A center island acts as a classification and service hub to the adjacent walk-around satellite selling areas. This allows for selling areas and merchandise security to have a more controlled approach to merchandise presentation. Unexpected and light-hearted accents, unique table legs, cantilever cases, finish and carpet patterns, and accent shades bring style and flair to complement the store's sleek and streamlined fixturing, lending a contemporary edge. For more information on the all-new Ultra Diamonds, click here.
Pat Dalessandro Named JGA Director of Client Strategy
Patrick Dalessandro was recently named JGA Director of Client Strategy. In his new role, Pat will focus on relationship building through strategic leadership and development. In announcing the appointment of Dalessandro to Director of Client Strategy, Ken Nisch, JGA Chairman, said, "With his experience in event mobile marketing and pop-ups, Pat's expertise can add considerably to our placed-based experience as retailers seek ever more nimble and diverse ways in which to express and communicate their brands and sell product."
Pat has acted both as consultant and executive for successful international experiential marketing, sports management and business advisory firms. Formerly Vice President of Business Development at Motorsports Experience International, Pat specialized in business and marketing solutions for commercial clients and brands vested in motorsports. Prior to that, he was a Managing Director for Accenture in its Global Mobilization Practice. For more, click here.
Consumer Values Redefine the Luxury Market
Internationally recognized luxury expert, Pamela Danziger, has just published her fourth book focusing on consumer insights, "Putting the Luxe Back in Luxury." The book highlights how the market for luxury brands has changed, but still offers opportunities for those who understand their customers' changing priorities. Featured in the book is a chapter written by JGA Chairman, Ken Nisch, who explained, "It all goes back to the definition of luxury. To some it is scarcity, to others it's price, or aspiration. Luxury has become more democratic, so for example, luxury is more inclusive, rather than exclusive, or just for the chosen few." Ken warned luxury marketers both in the service sector like restaurants and hotels, and consumer goods manufacturers that they need to pay keen attention to the idea of value and how it affects the customer's perception relative to the transaction." For more on Pam's book, which is now available on Kindle too, click here.
Kudos to Clients
JGA clients have been making news. Here's a quick round-up of those savvy retailers who are getting noticed for their outstanding accomplishments. Congratulations!
Casual Male Retail Group has been named MR Retailer of the Year for 2011. This prestigious recognition comes along with comments by MR publisher Stu Nifoussi who said, "We've been a fan of Casual Male over the years, but have been particularly impressed as they moved to much larger and more exciting [Destination XL] stores as a growth engine for attracting more of their core audience." The brand will be profiled in MR's November issue. More here.
Ascena Retail Group has been named by the National Retail Federation STORES Magazine as the leader in their annual Hot 100 Retailers list. With JGA-designed concepts for their dressbarn and Maurice's brands, Ascena was recognized for their ability to "navigate the rough waters and boost sales by double-digits" by catering to distinct market segments. More here.
Alexandre Tadeau da Costa, President of Cacau Show in Brazil was recently named 2011 Ernst & Young Terco Entrepreneur of the Year. Considering key aspects such as strategic direction, innovation, ethics and personal influence, community impact, financial performance and entrepreneurial spirit, Alexandre will be Brazil's representative at the international event to be held in Monaco. Click on Brazil here. Ken Nisch and Alexandre also will be presenting a special presentation focusing on iconic visual merchandising at the upcoming POPAI Conference in San Paulo on October 5th. For details, click here.
The Turkey Hill Experience has been named to "America's 10 Best Ice Cream Factory Tours" by Frommer's. A 26,000 square foot attraction in Columbia, Pennsylvania, the Experience pays homage to Turkey Hill's history while highlighting its ice cream and iced tea-making processes. Its interactive exhibits, cafe and gift shop provide tons of fun for the entire family. More here.
Cowboy Paradise: Wrangler Rides into its First Store in Colorado
The August issue of VMSD Magazine featured The Original Wrangler Store prototype designed by JGA. With a magazine feature and audio interview by Ken Nisch, the magazine highlighted the new 7,474 square-foot store that carries Wrangler's full product line. To stay true to the western lifestyle, the store's materials - telephone pole timbers, denim pockets decorating the cashwrap and life-sized horse forms - are reused, repurposed or reclaimed in some way. For more on the concept, click here.
Trend Watch: New Ways to Energize the Sales Floor and Shave Operating Costs
New Zealand Retail magazine writer Vilma Barr, recently turned to Ken Nisch for his take on fixturing, mannequins and display, lighting and building systems. Featured among his observations on EuroShop (Dusseldorf 3/11) and recently completed projects for Destination XL, Tapper's, Hot Topic and Cortefiel (Spain), Ken commented, "Retailers today want more environment for their money. They are more open to consider the store as a gallery or exhibit setting for their merchandise." More here.
Dreams Come True at Virginia Tile
Indian design magazine VMRD announced the launch of the new 4,600 square foot boutique showroom for specialty building material resource, Virginia Tile in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The store features a wide selection of porcelain and ceramic tile, and natural stone materials organized into zones where vertical displays and panels illustrate a world of possibilities. For more on the innovative space, click here.
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