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Beauty as a code in branding and marketing undergoes almost perpetual exploration. From being limited to physical appearance, the code has been redefined often in terms of essence, achievements or actions. We analyse pieces of branded content from Kay Beauty, Nykaa, Mamaearth among others to find out the latest symbols associated with beauty.

#ItsKayToBeYou | Kay Beauty

For this short visual, Kay Beauty juxtaposes a minute-long montage of several women with a powerful monologue that begins with a question— How does it feel to be you?

The monologue adopts a challenging tone as it proceeds further talking about appearance markers like a “big nose” or “thin lips”. The video shows numerous women in their own elements—screaming or sitting wide-legged—that may or may not be in alignment with societal norms.

A short clip of the entire group (including the likes of Saina Nehwal, Nayanthara, Kusha Kapila, and Katrina Kaif) dressed entirely in nude colours further symbolises the process of shedding layers and being comfortable in one’s own skin, in being just their own self.

Kay Beauty makes a witty brand connect by replacing okay with ‘kay’. The brand manages to foreground its own importance while staying true to the overall messaging.

#WhatMakesYouBeautiful ft. Laxmi Agarwal | Nykaa

Nykaa’s three-minute video begins with the narrator expressing the importance of beauty in Indian as well as a global culture. The video then dives into what seems like a make-over video featuring acid attack survivor, Laxmi Agarwal.

However, the make-over complete with jhumkas and bangles is disrupted mid-way with Laxmi expressing her discomfort with the process.

The video then embraces a narrative that depicts Laxmi taking off all embellishments—an undoing of sorts. The taken off jhumkas, therefore, are a code for revisiting the definition of ‘beauty’. Nykaa’s video concludes its exercise of meaning-making by answering its titular question: What makes you beautiful is ‘you’.

With this video, Nykaa experiments with the idea of diversification of beauty by featuring an unconventional protagonist. Moreover, the creation of a ‘reverse make-over’ video on Nykaa’s part is a conversation initiator on the subject of ‘authentic beauty’, which is ultimately posited in the person itself.

Branded content by both Kay Beauty and Nykaa represent an emergent narrative in terms of expressing the code of beauty. A much older and residual narrative of beauty is expressed in terms of actions, achievements, and stories. The ‘true’ meaning of beauty here is similar to the one discussed above in the sense that they both are derived intrinsically. It is the ‘being’ or the actions performed by that being that constitutes beauty.

However, the old school still necessitates the need to perform. Beauty here is not something that can be expressed or derived by just being oneself. It is a person’s actions or stories that bring their beauty to the fore.

Doing good is BeautifulInDeed | Mamaearth

Mamaearth’s video takes viewers through the initial school days of a spectacled child, who has a dark mark on her face. In a culture like India where a fair skin tone reigns supreme, having dark skin or a mark can pretty much mean that one’s entire personality will be forced built around that ‘fault’.

Indian culture is dictated by the family whose primary concern often is self-propagation through marriage. Fair, blemish-free skin is perhaps the most desired attribute (after caste) when match-making. Mothers, sisters, and aunts often engage in conversation around fair skin tone and numerous ways to achieve it. Beauty comes to be equalised with fair skin.

This very culture percolates to young girls and kids through conversations, taunts or just some ‘nuskhe’ (home remedies) by ‘well-wishers.’ The belief that she is not beautiful on the part of the kid in Mamaearth’s video is thus a result of this fair skin supremacy.

Mamaearth dimensionalises beauty in terms of deeds. After a conversation with her mother, the kid realises that the ‘correct address’ of beauty is not on her face but in her actions. Empowered by her new understanding, she helps other kids in school the next day and thus is successful in making friends.

The video is similar to the ones discussed in terms of not changing anything about one’s appearance. But it requires one to possess an additional quality (here: good deeds) to be truly beautiful whereas the earlier examples skipped this requirement.

Ready. Steady. Glow | Glow & Lovely

Released in order to celebrate women athletes at the Tokyo Olympics, Glow & Lovely’s musical video shows young girls as they try to emulate the stellar Indian Olympians. The main idea is that beauty or glow is an accompaniment to achievements. The glow is associated with aspirations, dreams, and success.

The video quite literally celebrates women on a pedestal and in the process puts beauty there too. It too falls within the residual narrative where a woman needs to perform actions that would then reinforce the idea that she is beautiful. The additional quality that is required here in order to be beautiful is the ability to dream and achieve.


The emergent narrative as seen in Kay Beauty and Nykaa seems to be positing agency in the individual as they are. The idea of beauty is personal and so is the choice to do make-up or not. The main messaging is focused upon the individual and their comfort. The idea of beauty is not for external validation or finding friends but for intrinsic pleasure. Beauty products are not to make oneself better or correct flaws but to treat oneself.

Both emergent and residual trends give rise to content that is more or less close to the concept of normalising flaws and celebrating women or ‘aspirational realness.’ However, the idea of possessing additional qualities to foreground one’s beauty seems like a step back and can be avoided. Highlighting an individual’s agency is a better way to go about when trying to find new meanings of beauty.

Ultimately, the idea of finding something or someone beautiful just as they are is probably best depicted in branded content as it can skirt around the PPE — problem, perfection, and expertise — approach. Branded content on beauty does not necessarily create a problem that needs to be perfected through the use of beauty products. Nor does it hinge on a beauty product that like a magic bullet turns one's life entirely.

Branded content gives a platform where brands can afford to have discourses about ‘authentic beauty’. Moreover, brands such as Nykaa that are both beauty retail and beauty products brands can use subtlety in their content as products can be allowed to take a back seat. Branded content also gives ample space to form new narratives that can prove to be sincere efforts towards reconceiving the category.