Category Archives: Blog

What’s new in… Fashion & Beauty? 5 Reads and 5 opportunities

Welcome to our monthly trends round-up, where we share five fascinating articles on a particular vertical to identify new currents in brand innovation and consumer desires. Last month we spoke about retail innovation and changing consumer trends, which are driving the likes of “showrooming” and third-spaces. This week we move on to fashion and beauty… where Selfridges are responding to increasingly androgynous fashion trends by creating ‘genderless’ sections in its stores

Are gender-neutral stores the future of shopping? Liza Darwin, Refinery 29

“Dubbed the Agender Project, this in-store experience bills itself as “a fashion exploration of the masculine, the feminine, and the interplay…found in between.” Selfridges introduces 'agender' shopping The idea that “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” is pretty old (the self-help book was published in 1992). Some premium skincare brands such as Aesop and Malin + Goetz adopt a similar stance… But can this trend filter down into middle-market beauty? It’s hard to say. Original Source, the niche shower gel brand acquired by PZ Cussons in 2002, has a vibrant, graphic, single ingredient-led position that reads as gender-free… But a few years ago they introduced an ‘Extreme’, highly masculine coded line, presumably to reassure a male consumer who found gender-neutrality a step too far. But not all men, as the next article shows:

Men Add Facials to Their Ever-Expanding Grooming Routines Noel Duran, Yahoo Beauty

From ‘agender’ to male grooming – it’s official; the beauty industry is no longer dominated by women. Society’s acceptance of ‘metrosexuality’ has resulted in male grooming’s rise as one of the biggest growing sectors within the industry. Noel Duran explores Manhatten to find out where men are going to get their deep clean facials: Male-grooming increases as men seek facials “Recently there’s been a major uptick in dudes getting facials, peels, and extractions at spas across the country, enjoying the closer shaves and clearer skin these procedures provide [...] but not every man is willing to walk into a spa decorated with fresh-picked florals and ask for a facial. Luckily, there are men’s salons and spas that cater to these tastes.”

Male grooming is not a trend, it’s a cultural shift in society’s thinking. I could write an essay on masculinity’s so-called “identity crisis”… but there is no “crisis”, just acceptance of individuality. Unlike male grooming, fashion does come and go like the wind, and with Fashion Week just gone, Philip Picardi introduces the “next big” hairstyle – ‘Non-Hair’. A trend that requires minimal upkeep, but nonetheless apparently a big bank balance…

Non-Hair is apparently the beauty trend of the moment Phillip Picardi, Refinery 29

It’s a luxury reserved for the genetically blessed and, well, the ultra-rich, who can afford the upkeep that comes with a low-maintenance daily routine.”

Non-Hair is the next big trend Within this trend, a fascinating tension – “undone done” might be one way to phrase it, aka the art of looking like you haven’t tried… But still getting a chic result. In order to get this desired look, ‘not actually trying’ isn’t an option – instead it’s about finding the right invisible fixes (often sea salt sprays and dry shampoos) that leave hair with a loose, natural texture… But just make it a bit better. We see no signs of a return to ultra-groomed fashions, so this tension between naturalness and chic will continue to inspire innovation in haircare and beauty products.

A topic that is less in the public eye is that of an industry foe – women smoking. The publication Cream International released an article back in October highlighting this irony:

Your future is not pretty Cream International

“As part of the selfie-generation, young women find themselves compelled to project an attractive physical appearance to fit in socially. Yet it is this physical appearance that is heavily impacted by smoking: bags under the eyes, stained teeth, premature ageing, dull skin and even thinning hair.”  Women seeking perfection yet smoke is the big beauty irony. But could all of this change with innovative skincare devices? Nicole Tyrimou evaluates the industry’s latest gadgets:

Are beauty devices changing the rules in skincare? Nicole Tyrimou, Euro Monitor

 “Increasing demand for more sophisticated offerings in skin care in mature markets as well as skin care’s great dependence on the gadget-loving Asia Pacific region has helped beauty devices garner more attention in skin care.” What can beauty devices do for skin care? Innovation in the beauty industry has just got technologically sophisticated – or perhaps skincare has just caught u. Following the rest of retail, devices are taking over and skincare has not got away without a makeover. Nicole Tyrimou reviews this maturing industry in the gadget-loving Asia-Pacific market… And where Korea leads, the West usually follows. Lots of opportunities here in the skincare sector. *

So that’s the latest in beauty and haircare from me, Ed Hawes.  Join us next week for another five reads from another sector – suggestions welcome at @FaceResearch!

