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Beauty and cosmetics advertising in the U.S. - statistics & facts

The health and beauty sector is a billion-dollar industry: in the United States alone, the retail sales of beauty and personal care products amounted to almost 100 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. The same can be said about the beauty advertising industry. According to market estimates, beauty and personal luxury advertising spending is set to reach 7.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2021 and further grow by 200 million within the following year. The cosmetics and toiletries segment is one of the leading advertising categories worldwide, accounting for close to six percent of the total global ad spend. It is expected that this category will grow by around 10 percent in 2021. While television is still the predominant advertising medium for the beauty category, digital is not far behind, growing in power as more and more consumers flock to online shopping sites and use the internet for product research, leading advertisers to follow suit.

Beauty brands and online presence

Among the leading brick-and-mortar retailers in the beauty category are Bath and Body Works, Ulta Salon, and Sephora. All three also have a high online presence, however when it comes to online shopping, Amazon outperforms in terms of consumer choice of a shopping destination. Given that consumers prefer the e-commerce route when buying beauty products, it comes as no surprise that brand discovery now also occurs online. Ads and recommendations on social networks are the most common channels for beauty brand discovery and are also the main platforms advertisers use to promote their products. As such, beauty brands have become more active on social media in an effort to increase their exposure, build a stronger online presence, and drive sales. Instagram is the platform of choice, with global beauty brands posting there multiple times per week and achieving a higher engagement rate on Instagram than on other major social networks. Bath and Body Works and Ulta Beauty are among the top 10 in a ranking of most followed beauty brands on Instagram, led by Kylie Cosmetics.

Leading beauty and cosmetics brands

So how do beauty and cosmetics brands fare in the advertising arena? When it comes to personal care brands’ advertising spending, Bath and Body Works ranks in the top 10, yet still has a long way to go to match the leader - L'Oreal Paris.
L'Oreal Paris is the most valuable cosmetics brand in the world with its worth estimated at more than 11 billion U.S. dollars, and the brand recently spent close to half a billion dollars on advertising in the United States. At the same time, its parent, L'Oreal (the owner of other popular beauty brands such as Maybelline, Kiehl’s, and NYX) has been investing over two billion U.S. dollars in advertising every year since 2017.
Meanwhile, the brand value of Estée Lauder is just over half that of L'Oreal Paris but there is still the potential for growth – in a 2020 ranking of the fastest growing brands, Estée Lauder was the only beauty brand in the top twenty. The company also tends to spend significantly less on advertising in the United States, staying below the billion-dollar mark. The only exception to that was in 2018 when Estée Lauder launched numerous campaigns in cooperation with influencers and increased their spending on digital channels, reaching a total ad spend of 1.09 billion dollars that year.

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