Yeah, some people are blowing their breath because Fenty Beauty is not literally produced in a Black-owned environment within a Black owned network. We know Kendo and some Italian developers among many others play a role in that.
But are we gonna take away from the fact that Rihanna legitimately owns this brand in so many ways? And I’m not just talking about trademarks.
No, i’m not saying that we don’t have any existing Black-owned makeup lines. No, i’m not saying that we don’t need to strategize how we’re gonna consolidate our efforts as a people around the world. Support these businesses by all means. Snag some Fenty Beauty products if you choose.
But let’s get back to the matter at hand through an academic communication lens.
I conducted an Impression Analysis on the image of Fenty Beauty, a beauty line founded by top-charting artist and fashion icon, Rihanna, also known as Robyn Rihanna Fenty. I followed Dr. McArthur’s (2011) worksheet from Planning for Strategic Communication: A Workbook for Applying Social Theory to Professional Practice for an impression analysis to guide my meditations on the following observations. I aim to highlight the success of this organization’s brand campaigns during and after the launching of its debut products. Though this launch took place on September 8, 2017, promotions leading up to this date up until this point show potential for longevity rooted in brand loyalty. I will also include the development of a charismatic legitimacy claim by this brand to conclude.
Impression Management: A powerful, representative body communicates a message of inclusivity for the Fenty Beauty brand from brand representatives and partners to Rihanna herself. My perception of the frontstage and backstage in this situation intermingle as the founder takes us behind the scenes in production while consistently establishing a strong link to her personal views on inclusion.The ambassadors of this brand have been featured in social media campaigns where hundreds of thousands of customers continue to leave their feedback. The vast majority of it has been positive. This group of women reflects the diversity this brand promotes. These campaigns increase the social capital of this organization as they establish a sense of belonging among customers and potential partners. A comfortable and confident as well inviting communicative environment is what the brand aims to authenticate.
From interviews to reviews this brand’s communicative relationship with the public continues to improve: “Impression management signifies that people use communication deliberately and strategically to create desired impressions of themselves. In interaction with others, a person uses communication to manage other people’s impressions of him- or herself (Goffman, 1959)” (Ihlen, Fredriksson, & van Ruler, 2009, p. 122). Fenty Beauty even has social media profiles where fans can connect more intimately with products and ambassadors through videos along with other posts. On the brand’s site, there are recommendations for the amount of applications of particular products. This assistance sends signals to customers that the brand desires to assist them along the process, not just by supplying the products.
Framing: The cultural framing of the Fenty Beauty brand expands upon a variety of social contexts. The power of beauty and representation frames this brand’s mission to ultimately break the cycle of excluding a variety of women of color, especially darker skinned women. This explains why these particular shades sold out in no time.
The politics of colorism and racial undertones in the beauty industry continue to frame the overall message of the Fenty Beauty brand’s campaign: “Frames, furthermore, organize more than meaning; they also organize involvement (1974). During an activity, participants will ordinarily not only obtain a sense of what is going on, but will also (to some degree) become spontaneously engrossed, caught up, involved, or committed” (Ihlen, Fredriksson, & van Ruler, 2009, p. 124). This brand continues to respark conversations that continue to reveal longstanding challenges concerning beauty politics and their impact on individuals’ views of their identities as well as that of their identity groups. Rihanna notes that this dialogue is not new, but she felt that she had to step up to the challenge to create products for all shades of people. This framing fuels the power behind advertising efforts and partnerships.
The same lenses are used by many of the message recipients. It is also a cruelty-free brand which speaks to an awareness of corporate responsibility where other organizations fail to reach this standard. For example, MAC Cosmetics tests their products on animals, and since the launching of Fenty Beauty, many people are questioning this particular choice across beauty brands. Some customers of Fenty Beauty frame their support around this idea, focusing on the positivity that it promotes beyond the beauty aspect.
Footing: Though Fenty Beauty products have been in stores for less than a month, promotions leading to and through their release remained consistent with the anticipated footing of the brand. No major shifts have occurred besides an extension of these ideas in malls at Sephora stores across the United States where Rihanna made statements that solidified this footing with loyal fans drawing to her message of inclusion and tackling an issue that other companies abandoned.
However, her stance shifts as more beauty lines attempt to step up their competition after the launch: “Goffman states that footing may “be held across a strip of behavior that is less long than a grammatical sentence” and that it may vary: “A continuum must be considered, from gross changes in stance to the most subtle shifts in tone that can be perceived” (Goffman, 1981, p. 128)” (Ihlen, Fredriksson, & van Ruler, 2009, p. 124). Other beauty brands have challenged the Fenty Beauty brand’s inclusion of 40 shades of foundation by claiming that they have 40+, insinuating that they have done just what this brand aims to do. They ran social media campaigns as soon as the first line of products were announced.
Rihanna has already responded to some of these efforts on social media platforms after some competitors have spewed harsh criticism since she expanded the competitive nature of her brand as an influencer. She made this more personal to establish the brand’s footing: “I didn’t care how long it took, I was going to make sure that we covered most skin tones. Diversity and inclusivity are important to the brand. I hope that fans, makeup lovers, and makeup artists feel that” (Rosenstein, 2017). This statement would make it difficult for this brand’s footing to be challenged as fans continue to support and accept this message presented by Fenty Beauty.
Face: This message of inclusion positively contributes to the Fenty Beauty brand’s image as well as that of Rihanna. It’s difficult to separate the two because she worked closely with the developers of the products to make sure that they were just right for customers. Indeed, “Face is “‘the public self-image’ that individuals want to claim for themselves, and a tool to describe social relations (Brown & Levinson, 1987; Goffman, 1959)” (Ihlen, Fredriksson, & van Ruler, 2009, p. 125). Many consumers have already expressed their trust in her message, leading them to buy entire collections and create review videos to show others how satisfied they are. This is how this organization ‘saves face’ because people continue to buy into the message, leading them to Sephora’s online checkouts or in-store locations.
The celebrity-status of this founder as well as her track record as a philanthropist and entrepreneur continue to shape the face of this brand. As many individuals acknowledge, “The thing that separates Fenty Beauty is that Rihanna’s effort to make an inclusive beauty line is clearly genuine” (Montgomery, 2017). The genuine nature of her brand was captured through her interactions with supporters of Fenty Beauty. Rihanna reposts messages from fans and videos of them experimenting with Fenty products. She has also done makeup demonstrations at brand events, making cheekbones glow all while keeping a glass of wine nearby. Through these gestures she maintains the authentic nature of her brand as a woman who is true to herself all while making herself along with others comfortable. As mentioned in the footing section, she defends the brand by responding to accusations made by competitors who attempt to deny the legitimacy of the brand’s mission.
Charisma grounds serve as the foundation for Fenty Beauty because hundreds of thousands of individuals flocked to promotions due to their perceived image of Rihanna’s brand as a mogul. In all aspects of the impression analysis this holds much truth. This transferrable energy follows her entrepreneurial endeavors. It is also true that some of those who do not support her as an artist may not support her beauty line.
However, fans will maintain this charisma as more efforts are made to connect with their loyalty to the brand: “The system is legitimate because its leader is: considered extraordinary and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a “leader.” (Weber, 1922/1968, p. 241)” (Ihlen, Fredriksson, & van Ruler, 2009, p. 305). These words signify the power of the Fenty Beauty brand.
Rihanna has millions of fans worldwide and continues to interact with her base consistently through social media networks. She takes stands on social issues that many people favor while others criticize her for her image as a carefree, uncontainable force. Engaging these individuals across multiple platforms with quality products will continue to earn this brand more legitimacy over time.
Ihlen, Ø., Fredriksson, M., & Ruler, B. V. (2009). Public relations and social theory: key figures and concepts. New York: Routledge.
McArthur, J. A. (2014). Planning for strategic communication: a workbook for applying social theory to professional practice. Charlotte, SC: John A. McArthur.
Montgomery, S. J. (2017, September 13). Beauty brands are trying to catch up with Fenty Beauty. The Fader. Retrieved from http://www.thefader.com/2017/09/13/beauty-brands-are-trying-to-catch-up-with-fenty-beauty
Rosenstein, J. (2017, September 7). We tried every Fenty Beauty product—here’s what you need to know. Bazaar. Retrieved from http://www.harpersbazaar.com/beauty/makeup/news/a15132/rihanna-fenty-beauty-line/