Introducing Dive & Buzz – our new integrated qual & social research products

The combination of big social data, our Pulsar social media research platform,  and qualitative insight is what sets us apart from any other market research agency. We’ve now brought this together in two new research products:

  • Dive Digital Immersions for audience understanding
  • Buzz Social Trends for consumer trend monitoring

It’s about time! We’ve been running projects using this thinking for a couple of years, helping O2 understand emerging technologies and letting haircare and beauty companies learn what women want this season.

From these projects we’re confident that we’ve built two research products that answer questions other methodologies can’t. The use of social data means they’re built on real life behaviour – not artificial community tasks. Apply a planning mindset – and, in the case of Dive, the chance to ask consumers questions directly – and you’ve got an ability to understand customer behaviours, need and motivations more effectively and in realer, more inspiring ways than ever before.

Here’s how:


1. Dive Digital Immersion

Answers: Who is your customer in their digital and social media lives? And how can you reach them effectively?

Use it for:  Audience understanding and campaign planning

Methods: A 3-phase combination of social media panels, mobile ethnography & community analysis, in order to understand your audience’s behaviour, motivations and social context.

Dive projects - digital immersions product

The aim of Dive is to target customers through digital immersion. Online behaviours, drivers, likes and dislikes are often different to offline. So Dive uses targeted recruitment followed by both social media and mobile ethnography methods to dig into their digital universe. Observe their social media behaviour using Pulsar – then use real-time mobile to explore the context driving behaviours and decision-making. Insights from Dive will empower you to create content and campaigns that really connect with your audience.

Dive Digital Immersion captures your target customer’s digital behaviour across 3 dimensions:

  1. Pulsar’s social panel tracks content they create on every social channel: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Close qualitative analysis to understand how they interact with brands and use content to represent themselves online.
  2. Mobile ethnography gives us a means to ask direct questions and get at the ‘Why?’ behind their behaviour. Mobile tasks ask people to share content consumption moments, such as seeing a brand advert or a friend recommend a product, as well as what drives them to create social updates.
  3. Social network analysis identifies the communities and influencers relevant to your target audience – and where you should be seeding your campaign content.

Dive takes the guesswork out of digital campaign planning and social media strategy, empowering you to create content and campaigns that really connect with your audience.

2. Buzz Social Trends

Answers: What does my customer think is cool right now? What are the new and emerging behaviours and trends in our category?

Use it for:  Product innovation and NPD – and building more relevant communications

Methods: Social media research

white on white pinterest board

Social media is where trends are born – and where they spread. That makes social media research the best way to get to grips with the emergent consumer passions and behaviours that can provide new opportunities for NPD and communications. Our Buzz trends report combines qualitative insight with cutting-edge analytics from Pulsar – and we don’t just identify trends but explain how your brand can activate them.

Imagery is a huge part of social media – with the likes of Instagram, YouTube Tumblr, Pinterest and blogs – all heavily involve images. Our analysis combines excellent FACE consultancy with cutting edge visual analytics capabilities of Pulsar.

What will you receive from a Buzz trend report:

  • 7-10 trends that are changing the category your brand operates in
  • Strategic guidance on how you can activate these trends in a way that’s compatible with your brands and your target consumer
  • 12-15 key trend influencers who are the people to watch – and potentially reach out to as part of your content marketing plan

Use Buzz reports to stay on top of ever-changing consumer needs and understand where your brand can go next.


If you’re interested in merging social and qualitative research in your customer insight program, or you’d like to learn more about these products, contact our Head of Research, Matt Arnold, on

The Next Generation: Introducing our new CEO and management leaders

FACE has always evolved, developed and changed – reflecting the needs of our clients, the fast pace of digital media and technology, and our drive to always deliver more value.  Over the past three years we have taken big strides: expanding into new continents, retaining major clients internationally, and investing in new people – growing our team to 60 full-time employees.

We are extremely proud to say our client base has grown to include Bacardi, Mazda, HERE and BASF in the UK; L’Oreal, Pernod Ricard and P&G in the US; and Hershey’s, GSK and Philips in Asia, alongside our long-term clients such as Unilever and Tesco. This means that, as a company, the way we operate also needs to grow and develop.

Following the success of the past 3 years, Andrew Needham, our CEO and Founding Partner, has decided to step back from the day-to-day running of the business to become Chairman and advisor, effective 1st April 2015. This is ahead of a planned exit from both FACE and Pulsar later in the year as he moves on to explore new opportunities.

Andrew Needham Chairman


This means Job Muscroft, currently our COO & Founding Partner, will make the natural step-up to CEO and continue to oversee our international growth.


