PCPC Conference 2020: Top Takeaways

[Originally published on the Dash Hudson blog.]

As the sun sets over Palm Beach, a new era dawns for the world of beauty and personal care products. In early March, more than 300 industry professionals gathered at The Breakers resort for the Personal Care Products Council’s (PCPC) annual meeting — and, this year, sustainability was top of mind. Conference attendees reflected on the opportunities and challenges that laid ahead with a focus on brand values and authenticity. It was a remarkable space to learn, share ideas, and get up to speed on the latest industry trends.

Read on for Dash Hudson’s top takeaways from the 2020 event.

Look Through the Green Lens of Gen Z

Panelist Maya Penn, CEO of Maya’s Ideas, delivered a message that was unmistakable: Gen Z consumers care about sustainability. This isn’t a fad — this is the future and brands need to embrace it. Leading the charge is Tom Szaky of TerraCycle, offering unique solutions for recycling and reusing beauty products. Despite the higher production costs, purchasing recycled products makes customers feel empowered, so it comes as no surprise that Gen Zers are willing to spend a little more to make a big difference for the environment.

While brands could soon be facing a Tim Gunn “make it work” moment to keep pace with greener business initiatives, innovative companies have already stepped up to secure their spot at the forefront of the sustainable movement. One such brand is Unilever, which, according to Unilever’s Esi Eggleston Bracey, EVP & COO NA Beauty and Personal Care, pledges to cut its use of virgin plastics in half by 2025. It’s exciting to see large corporations making the switch and proves the conference’s first breakout session hit the nail on the head with its title: “the future of beauty is green, clean, and Gen Z.”

Authenticity is Key

Long gone are the days of fake-it-til-you-make it marketing — savvy media users can spot “greenwashing” and “purpose washing” from a mile away. It’s critical that brands not only establish values of sustainability and exclusivity, but that they walk the walk with these values and authentically weave them into every piece of communication. That’s where purpose platforms come into play.

On the topic of defining purpose platforms, we heard from Kelly Vanasse, Chief Communications Officer, P&G Beauty & Grooming, and Andrea Flynn, VP Strategy, Governance and Citizenship for Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability, The Estée Lauder Companies. Vanasse opened the conversation with “The Talk”, an ad from P&G’s “My Black is Beautiful” campaign aiming to tackle racial bias head on. It was a powerful example of a brand speaking up for marginalized communities in a way that felt genuine.

While the term “consumer loyalty” has historically referred to the loyalty consumers show to brands, the current landscape sees this concept reversed — brands are expected to show loyalty to consumers and the causes they support. Flynn spoke about the importance of MAC’s loyalty to the Viva Glam campaign. When the brand first started talking about HIV/AIDS it was a taboo topic in the industry — but they continue to be a voice for the cause 25 years later and it’s hugely impactful.

Both women acknowledged how far their respective companies have come with purpose platforms, but there is still more to be done. We left the session feeling inspired to work with and invest in brands that aren’t afraid to stand for an important cause.

Trust in Business

Richard Edelman spoke eloquently on the state of trust in the world today. For the first time, businesses are the most trusted source of truth. With the erosion of traditional media, brands have taken media in house, which means investing more time in new marketing channels and using them wisely.

One place that companies can control their own narrative to consumers is via organic social channels. Dash Hudson helps teams identify and optimize social content pillars so corporate values with good intentions find their way into everyday communication on social.

Trust also begins locally and employee communications are more critical than ever. Brands can use their social channels to bolster the trust of their own employees, either through handles directly aimed at internal messaging, or by featuring employees on their consumer-facing accounts.

Artificial Intelligence & the Future of Creative

Dash Hudson’s own Marie La France delivered a breakout session about the future of AI for creative teams in the beauty and CPG industries. Research shows that visuals are the single most important aspect when determining brand lift online. She showcased how Vision, Dash Hudson’s proprietary AI technology, helps brands deliver the right visuals to the right audience at the right time.

Ultimately, every brand has a unique community of fans and followers. By leveraging new technologies, insights, and data, we can create a personalized message across all marketing channels that supports the value-driven content millennial and Gen Z consumers demand. It’s a bright future for the beauty industry — so bright it could be Becca’s next iconic highlight shade — and we can’t wait to watch it unfold.

Header image: @esteelauder

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