Beauty is about fantasy. And Brandon Truaxe of Deciem, the company behind The Ordinary, Niod, and Hylamide is ripping that fantasy apart. At least, in an advertising and marketing sense. That’s not a bad thing. It’s something I wish more beauty brands would do.
For Brandon, it started with a series of posts on Instagram featuring garbage dumps with captions that read like company memos. He promised that Deciem will be working towards plastic-free packaging for their brands. He addressed his suppliers by first name, apologizing for the business ties this decision has caused. There is a whole string of “drama” that followed including apologies for not being able to sell a new product, off-the-cuff video messages to consumers, and Brandon relinquishing his title of CEO. If you need to catch up, The Cut offers a concise series of events. And if you keep scrolling through Deciem’s Instagram page, it keeps going as Brandon has basically treated it like a personal account.
What I’m here to discuss is how Brandon’s approach was a little disturbing to some but also refreshing. What first looked like a breakdown is now revealed to be clever way to tear down how beauty branding can suck us into a different world. On any beauty brand’s Instagram page you’ll see beautiful flat lays, product shots with dramatic lighting, and a wonderful photo of the model or even a celebrity ambassador.
Though Deciem hasn’t completely done away with commercial product shots, Brandon’s posts which let him speak directly to consumers are as pure as his glycolic solutions.You don’t see a Hollywood A-lister telling you that moisturizer is all she needs to prepare for the red carpet or how a model packs a small kit to look fabulous as she steps out of the plane.
Beauty advertisement and marketing, no matter how you see it, is all about the feeling. A lipstick sells not just because of high-quality pigment but because of how it makes you feel. Suddenly, when you swipe on the same lipstick Gigi Hadid does, you’re suddenly walking down the streets of California and feeling like a super model. The results may be real and advertisers are often not lying to you (because that’s illegal), but the vibe it gives makes you think you get more than what you paid for.
But Brandon’s posts and current mantra, which have now escalated to calling out some news outfits for sensationalized headlines, pop those fantasies like the pimples that they are. No moisturizer in the world will ever make you look like Miranda Kerr. Unless you do look like Miranda to begin with. A good moisturizer should at least make your skin feel immediately hydrated. At best, it can help you prevent some fine lines.
But sometimes, those promises don’t make sales. The aspiration to become someone beautiful does.
Lip Kits didn’t give Kylie those puckers, injections did. But Kylie’s branding still managed to sell the idea that her lip products can give you soft, pillowy lips. And dropping $29 dollars on her products helps you feel a little closer to that Rolls Royce, Louis Vuitton headscarf aesthetic, You can buy so many things with those $29 dollars but they won’t give you the same mood, will they?
If you’re wondering, Brandon did halt all marketing plans for Deciem and declared his intention upfront. He did away with marketing plans because it’s only “…a way to convince people to buy things that they don’t want or don’t need.” In a big business, it sounds counter-intuitive, downright suicidal and that’s why the Internet was worried about the (former) CEO. It’s quite a big backup to the tag of Deciem as “The Abnormal Beauty Company.”
In the context of the beauty industry in general, which has the capacity to sell $200 primers, gold-infused masks, and facials equivalent to a whole month’s paycheck, this is your micellar wipe of truth. What was scary for Brandon’s critics was how he was melting away the illusion.
A company head being so hands-on and frank about what he sells challenges the norm. Every other brand is trying to make us buy into one idea about beauty. There are brands that will promise that film-star highlight, that New York-approved matte lip, that photo-ready skin.
That may be great. But when we get to the nitty-gritty of our real-life and uncensored beauty rituals, don’t we all just need one thing from a beauty product? The reality of how well it works.
Art by Marian Hukom