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CVS has banned fake beauty.

In a bold move, the company announced it will no longer display digitally-altered beauty ads in its stores and online, and is encouraging partners such as Revlon to do the same. The “CVS Beauty Mark” will let customers know ads haven’t been touched up with software.  

CVS pledged in a new release that it won’t “digitally alter or change a person's shape, size, proportion, skin or eye color or enhance or alter lines, wrinkles or other individual characteristics." The company wants its beauty aisle to be a place where customers feel good while representing and celebrating the authenticity and diversity of the communities it serves.

Airbrushing images is an entrenched practice in the beauty industry, so the company's decision is groundbreaking and unprecedented. But what motivated CVS to take on a strong stance? 

According to CVS, it is customers who emboldened the company to change a common practice. The brand’s research showed that 80% of women feel bad about themselves after viewing beauty ads. CVS Pharmacy president Helena Foulkes said on “CBS This Morning” the company considers it a health issue. Forty-two percent of girls in grades one through three want to be thinner, and the propagation of unrealistic body imagery is hurting women’s health, according to the American Medical Association.

“As a purpose-led company, we strive to do our best to assure all the messages we are sending to our customers reflect our purpose of helping people on their path to better health," Foulkes said in a statement.


Customers want to support brands that align with their values—a trend that has gained momentum in recent years.


This isn't the first time CVS has dared to upturn traditionally accepted businesses practices that were starting to become passé. Four years ago, the pharmacy chain made another bold move, opting to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its stores. Not only was it an unprecedented move, but it was estimated to carve out $2 billion of the company’s annual revenue. But a year later it was clear the decision had paid off. CVS was able to deliver double-digit revenue growth and an 8% year-over-year profit increase.

Deciding not to make money off tobacco products was transformative for CVS, and an early example of how empowered consumers were starting to drive business decisions. Customers want to support brands that align with their values—a trend that has gained momentum in recent years. Kantar Retail analyst Brian Owens told CNN that CVS is trying to stay ahead of the curve and being strategic about where their shoppers' values are aligned.

CVS has been able to make these significant changes and take a confidence stance because the know their customers feel about these issues.

Transparency takes market share

CVS’ latest move is part of a broader of major brands taking a stance on social issues of the day.

Over the past few years, companies such as Starbucks, REI and Patagonia have embraced a value-based approach to doing business. Experts believe this move towards a purpose-driven business is one that more and more companies will take on—because it’s something customers want more of.

Values-based brands are a growing trend as companies increasingly look to make values the centerpiece of their business—something that can attract a loyal following or widespread condemnation, depending on the perceived authenticity of the sentiment. Customers want to buy from companies that project the same values as they do. Understanding the values of your customers as well as shifting cultural norms can help you figure out if your stance aligns with your customer base.

Understand the values your customers expect

Insight isn’t just about figuring out what your customers want to buy and how they want to buy it. Today’s consumers want to deal with brands that reflect their values. Proactively understanding social issues that affect consumer behavior can transform your business and put you out in front of competition, confident that you’re doing right by your customers.

Forrester: A $1.2 trillion opportunity - The rise of insight driven businesses

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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