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Reshaping Holiday Beauty Marketing: Visual Authenticity and the AI Revolution

As the holiday season nears, artificial intelligence is transforming retail marketing in the beauty sector. However, responsible AI usage is crucial to maintaining trust with wary consumers. Our VisualGPS research revealed that in 2023, AI makes 63 percent of Americans very nervous, rising from 53 percent in 2022. So, as AI-generated visual content enters the landscape of brand marketing, there’s still a critical place for images and videos produced by humans with cameras, particularly during the holidays, when a rich variety of experiences and traditions are visualized in ad campaigns.

The beauty industry has also undergone a shift, from an emphasis on how you look to how you feel, too — and this is reflected in the visuals brands choose. Our visual analysis of popular images and video clips used by beauty brands found an increase in themes of mental health, healthy lifestyle choices, and diversity. For marketers, here are three ways to meet the moment — and consumer preferences — when integrating commercially safe generative AI into marketing strategies this holiday season as shoppers begin their search for beauty products.

Consumers Still Expect Beauty Ads to Show Authentic People and Products

Consumers care which visuals are created using AI, so think before you prompt. VisualGPS research confirms that 87 percent of Americans agree that AI-manipulated images should be identified. Visuals produced with a camera in the real world can upend biases and change how previously underrepresented people are seen. This is key in the beauty industry, where social media has broadened consumers’ expectations of inclusion and authenticity. Now that popular beauty visuals have become more relaxed, personal and everyday, there’s an increased imperative to address gaps in diversity and to include those with darker skin tones, non-normative gender presentation, and signs of aging, as well as people with larger body sizes, disabilities, and skin and hair conditions.

Experiment With AI-Generated Backgrounds and Objects 

For beauty brands interested in commercially safe generative AI, backgrounds and objects are a good place to start. VisualGPS research shows that Americans are most comfortable with AI-generated images of nature or objects, such as structures or buildings (75 percent), vehicles (71 percent), and animals or natural landscapes (69 percent). The clean beauty industry will reach $37 billion by 2028, and our visual analysis found that depictions of natural ingredients have climbed in popularity — e.g., flowers, spices, herbs, fruit, water — as well as visuals which play with photography as medium through shadows or refracted light. Likewise, consider experimenting with the surreal aesthetics that generative AI can create, as this self-declaration of synthetic visual content is more appealing to consumers to want to know the story behind beauty campaigns.

Visualize the Improved Shopping Experience That AI Offers

Despite consumers’ feelings of trepidation around AI as a creative tool, our VisualGPS research found that 79 percent of Americans are excited about the potential of using AI to increase productivity. In fact, many beauty brands are already using AI to supercharge the shopping experience for consumers. Augmented reality makeup application, product personalization, and chatbot consultations are just some of the ways that this is happening. To represent the concept of generative AI, move away from the dark sci-fi aesthetics that have been popular in the past and the towards bright and fresh tertiary color palettes which have recently become synonymous with emerging technologies: think magenta, teal, lime, violet, yellow-orange. Whether choosing or creating visuals, holiday shopping can be stressful and overwhelming. Therefore, consider showing how AI-powered tools may make the experience a bit more fun and exciting this year.

Rebecca Rom-Frank is senior creative researcher for the Americas at Getty Images

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