January 8, 2023
How TikTok Supports People Battling With Infertility
6 MIN READ

The rise in candy from around the world reflects people's growing adventurous palates and the role of social media in introducing new foods globally.

History has significantly influenced what various cultures consider beautiful. Major economic and political events, along with shifts in the cultural zeitgeist, have all played a crucial part in shaping ideal beauty standards.

For instance, colonialism radically shifted beauty ideals in many Asian and African countries. Features that didn’t fit with Eurocentric beauty ideals, like deeper skin tones, smaller eye shapes and textured hair, were deemed undesirable, introducing a social hierarchy that is still being unraveled today.

In modern society, the rise of the Internet and social media has been a transformative force in shaping beauty standards. Asian beauty techniques and products have spread to the West and entered the mainstream, while Western influencer and celebrity culture has permeated globally. The conversation around beauty has become increasingly diverse and inclusive, celebrating a wider range of features and styles.

These evolving perspectives on beauty have led to the emergence of new practices, which are prominently reflected in modern advertising. Using our AI-powered Ad Evaluation App, we analyzed beauty advertisements from the 1990s and 2000s by the same brands across five different markets - the US, China, India, Japan, and Brazil. Our goal was to observe their transformation over time and identify any movements between these markets.

Brazil

Previous Archetypes and Values: Sensual, Intimate, Passionate

New Archetypes and Values: Sensual, Intimate, Passionate, Inspiration, Glamorous

Brazil boasts one of the world’s most diverse cultures, but its beauty standards haven't always reflected that. L’Oreal’s earlier ads featured a light-skinned American model, which is not representative of the country's diversity. While the preferences for glamour and sensuality have remained central, modern ads now showcase a nuanced version of beauty, highlighting different ethnicities and genders. This bolder approach contrasts with the seemingly self-effacing ad of the past, redefining and embracing what beauty looks like in Brazil.

China

Previous Archetypes and Values: Supportive, Down-to-Earth

New Archetypes and Values:  Strong, Brave, Determined

Estee Lauder's 2002 ad in China features Caucasian model Hilary Rhoda as the ambassador, dubbed in Mandarin. This ad may have been a reflection of the period's idealization of foreign beauty and a lack of strong Chinese identity in the beauty industry at the time. More than two decades later, the 2024 ad we analyzed showcases Zhang Weili, a professional MMA fighter, training in a boxing ring. This shift indicates a move away from the consumption of imported beauty standards towards the creation of a homegrown ideal. The new standard of beauty emphasizes strength and health, qualities that Chinese consumers admire and aspire to, and see in themselves.

India

Previous Archetypes and Values:  Powerful, Charismatic, Visionary

New Archetype and Values: Playful, Carefree, Fun-Loving, Glamorous

The two L’Oreal India advertisements featuring long-time brand ambassador Aishwarya Rai illustrate a shift in marketing strategy over the last decade. In the earlier ad, Aishwarya embodies the quintessential beautiful Indian woman, dressed-up and perfectly coiffed. This portrayal emphasizes an idealized and somewhat unattainable standard of beauty.The updated ad presents a more casual and relatable image of the actress, which suggests an attitudinal shift among Indian consumers. While she remains glamorous, the ad focuses on portraying her in a more accessible light, thus positioning her as someone who wants to help other women feel beautiful too.

Japan

Previous Archetypes and Values: Innocent, Humble, Optimistic

New Archetypes and Values: Warm, Compassionate, Generous, Nurturing, Inspirational

Shiseido's ads reflect the evolving reality of Japanese women over the past 30 years. The 1992 ad depicts a woman at home, where women typically spent most of their time. The modern ad, however, shows Japanese celebrity Hiromi Nagasaku in various aspects of her life—at work and with her family—showcasing the joy she feels. She appears more confident and assertive, reflecting contemporary Japanese views on beauty. In the past, beauty was associated with cleanliness, but now it encompasses a woman living her life fully and enjoying every moment, illustrating that beauty comes from within rather than just external appearances.

USA

Previous Archetypes and Values: Expressive, Imaginative, Sensuality

New Archetypes and Values:  Playful, Fun-loving, Glamorous, Entertaining

Both Maybelline ads share a similar concept, creating a fantasy world that doesn't take itself too seriously. Beauty is meant to be fun, and the 2023 version feels like a modern update of the earlier ad's playful message. The latest ad features the unexpected pairing of Bretman Rock and Martha Stewart, and utilizes both their brand personas. This shift showcases a growing consumer desire for inclusivity and authenticity in advertising, challenging traditional notions of beauty and expanding the idea of who gets to wear makeup.

Our analysis of ads from these five markets reveals three key ways ideas have traveled, highlighting the shift from one-dimensional to multidimensional beauty. The meaning of this shift varies across cultures.

Many modern ads demonstrate a shift in the relationship and power dynamics between beauty brands and consumers. In the past, the beauty industry focused on highlighting imperfections and promoting unattainable standards that could only be achieved through their products. Today, consumers are more empowered and seek brands that affirm their beauty and support them in their journey to become the best version of themselves.