Job Muscroft CEO photo

Andrew says:

“I am very excited about this generational shift taking place at FACE & Pulsar. We have had a fast and incredibly successful start to our global expansion, proving yet again that socially intelligent research is highly valued and in great demand. I am now delighted to be handing over to a new generation of brilliant managers to continue FACE and Pulsar’s growth and leadership of strategic insight as a service internationally”.

Our next generation managment team

Management team

As Andrew has said, our management evolution does not end there:

Matt Arnold, formerly Head of UK Qual, is now the Head of Research for Face UK & Asia.

Pulsar’s Sales Manager James Cuthbertson has done a great job smashing sales targets and growing his team, which has been reflected in his rise to Global Sales Director for FACE & Pulsar.

As a result of Cathy Parker-Sauer’s incredible work as Production Manager, she  will now oversee internationally logistics as our Global Operations Director of Face.

The current Managing Director of FACE Asia, Andrew Ho, will be uprooting his life and moving to New York to lead the US office, taking over from  current FACE US MD, Philip  McNaughton. Philip will return to his role as Senior Consultant as he plans to spend more time with his new family.

Overall, many new job titles but underlying it all, a strong thread of continuity. We’re proud to be able to fill all these roles from talent we have developed within the FACE business, and we know that as a management team they will lead us on to further  success.

Congratulations to Job and everyone on the management team for their promotions. We’re excited to be working with you for the next step of FACE’s evolution.

“The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” 
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Social Intelligence Beyond Monitoring: #1 Brand Positioning

Job Muscroft FACE MDWelcome to our new blog series on Social Intelligence Beyond Monitoring, from FACE MD Job Muscroft. In this series, Job will be showing how brands can get high-value insights from social media listening – first up, Brand Positioning.


There are now hundreds of social media monitoring tools on the market that allow you to quickly and easily mine thousands of conversations about brands and topics you are interested in learning about. In fact, as social listening has become an established part of brand health monitoring, most brands now subscribe to a platform and use key word search strategies to conduct basic monitoring around 2 main use cases:

  1. Measure how visible a brand is in comparison to its competitors.
  2. Track sentiment of customers likes and dislike about brand/products.

This type of monitoring is usually conducted by agencies on behalf of brands and feeds into the development of creative and comms strategies. This, in a world where digital and social advertising spend is now overtaking traditional spend, is crucial.

In this series of blogs I want to look at the emerging use cases for social intelligence which go beyond counting mentions of brands and quantifying consumer sentiment. I want to and talk about where the big value lies for companies who invest in building the capabilities of analysts and research teams to look at social data strategically – to go beyond saying what happened  to work out why, and what to do about it.

Social Intelligence for Brand Positioning


A large US female haircare brand with a strong legacy in the market is facing the reality that consumer perception has changed quickly over the last 2 years. It’s is looking to strengthen its brand positioning and identify new opportunities to engage with women.

Pinterest hair section

What we did

Our approach was informed by the fact that Haircare is a highly emotional category and generates high levels of conversation amongst women online. This social media discussion is highly visual who often share images within their networks in order to find the right solution for their hair.

  1. Started wide by listening to the whole category and identified a community of women driving the conversation around this product range and the most common articulated haircare needs
  2. Focused the next stage of the project on this active community by creating a social panel of women who we listened to for a month to give us insight into their lives beyond their care hair needs
  3. Aside from text analytics we spent time understanding the thousands of haircare images shared on Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter as an invaluable source of visual insight
  4. Workshop with client team to download insights and build positioning platforms together
Why this worked

The client stakeholder group found this approach to their challenge worked for them as it helped them to get closer to their consumers’ mindset than more traditional research groups or surveys. It additionally as it gave them strategic insights about both individual and group behaviour in the haircare market: it’s not just about one-to-one communication with your customer, but understanding how she shares with her friends.

  • Identified and brought to life a community of women that the brand needs to tap into if they are to reignite an connection with today’s consumers in this category.
  • Most importantly, it brough to to life the emotional struggles surrounding their ideals of beauty
  • Showed the specific language and aesthetic imagery that constructs the bonds within this community that can feed directly into more authentic creative executions
  • Gave insight into both individual and group behaviour in the haircare market: it’s not just about one-to-one communication with your customer, but understanding how she shares with her friends.
  • Highlighted the opportunities for the brand to position itself to engage the widest possible audience without alienating sub-communities

In the next blog in this series I will be highlighting how we can use social intelligence to help innovate products.

Connect with Job on LinkedIn or Twitter, or get in touch by email: