Last February, I was having a “make-up lesson” at a wonderful cosmetics store in Salem, Massachusetts. The make-up artist (and store manager) naturally struck up a conversation by asking me what I did for a living.
I explained that I worked with businesses in historical communities to incorporate history into their branding and marketing, and I also revealed that I was putting together a program for National Women’s History Month — which takes place every month in March. “I am a business owner and historian,” I continued.
“That’s really interesting,” she said “but I don’t see how history could work here.”
I immediately swung into action. “What do you know about the history of women’s cosmetics?” I asked her. After all, women have been using various potions and substances since ancient times – some of which we are rediscovering today, like mineral-based products.
Make-up itself and standards of beauty have changed dramatically over the centuries as we see in portraits and, more recently, in photographs. Within the 20th century alone, think about make-up styles in the flapper era, in the silent and talk movies of the 1930s and 1940s, in the “domestic goddess” look of the 1950s, and the radical departures of the 1960s and 1970s. All of this history is fun to study, to question the meaning of, and to look at visually.
As it turned out, my new friend the make-up artist had a personal passion about the history of women’s cosmetics. Perfect! I then made the following suggestions.
• For the Women’s History Month program I was creating, I offered to let her give a talk on women’s cosmetics in eighteenth century America. Our theme was women retailers in eighteenth-century Salem, so her talk would fit right in. Her talk, business, and website would all be featured in marketing materials and social media communications.
• On the day of her talk, which would take place at a popular Salem function hall, I suggested she could have a table with information, samples, members of her staff, etc. She also had 10% off postcards to give out to new customers.
She was thrilled! These small actions would put her in front of new audiences AND give her the stature that comes from speaking knowledgeably about her industry’s history. She would also gain credibility as an active corporate citizen, which, in her case, as a new business in town, would do wonders.
I suggested she could also write articles on the subject, publish a small book or Ebook, do a local cable show with a brief chat about make-up then and now and give live demonstrations, and the list goes on. Again, all of these actions would really set her apart from other make-up artists in a way that residents of a very historical region would notice.
These ideas could also apply to skin care companies, hair salons, women’s clothing and accessory stores, jewelry boutiques – you name it!
What about health and wellness businesses?
Who else could benefit from this approach? Health clubs, spas, massage centers, and health care practices; chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical coaches, nutritionists, and other solo practitioners. Again, it’s a long list.
Not only have standards of beauty changed over time, so have standards for women’s fitness, strength, and overall wellness. We have come a long way from the days of corsets, “women’s troubles” that were “evil” and never discussed, stress and anxiety that women were told existed only in our minds, and putting everyone else’s well being first to the detriment of our own.
Today, we know so much more about nutrition, the benefits of exercise, non-Western remedies, the effects of stress, how connected our self-esteem is to our health and appearance, and that if we women take care of ourselves first we can more easily take care of others. Sometimes it’s helpful to look at how far we’ve come, and to celebrate where we are by renewing our commitment to beauty, health, and wellness – our own, and our customers’.
More ideas to implement
Women’s History Month offers an annual opportunity to promote your beauty, health, or wellness business to women. Find out if your local historical society or museum is celebrating March. If they have no plans, offer to work with them to develop a program that’s a win for you and a win for them. You might consider collaborating with other woman-focused businesses in your community for a larger or multi-week event.
Beyond March, think about ways in which you could insert your historical knowledge of your field into your historical society or museum’s lecture series or newsletter, publish your story in your local newspaper and on your website, create a fun “Did you know?” handout on your subject then and now. The possibilities are endless!
This is an unusual marketing approach for beauty, health, and wellness businesses, but people who live in historical communities really are interested in history and they will appreciate your own interest.
I truly believe that adopting some of these methods will position you and your business a cut above the rest!
Bonnie Hurd Smith is the President and CEO of History Smiths, a marketing company that works with businesses in historical communities to incorporate history into their branding and marketing – their own history, and their community’s. Bonnie is also a cultural tourism professional, respected historian, and author.