Markets Demostrating this Theme: USA. Brazil, Japan.

Modern beauty ads seem to share a common thread: beauty is about play and passion. It’s meant to be fun and accessible to everyone who wants to take part in it. It's believed that happiness and fulfillment in life radiate outwardly. When you feel content and satisfied, it enhances your external appearance.Brands need to promote the idea that their products are a means to explore, have fun, and express joy, reinforcing where true beauty comes from.

Markets Demostrating this Theme: USA, Brazil, China, Japan, India.

Seeing yourself on screen is more important than ever before. Consumers are demanding to see people who not only look like them but also reflect the unique interpretations of beauty in their respective countries. They want to see individuals who mirror their ideals and lifestyles and with whom they can emotionally connect.

The expectation is for brands to understand them on a far deeper level and cater to their beauty standards, rather than setting the standards for them.

Markets Demostrating this Theme: USA, Brazil, China, Japan.

Candy remains a favorite in ASMR eating videos due to its visual appeal and sound when chewed. Recently, popular candies with crunchy and sludgy sounds have become especially soothing.

Consumers' tastes now favor sharper, tangier flavors. Sour candy offers a refreshing contrast to sweetness and stimulates dopamine release. It is also believed to be a quick antidote for anxiety, as it distracts the brain from negative emotions and focuses it on the tingly sensation in the mouth.

Nostalgia has hit the candy market, with 90s and 00s favorites like Ring Pops, Airheads, and Nerds topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list, indicating consumers’ craving for childhood snacks.

Write to [email protected] to learn about AI-powered market research and the latest consumer trends.

As beauty standards become more inclusive and diverse, it is clear that consumers are driving a transformative shift in media and advertising, seeking representations that are authentic, empowering, and reflective of their true selves.

If you are interested to learn more, sign upfor our product newsletter or reach out to us at [email protected].

We’re launching an updated version of our ad evaluation tool that can analyse any creative formats, from concepts to storyboard, at our September event. Learn more about AI-volution 2024 here.

Brand Insights in 3 Sentences: Discussing fertility issues are still considered taboo today, but a group of people, mainly women, on TikTok have decided to take charge of the conversation and opened up about their struggles on the platform. The TTC (Trying to Conceive) community they’ve built reveals that this issue is widespread, but they are extremely supportive of one another and have even formed their own abbreviations and acronyms that they all seem privy to. Infertility remains a sensitive topic, so brands should remain aware of the language they use in their communications and not put out anything that may be triggering to them.

Jennifer Aniston recently made headlines talking about her private struggles with infertility to Allure Magazine and how she had tried in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The actress also discussed how the topic of her being pregnant had been subject to extreme media scrutiny for years and how hurtful assumptions were made about how she had chosen her career over having children.

The scale in which she had faced these questions is unimaginable, but it’s an unfortunate reality that many women face. “Are you pregnant?” seems innocent enough and oftentimes comes with good intentions. But, for a woman struggling with infertility, it can elicit emotions of pain, loss, and anger.

Even in 2022, fertility issues are still taboo. It’s a conversation you have in private with your partner or doctor, not something you bring up in casual conversation unless you want to make it uncomfortable or awkward for people. If you do decide to bring it up, this admission opens you up to even more questions and possibly unempathetic comments or criticism, As humans, we are supposed to be biologically wired to procreate, so acknowledging that having trouble doing just that is an admission of being a failure, or being “less than.”

In short, infertility can be a silent struggle. It often weaves into a narrative of blame and self-isolation. However, there’s a group of people on social media who are trying to create space for themselves and others undergoing fertility issues. TikTok in particular has emerged as an important platform for them to tell and destigmatize their experiences.


Using Sphere, and our own qualitative research, we wanted to take a look at the conversations taking place around infertility and understand how people interacted and portrayed the issue on social media.

An explicit observation we made first was that almost all the #InfertilityTok creators were women. It’s estimated that “up to 7% of men are affected by infertility and 50% of fertility problems within a heterosexual couple are due to the man. In around half of male infertility cases, the cause is unexplained.” Search interest also reveals that men are the ones searching the most for ‘fertility clinics’ and ‘fertility doctors’. Even with these statistics, however, women tend to be the ones to shoulder the societal burden of infertility and men suffer just as much in silence.

The men that are featured in the content are often shown as support systems to the women, being the ones to comfort them when they receive bad news or helping to administer IVF injections. It portrays them as having to be strong for their partners, and not as people who are suffering themselves. Videos under #maleinfertility does show that this issue takes a toll on them emotionally as well, but it’s evidently underrepresented within this community.

The content these creators make tend to be real and raw representations of their fertility experiences. They show footage of themselves undergoing fertility treatments and showing their real-time reactions to results of their pregnancy tests each cycle. In fact, the Clearblue pregnancy test kit was the most detected logo amongst all the videos we reviewed.

Logos Detected

Many of them show their journeys with the goal of being authentic and not sugarcoating the pain they endure and to let other people with the same experiences know that they are not alone. They also do it for themselves, in the hopes that one day they’ll have a successful pregnancy and be able to document the very moment they found out.

