With social media making it easier for people to share their thoughts, commentaries on problematic ads have also become more widespread. For beauty, in particular, we have the likes of Estée Laundry on Instagram, which is like the beauty version of Diet Prada. They usually call out beauty rip-offs and also call out brands who are exploiting various cultures.
Then we have regular netizens who have a keen eye and fast reflexes when taking screenshots. One example were the tone-deaf GlutaMAX and SkinWhite ads, which garnered negative attention for how they promoted whitening products and shamed Filipinos with naturally tanned skin. After much backlash online, only GlutaMAX issued an apology for their insensitive campaign.
According to Marketing Dive, brands are now churning out relatable content and “[using] their platforms to use their platform to amplify causes other institutions are ignoring.” This also means that the pressure is on brands to make sure their messaging isn’t offensive or deliberately ostracizing certain groups of people. Fast Company also noted that some brands may have CIPA (congenital insensitivity to pain), meaning they can’t feel the pain they’re causing their consumers and also don’t know how to respond to it.
But then again, outrage marketing also exists. This is when a brand manufactures a controversy in order to take campaign to a viral level. Unincorporated cited Bloomingdale’s “date rape” holiday ad in 2015, noting that while it was out of line, the brand might’ve used the Bill Cosby case as leverage to get more traffic.
In the last few months, the tone-deafness is usually seen in the beauty industry, with people accusing them of using inappropriate names or themes. Here’s a quick list of them to see just how “creative” they were in conceptualizing their products (note the sarcasm), and you be the judge on whether they missed the mark or not.
Kylie Cosmetics Birthday Collection 2019
Kylie Jenner’s upcoming birthday collection is money-themed, and people are not into it. Many are calling it tone-deaf because it just seems like Kylie is capitalizing on her “self-made billionaire” status. One particular item that’s been getting a lot of heat is the “YOU’RE $0 MONEY BABY” eyeshadow palette.
— Dinah-not-DEENA (@BoringSexy) August 2, 2019
Does Kylie Jenner think it’s cute making her collection money themed? Flaunting her billionaire status bitch redistribute your wealth before we rob you
— Cici 🥳 (@cyennaaaa) August 1, 2019
Vogue taking inspiration from Sharon Tate
Can’t wait for the Vogue Beauty IG apology. Either a rogue SM employee or tone deaf brand. pic.twitter.com/PDMmMLi582
— Scott C. (@Kilo1899) July 21, 2019
Last July, Vogue Beauty made an Instagram post to marking the Manson Family murders’ 50th anniversary, as well as the death of Sharon Tate. This also came in time for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood‘s premiere.
In the post, Vogue Beauty claimed that Sharon’s sudden death became “the catalyst for the ’60s revival” of fashion and beauty. They then linked back to an article which featured women who exuded Sharon’s style.
Obviously, this didn’t sit well with netizens because Sharon’s death was gruesome and shouldn’t be used as a “beauty peg.” In 1969, she was murdered by one of Charles Manson’s cult followers. She was eight months pregnant.
The publication later deleted the Instagram post, but the article is still up on their website.
Fenty Beauty Geisha Chic
Fenty Beauty has been celebrated for promoting diversity since its launch in 2017. But the brand may have missed the mark when they came out with the Killawatt Highlighter in Geisha Chic.
One netizen commented on the brand’s Instagram post, explaining why the name was offensive to the Japanese. She summarized it in the subreddit group r/BeautyGuruChatter: “I left a comment on their post for ‘Geisha Chic’ after they’d removed the name from the post saying it was convenient for them to leave it out and later commented back to people asking what the problem with the name was, about what the Japanese American redditors here said about fetishization of geishas in America and while it could possibly be meant to be positive, it will definitely rub some people the wrong way because of the constant misuse and negative connotations associated with it in western representations of geishas.”
According to Allure, Fenty Beauty later pulled the product after the backlash and promised to rename it.
Kat Von D Beauty concealer and eyeliner
Last year, Kat Von D Beauty received backlash twice for the Basket Case Precision Eyeliner and the Lock-It Concealer.
First, KVD was accused of romanticizing mental illness when it came out with the Basket Case eyeliner, a collaboration with Green Day vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong. People already didn’t take too kindly to name as it referred to a person “who is helpless or incapable of functioning normally, especially due to overwhelming stress, anxiety, or the like.”
But what took the cake were the promotional photos which showed Kat and Billie posing like Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious. According to Revelist, Sid and Nancy’s relationship was deemed problematic during the ’70s because it involved domestic violence, drug use, and mental illness (Nancy was reportedly diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age).
The second controversy KVD faced was when the brand posted a “racist” photo featuring the Lock-It Concealer. It showed someone holding up the product with a cotton field in the background. The caption red, “Let Lock-It Concealer do all the hard work for you with instant one-coat coverage.” Several netizens called it out for being tone-deaf to the struggles of Black slaves back in the day. It later took down the post after much criticism.
Kat Von D really trying to sell us makeup in the most disgustingly racist way I think I’ve ever seen. Who the fuck takes a photo in front of a cotton field? @KATVONDbeauty this is trash. This is absolutely TRAAAAASH. https://t.co/kYbkQyvqjq
— Grace ☾ (@GraceFVictory) September 20, 2018
Take note that this isn’t the first time KVD was called out for its controversial names. In 2015, it had a lipstick shade called “Underage Red,” which Kat defended in a Facebook post. The brand also currently has a Lolita Collection, with the name interpreted as the fetishization of Vladimir Nabokov’s fictional character who is also underage.
L’Oreal “healthy hair” ad
Just saw this tone deaf bullshit ad from @LOrealParisUSA gtk they don't put stock in customers w/ curly/kinky hair (aka women who are mostly non-white). Read the room, #Loreal pic.twitter.com/l8XLQOYvoZ
— Kat (@VergeofLove) December 20, 2017
In 2017, L’Oreal went under fire for saying that having healthy hair means not having tangles or tugs. If you do, they claim your hair is damaged.
Several people with varying hair types blasted the brand, saying they were being insensitive to those with naturally curly or kinky hair. The brand later took down the post, but screenshots last forever.
Photo courtesy of Kylie Cosmetics’ Instagram account
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