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Close Reading An Anti-Aging Brand Launch
Introducing "Spoiled Child," and my breakfast. 🤢
Oddity, the parent company of makeup brand Il Makiage, has introduced an anti-aging line called Spoiled Child. And the announcement of Spoiled Child has reintroduced my breakfast. 🤢
Why does this new brand nauseate me so? Because it’s attempting to frame its antiquated anti-aging message as somehow fresh, empowering, or different from the competition. “This brand was set up from the beginning to disrupt,” Andrea Gustafson, creative director at Spoiled Child, told Glossy. But to be clear, the only thing different about Spoiled Child is the surface-level language it employs. The ethos behind the brand is the same anti-aging bullshit we’re spoon-fed from the second the aging process begins (birth).
To illustrate my point, I present: a close-reading of the launch announcement! (All quotes in bold are from Glossy’s reporting on the subject, and all critique is directed toward Spoiled Child.)
“With anti-aging, we saw a pain point of consumers not knowing what they need,” said Oran Holtzman, CEO and co-founder of Oddity.
The pain point of “anti-aging” is that society treats us like skin-covered garbage-sacks once we reach a certain age. Serum won’t change that!
From a purely physical standpoint, consumers don’t know what they “need” to treat the signs of aging because most “signs of aging” are actually signs of exposure. And you can’t treat exposure with more (product) exposure.
The purpose behind the name is to positively challenge the notion and our understanding of aging, according to the brand.
If the products you’re selling aim to eliminate wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, sagging, etc. — and they do! — then you are not “positively” challenging our understanding of aging, no matter how quirky your ad copy is.
Ad copy irreverently states “Your routine in getting old” near subway entrances and “Getting old is getting old” on billboards.
“Getting old is getting old” sounds sassy… but does it do anything to challenge the notion that aging = bad? No. It literally reinforces that notion. “Getting old,” colloquially, means “to be negative and boring or mundane.” “Getting old is getting old” = “aging is negative, boring, or mundane.”
The tagline is, “Stay immature. Intelligent skin & hair products that refuse to take aging seriously.”
Again, the branding “refuses to take aging seriously.” The marketing. The copy.
The products, on the other hand — the only part of Spoiled Child that affects the customer in a material way — promise “anti-aging” and “fewer wrinkles.” They seek to “lift,” “rewind,” “firm,” and “instantly transform.” Those are serious (and all too familiar) claims.
Notably, the brand has not employed models in any of its imagery and instead focuses solely on the products’ capsule-like packaging.
Notably, research shows that model-free beauty advertisements also make people feel awful about themselves! “After viewing an advertisement featuring an enhancing product consumers evaluated themselves less positively than after seeing these products when they appeared without the advertising context,” per a study from the Journal of Consumer Research. “Consumers seem to ‘compare’ themselves to the product images in advertisements, even though the advertisement does not include a human model … Exposure to beauty-enhancing products in advertisements lowered consumers' self-evaluations, in much the same way as exposure to thin and attractive models in advertisements has been found to lower self-evaluations.”
“There have been some [major] cultural shifts over the last few years that are not being addressed by any legacy brands, namely that younger consumers are interested in [anti-aging], too,” said Gustafson.
The fact that younger consumers are interested in anti-aging does not mean they need anti-aging products. It means we need to address the fucking hellhole of fear and self-hatred that is Western beauty culture.
“A wide range of people wants to have this aging conversation differently,” Gustafson said.
Yup! And Spoiled Child is not doing that.
And brands like Tula or the beauty publication Allure magazine have opted to change the structure of how they talk about aging, either by using the term “pro-aging” or by outright banning anti-aging language.
Yup! And the words they use instead all mean the same thing.
Gustafson said that Spoiled Child is trying to introduce the term “age control” into the conversation as a way to frame the topic in a modern way.
Whew. OK. Now we’re getting somewhere. Attempting to exert control over the uncontrollable is an emotional coping mechanism, and not a particularly healthy one. You are a force of nature. Your skin is a force of nature. You will age. It will age. You can’t control that. (As I say in my sign-off for The Don’t Buy List, “You’re gonna die someday no matter how young you look.”)
And anyway, “age control” really isn’t any different than “anti-aging.” “Controlling” aging is just as unrealistic as stopping it. It communicates the same concept: that you can’t trust your body or your skin; that the natural progression of life is somehow shameful; that you need to hold onto your youth with a death grip in order to be beautiful, valuable, worthy, happy, whole.
It also presumes that humans know how to control aging… which we do not. At all. That’s why there are so many anti-aging products on the market, and why consumers are never satisfied enough to stop buying and trying new ones. If a single product or ingredient worked — even one! — “anti-aging” wouldn’t be such a huge sector.
“[‘Anti-‘ terminology] doesn’t work for a generation that is pro-future. They’re excited about the future. It doesn’t resonate with them to be ‘anti’ anything,” she said.
Note that this is all about terminology to the brand executives. In terms of the ideology behind that terminology, Spoiled Child is selling citizens the same old shit — just in a shiny new sack.
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