Sphere detected a number of different terms and acronyms that were accompanied frequently with this content. The acronym ‘ttc’ which stands for ‘trying to conceive’ for example, was found in more than half of the posts we reviewed. Other phrases like ‘1in8’, ‘cd, (cycle day) and ‘dpo’ (days past ovulation) were also mentioned as well. These all appear to be a part of the vernacular used by members of online communities dedicated to fertility when discussing their experiences.

A few notable phrases that appeared in the top list of words were ‘ttcafterloss’ and ‘rainbow baby’, which is defined as “a healthy baby born after losing a baby due to miscarriage, infant loss, stillbirth, or neonatal death”. It’s believed that various reasons for infertility can increases the chances of a stillbirth or miscarriage, so this is an experience that many of these content creators sadly share. They use the term ‘rainbow baby’ when discussing the child they yearn to have, or if they do successfully manage to conceive one.


south_east

synthesizing vast data into actionable insights that reflect each market's unique cultural and economic backdrop

south_east

grasping the distinct consumer perspectives that these diverse regions offer

Curated digital profiles:

-Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok (US)

-Weibo and Douyin (China)

Pulled 400 million unique searches to estimate the growth of each segment

Used Quilt.AI’s Sphere language and image capabilities to categorise lifestyle areas into specific segments

Glamour Seekers

These consumers are confident, bold, and comfortable with modern masculinity. They also often turn to social media to express their personal style and interests.

Actionable Insight: Collaborate with high-profile fashion influencers to create vibrant, trend-setting campaigns that resonate with this segment's desire for attention and admiration.

Vanity Vanguards

Highly image-driven, these individuals often seek validation through their appearance and are likely to engage heavily with both grooming and fashion products.

Actionable Insight:Leverage digital marketing strategies that feature before-and-after visuals and testimonials that showcase the transformative power of the products

Conscious Icons

These men aim to be recognized as modern, open-minded, and sensitive – embodying the image of "the woke good guy" in today's society by actively participating in movements related to activism and gender equality.

Actionable Insight:Design marketing campaigns that highlight their participation in these movements, showcasing products that enable them to express and amplify their desired social identities.

Youthful Trendsetters

They value beauty while still maintaining traditional masculine ideals of what it means to be good-looking. These men also tend to seek out methods of maintaining their youthful appearances.

Actionable Insight:Market products that boost physical appeal and suit active lifestyles, and focus on dynamic marketing that highlights masculine elegance.

Trusted Patrons

Despite seeing gender in traditionally binary terms, these men aren’t afraid of behaving in more feminine manners. They own their uniqueness and tend to be deeply loyal to brands that affirm their identity.

Actionable Insight:Focusing on brand narratives that celebrate individuality and personal expression will better engage this segment. Brands can also offer personalized services to maintain their commitment.

Innovation Advocates

As consumers who value knowledge, they embrace technology and innovation that enhances their lives. Wanting to stay ahead of the curve, they prefer brands that offer cutting-edge solutions that reflect their own mentality.

Actionable Insight:Market products to this segment by emphasizing innovation, utility, and exclusivity. Brands can focus on how their products integrate the latest technology and engage these men through intelligent content that speaks to their curiosity.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.
Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.

While the actual causes behind their infertility doesn’t seem to be the main focus or goal of this community, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Endometriosis are the only two health issues mentioned within the reviewed posts. They are both known to be common causes for fertility issues, and most content creators mention it in the context of spreading awareness, rather than offering advice on how to cure or treat them.

Fertility concerns not only affects the individual both physically and emotionally, it impacts almost every aspect of their lives and the people in them. Ovulation and pregnancy tests, and fertility treatments can be a huge financial burden. Sexual intimacy between couples also becomes more of a job, which often leads to a complete loss of affection and sometimes the break down of relationships. In some societies where childbearing is highly valued, infertility can sometimes even lead to violence between partners.

Despite how difficult this issue can be, the discourse around it is actually largely positive. There’s a lot of hope in the way this community makes videos and the way they talk to one another. They provide encouragement and reassurance, celebrate each other’s wins and crack jokes about their problems.

It’s worth mentioning however, that there are people who believe that this community is almost too positive, and even toxic. Some people raised that community members shouldn’t be spreading false hope and telling people what they want to hear, while others talk about their experiences being discredited if their journey hadn’t been as long or as difficult as others.

The days of polished perfectionism on social media are waning. Authenticity on these platforms are now the zeitgeist, and TikTok ascended at just the right time. Because of its novelty, it also provided the perfect distraction from seeing friends post about sometimes triggering pregnancy announcements and babies on other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

Members of the TTC community felt safe to jump from anonymous, online message boards to showing their faces and being vulnerable online. Infertility is a seemingly endless waiting game, and incredibly lonely, so if TikTok brings them comfort and community then we hope this is a space that continues to thrive.

Write to [email protected] to learn about AI-powered market research and the latest consumer trends.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.
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