Your Personal Comfort Zone

words by Ada Sokół

Historically speaking, the roots of visual marketing derive directly from Susan Sontag’s book Notes on “Camp” where the author theorized “objects are not interesting in themselves but rather in the way they are represented.”
What could be more interesting than a natural human to human interaction?

Luxury marketing adapts like a mimic octopus–it’s capable of impersonating other species as well as mimicking its current environment in order to gain the advantage. By nature, it is an ingenious observer and strategist. On the same note, luxury marketing has become indistinguishable from authentic culture mostly through mimicking characteristics of authentic social media exchanges.

EEG examination of a woman. France

An electroencephalogram examination of a woman.


Unlike visual marketing, neuromarketing is often directed on the sensitive area of consumer self-esteem, and is defined by Frontiers science journal as the “integrated science of influence.” Through newly achieved levels of everyday integration these neuro-wizards have created a solution to solve the problem of consumer trust; by promoting products with data gathered by researching emotional reactions. It’s a simple idea, but it entails advanced research. To achieve the needed data, brands conduct studies of human emotions and demeanors (through facial coding, eye tracking, tone of voice, and even electroencephalograms). The data is gathered and applied to everyday campaigns–from visual ads to verbal claims.

But even with all of the effort and research, there’s a strange disconnect in many ads produced by this research; the body language presented in most ads: beautiful humans relaxing in the water, satin sheets, and or on a beach–for some reason never goes all the way. The body language of the ads never fits the verbiage of campaigns. Why is this? As opposed to the relaxed images used by marketers, the most common words employed in cosmetic advertising are verbs, describing how products work for consumers and how customers are changed by the products. Adjectives are the second most common, referring to products’ beneficial characteristics.

Language referring to relaxation and comfort has been left out of many campaigns,marketing professionals instead focus on the idea of beauty capital: an industry term which describes the extra income which can be theoretically earned for both the attractive individual and his/her employer. For many consumers who internalise these visual and neuromarketing standards, they often begin to subconsciously feel that their beauty capital is the answer to their economic, social, and personal success.

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Jennifer Lawrence feeling comfortable going “make up free” for Dior ad 2013.

As a solution, “comfort zone” is a term which could be used to replace the focus on “beauty capital” and could help alleviate cognitive dissonance in beauty industry . This phrase describes the state in which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition and their physical and psychological needs are minimized. It is a behavioral state where a person feels that everything is under control. Comfort Zone is a more accurate description of the body language in most campaigns. The term “comfort food” exists and is widely known. Thus, the term “comfort product” could also be included in our vernacular, as it would describe current social and psychological value changes in the consumer market.

Luxury branding is no longer reserved for the wealthiest, but calls out to a wider demographic. The desire to own expensive goods is stronger than ever. In this era of an extreme neo-consumerist lifestyle, happiness is based on ownership of material goods and in a twist of fate, frequently brings feelings of anxiety (anti-relaxation). The newly accepted cultural norm that beauty cannot exist without luxury cosmetics and treatments is deeply rooted in the minds of many. The lack of a “comfort zone” or “comfort products” proves that even with advanced research; visual and neuromarketing cannot rely solely on data derived from studying human emotion and eye tracking alone in order to reflect the most current values of the consumer.

Dove-Real-Beauty-Campaign-1

Dove’s “For Real Beauty” campaign.

If to make “products interesting” is the main job of marketing campaigns then maybe they could take a hint from one of the most successful campaigns of all time. A Dove campaign which sought to understand and relate to how self-esteem functions.

The change in strategy came about after a study by Dove concluded that cosmetic advertising was lowering consumer’s self-esteem. In consequence Dove came up with a decisive campaign titled “For Real Beauty”. Its main intention was: “To make women feel comfortable in the skin they are in, to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety.” The campaign turns eleven-years-old this year and this marketing strategy still has no official name, but we feel could an example of “comfort zone.” The fact that Dove overtly called it campaign, instead of hiding at fact, (fantasy verse reality) is interesting in and of it’s self. Dove’s advertisements, self referential videos, tv talk-show spots, and publications gave the campaign an air of authenticity. The strategy was then escalated to local workshops and events which were aimed to show natural, non-photoshopped women, of all ages and all nationalities. Dove as a brand, has turned these marketing strategies and scenarios on their head with this style of campaign. They have created a niche which is more complex than any neuromarketing data derived from an eeg cap. The underlying statement could be interrupted by the consumer as: “they are in their ‘comfort zone’ shouldn’t you be” which could be the most effective, fear of missing out, ultra-integrated, marketing strategy to date.

Notes:
Alasdair White, From Comfort Zone to Performance Management, 2008
K-Hole #3, Brand Anxiety Matrix, 2013
Watch: Is There a Buy Button Inside the Brain: Patrick Renvoise at TEDxBend, Published on May, 2013
Aaron Dalton, Joshua Berrett, Kevin Llewelyn, Heidi Poulsen, Brigham Young University, The Language of Cosmetic Advertising, ‎1994
Caroline Winter, Finding Beauty in Snail Mucus, Camel Milk, and Starfish Extract, from Bloomberg Business, Published on October 2015