Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? A Study of Six Cosmetics Brands' Value Communication on Instagram

Elita J. Falkvard & Emilie N. Dyrved

Student thesis: Master thesis


In recent years, the social platform Instagram has undergone a rapid growth in popularity. Along with private individuals, companies and brands have embraced the platform as a new source of personal branding. On Instagram, cosmetics brands, in particular, have benefitted from the platform’s growth. These two industries, cosmetics and social media have become very intertwined, and the more recent success of the cosmetics industry can be accredited social media – and especially Instagram. The characteristics of social media, herein Instagram, allow brands to continuously interact with their customers, which contributes to close customer relationships, consumer engagement and loyalty. Increasing competition in the cosmetics industry requires brands to distinguish themselves through e.g. a distinct set of brand values. These become a part of the brands’ “personality”, by which the consumer can assess the brands’ compatibility to their personal needs.
To our knowledge, there are no previous studies regarding cosmetics brands’ value communication on Instagram and its implications on current and potential consumers. Thus, the current study presents findings of an investigation of six cosmetics brands: L’Oréal Paris, Rimmel London, The Body Shop, Kat Von D Beauty, Shiseido and Marc Ja- cobs Beauty. Our objective is to uncover which and how cosmetics brands’ content should be presented in order to reap the benefits of value communication through Instagram.
The methodological foundation of this thesis consists of two approaches, namely a qualitative focus group interview and a supplementary quantitative survey. For the two approaches we employ a participant demographic consisting of Danish females between the ages of 20-30. Furthermore, as a foundation for our research, the thesis reviews literature in areas relating to branding, consumer behaviour and visuals in marketing and branding.
Our findings point to a relationship between consumer preferences, company values and the portrayal of these. All three need to be taken into consideration and adjusted accordingly. Specifically, we find that content involving product usage, current events and the brand’s image are the most effective in cosmetics brands’ value communication – especially if it is salient throughout the Instagram portrayal. Moreover, we find that cosmetics brands can improve the effectiveness of their communication by promoting values concerning ethical considerations, honesty, transparency, luxury and quality.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages119