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Ulta releases David Lopez interview discussing "Girlhood" with Dylan Mulvaney - receives prompt backlash and #BoycottUlta hashtag

When you are the leading brand with the largest market share of your niche, it makes sense to expand the market. But, as many brands have learned the hard way, you can't expand the market in a way that offends the original consumer as you risk losing the core consumer and in the end shrinking your market share.

Ulta's marketing department and their agency may have thought they were brilliant in aiming to expand the market by having this series of podcasts called "The Beauty Of" hosted by David Lopez, a well-established hair stylist and beauty influencer.

On paper, this is checking all the hip boxes and could be played like social media marketing bingo:  Influencer? Check! Soft peachy 80s throwback colors in the podcast studio that work well with Ulta's light orange logo? Check! Podcast like all the cool kids do these days? Check! Topic of the podcast - all the products available at Ulta - Check! 

Honestly, this was probably applauded in the meeting rooms as a hip generation of hip marketing kids decided to roll this out and entice new customers to come to Ulta and explore all the beauty products available. They forgot the golden rule of advertising: you are not your target market. The market is a fickle mistress and you really need to listen to consumers before crafting campaigns. So while I'm sure everyone at Ulta was happy signing off on this, the reception when this podcast was tweeted out to the world was decidedly not what they expected.

 

Punctuated with the hand clapping emoji (cringe), Ulta tweeted this announcement out: 

an archive of this tweet is available here.

The backlash however was immediate. 

You see, Dylan Mulvany, the TikTok influencer that appeared out of nowhere and was immediately cheered on Good Morning America, being interviewed in Elle, and selected to speak on a panel at Forbes Power Women's Summit has already attracted as many non-fans as fans. Possibly more non-fans, actually. Dylan Mulvany's "Day _ as a girl" TikTok video series shows Dylan running away from spiders while hiking in heels, dancing in the rain in skimpy outfits, and in general acting like an exaggerated parody of a sex stereotype that women and girls do not recognize as reality. All while proclaiming that this is "girlhood" - but Dylan is 25 years old. 

When Dylan shared the fantastical story of a girl in the stall next to Dylan asking for a tampon and then suggested that Tampax was talking about sponsoring the "days of girl" channel, women complained and boycotted Tampax. As well as calling out Dylan's misogynistic term for a woman's vagina: the "Barbie pouch" in responding Tiktoks.

In the "The Beauty Of" interview Dylan also expresses their hopes for the future, revealing "I want to be a mom someday." In an era when actual pregnant women are called birthing people and birthing parent that line from Dylan really poured salt in a wound that advertising and marketing have done their best to infect further.

The replies to the tweet above shot down the concept immediately, and Ulta's social media manager probably got carpel tunnel syndrome as they were very busy hiding replies. "It's like blackface but more whiny" said one, "Those are two adults. It's very creepy to hear them talking about girlhood when neither has never experienced it." said another.

It didn't take long before Ulta's social media manager got tired of creating individual replies stating "At Ulta Beauty, we believe that beauty is for everyone" and "We believe that beauty has no boundaries, and we want to create an environment where all expressions of beauty are welcome." so they decided to tweet out a statement: 

This is archived here.

But that attempt to calm the storm was just adding fuel to the fire, and soon "#BoycottUlta" trended on Twitter. "Are you saying men cannot be beautiful? That anyone who wants to feel beautiful must ‘be a woman’? Sack your entire marketing department instantly, because they are incompetent, as well as regressive." said a reply that shared an image of a nobleman in the 1700s, wearing a wig and heels.
Prominent forums on the internet took note of the backlash as well, Lipstickalley noted "Ulta gets dragged" and spied on the "barbie pouch saga". As they say, Twitter isn't real life, it's also not even the largest representation of the internet.

So what happened here? How could Ulta's marketing department and ad agency misjudge the current zeitgeist so badly? I think it's rather simple. Advertising, PR and marketing agencies are getting high on their own supply these days, and don't see that there are scores of consumers out there who do not subscribe to the idea that makeup means that you're instantly a woman. Those who grew up with posters of Adam Ant, Boy George, Annie Lennox and David Bowie on the walls don't even blink at gender bending clothing as that's been a pop culture staple since Marlene Dietrich wore her suits.

Somewhere along the way, the industry went out of its way to latch onto influencers in an effort to be hip, firing the old-school crew who could create ideas without influencers, and replaced them with a generation of myopic navel-gazers who fail to understand that they are not the target market. The result is an unfortunate campaign that serves to turn the core consumer off.

 

Or to sum it up with a comment posted at Lipstickalley: "I'm so sick of companies for women supporting this charade."

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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Dabitch's picture

"If you wanted a conversation you wouldn't hide replies" - Ulta is being called out for blocking and removing comments to this campaign on Twitter. This went quite pearshaped.

Neo's picture

Something that I notice is how quickly Dylan ascended.

March 12 the TikTok series began, and the Good Morning America article that you linked is from April 15. People don't usually rise to fame that quickly without a PR machine helping them. I suppose that it could also be "connections".

Dabitch's picture

I find that really odd too.

Stop it's picture

Most trans women seem to think being a stereotype of women that only exists in actual misogynists' mind or porn is what being a woman is actually like. And now everyone is afraid of being called a "traaaansphobe" that they cannot realize that this is far more sexist than the shit they complain about. The cognitive dissonance is extreme here.

And as Neo brings up how quickly he became famous... yeah, it's weird, weird enough that I still think he's an elaborate prank a la Ali G or Borat.

Anonymous Adgrunt's picture

The "hip generation of hip marketing kids" never fail at producing pure cringe.

Anonymous Adgrunt's picture

As a joke, this might have ben fun, but as they're serious this is incredibly insulting.

Spinny skirt's picture

For anyone who doesn't see what the big deal is here, I suggest you take some time and watch the banned from Youtube video "What is a woman: Wrong answers only". It'll shock you.