Comment: What can beauty retail learn from the theatre asks Christopher Skinner of School House

2nd March 2018

Industry leaders need to look at the beauty industry as a holistic experience, transforming the product from a simple entity to a way of life says Christopher Skinner of School House

Christopher SKinner

For me and for many others, theatre is one of the most compelling experiences. Unlike other art forms, theatre is a full body transformation for both the audience and the actors on stage - creating an interaction between cast and audience. This transformative human interaction is one of the most compelling forms of storytelling, the tenets of which can be applied to other industries, such as the beauty industry, in order to more effectively tell stories.

Like theater, beauty also represents a full-body experience. It touches customers in a way that goes beyond a product on a face. Because of these similarities, the beauty industry is uniquely positioned to adopt mechanisms by which theatre tells stories, allowing it to tell stories more effectively in our evolving industry.

Actors have adopted the art of listening and responding. Beauty brands can do the same through listening to their target consumers to create products and experiences that connect on a personal level.

From an early age, I fell in love with acting. I learned that the best actors are the best listeners. They listen to the words of their fellow cast mates to encourage on-stage chemistry, but more importantly they listened to audiences. It is the duty of the actors to listen to their audience and give them a worthwhile experience.

Beauty brands also have a unique opportunity to listen to their audience. Brands such as Glossier have already found success in doing this. In an age when the industry is evolving, listening to customers and their experiences is key to making products and brands that connect with them on a personal level. Like an actor to their audience, a brand serves as a guide for its customers, listening and reacting to their experiences but also helping them along to discover what they want and didn’t know they needed.

Audiences look for relatability, whether it’s during a production or in everyday products. Beauty must mimic this societal shift and prioritize a sense of rawness to intensify the customer interaction with the brand/product.

No one wants to hear a story they can’t relate to. People want to feel connected in some way to the characters of a production. Theatre is a master of creating this connection because of its ability to capture and share emotions on a raw or authentic level. Whether it is joy or sadness, the emotions created on stage intensify the interaction between the audience and the stage, inciting a provocativeness that draws us in.

Beauty has dabbled in such suggestiveness, but has the opportunity to further extend its vulnerability with its consumers. Take for example, CVS Beauty, which earlier this year announced it would no longer be retouching its beauty photos. Instead, it would be capturing and showcasing real people in its ads, not Photoshopped and unattainable models. This level of authenticity is one of the most effective ways a beauty brand can tell a story to its customers.

Just as theatre goers trust in actors to entertain them, customers need to trust beauty brands. By listening and being authentic to consumers and audiences alike, brands and actors can create an unquestionable relationship and build trust through the telling of authentic stories that both customers and audiences can connect to.

Narratives are retold, but also recast to evolve with the changing world, building trust from generation to generation. Fenty Beauty has endeavoured this by recasting a beauty story with a whole new group of people, showing that there is a place for all skin types and colors.

There is a lot that the beauty industry can continue to learn about storytelling. Listening, authenticity and trust are all necessary in theatre as they are in beauty. However, when it comes down to it, the number one thing that theatre can teach beauty is the importance of a true human interaction. It is in those moments of true humanity that beauty brands are built and customers are found in their homes.

Christopher Skinner is founder and principal of New York creative agency School House