November 1, 2022
Pink October: An AI Analysis of Breast Cancer Conversations Online

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

October marked Breast Cancer Awareness Month — an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities in the USA to increase awareness and raise funds for research on the causes, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure of breast cancer. Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops from the breast tissue and may include a lump in the breast, a change in breast shape, dimpling of the skin, fluid from the nipple, a newly inverted nipple, or a red or scaly patch of skin. It is the most common cancer in women after skin cancers and over 2.3 million women have been diagnosed with it globally. Early detection is key for effective treatment and public awareness campaigns play an important role on this front.

In last week’s Health Talk blog, we observed how social media has become the go-to place for people to enquire about health conditions and share their personal experiences. Social media is also where a lot of breast cancer campaigns and organizations share information and raise awareness. This week, we deep-dive into search queries and social media conversations related to breast cancer with the help of our AI tool, Sphere.

Breast cancer-related topics that are trending on search

Can itching be a symptom of breast cancer?

Many symptoms of breast cancer are ambiguous in nature and common to other less serious conditions. Over the past few months — and particularly in June this year — there was a surge in searches clarifying whether itching could be a sign of breast cancer. This surge may be driven by news articles on possible reasons for nipple itchiness that appeared during this period. In most cases, itching breasts are not an indicator of cancer or any other life-threatening condition. However, there are two uncommon forms of breast cancer — inflammatory breast cancer and Paget’s disease — that are associated with itchy breast tissue.


Searches for the drug Dostarlimab (brand name: Jemperli) have been up over the last few months, with the most searches coming from Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania. There was a significant spike around July 7 which coincides with a news release about an experimental drug trial involving Dostarlimab that showed very promising results. The trial, partially funded by the drugmaker GSK, found that cancer went into remission in every single rectal cancer patient who received this immunotherapy treatment for six months. The drug has FDA approval to treat one form of advanced-stage breast cancer that has grown during or after treatment if no other treatment options are available. This explains why many people searching for breast cancer are also searching for this drug.

HER2-negative breast cancer

There has been a surge of interest in HER2-negative breast cancer, particularly through May and June this year. ‘HER2’ is an abbreviation for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 and can refer to the HER2 gene or to the protein of the same name that the gene produces. HER2-negative breast cancer occurs when the cancerous cells do not contain high enough levels of the HER2 protein to be considered HER2-positive. Approximately 4 out of 5 breast cancer cases are classified as HER2-negative.

It is believed that over 60% of these HER2-negative breast cancers have some HER2 proteins on their cell surfaces and doctors are now calling these cancers ‘HER2-low.’ These cancers effectively occupy a grey zone between the negative and positive types, and the new classification can determine treatment options. Receiving a HER2-negative diagnosis can leave one fraught with uncertainty because, despite the variety of treatment options, the prognosis can vary. Around the time that this search was surging, scientific reports were released about a drug named Enhertu that has shown great promise in treating HER2-negative breast cancer.


Searches for the oncology drug Enhertu have also been on the rise, with the most number of searches from New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Maryland. The searches increased from May 5 onwards and stem from AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s announcement that their drug was approved in the U.S. for patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer who have previously received an anti-HER2-based regimen. The largest spike was seen on June 5 and is connected to research presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Annual Meeting and also published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The research revealed that, compared with chemotherapy that doctors typically choose for treatment, Enhertu improved both progression-free survival (how long a person lives without their cancer growing) by 50% and reduced the risk of death (regardless of cancer growth) by 36% in patients diagnosed with metastatic HER2-low breast cancer that received previous treatment. Popular news articles were quick to report on these extraordinary findings, with some suggesting that this game-changing clinical trial success could represent a new era of breast cancer treatment that offers targeted therapy for HER2-low patients.

Breast cancer in men

Men make up a small percentage (fewer than 1%) of breast cancer cases but tend to be diagnosed only after the cancer has reached an advanced stage and is harder to treat. This is because of the common misconception that only women can get breast cancer and men don’t get routine mammograms.

Approximately 2,710 men in America are expected to be diagnosed with the disease this year. Some recent news articles featured cases of men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, so it is likely that this search indicates an increase in public interest on the topic.

Breast cancer conversations on social media

Reclaiming the body with Mastectomy tattoos

Many women who have undergone mastectomies have chosen to reclaim the post-surgery area (and their sense of self) by getting elaborate, meaningful tattoos. Losing one or both breasts to cancer can bring on complex emotions for some, as the resulting area can be associated with both triumph over the disease and the loss of one’s ideal body or sense of femininity.

Coming to terms with one’s post-mastectomy body can be challenging and traumatic as it is common for these women to experience feelings of detachment from their bodies that now feel foreign to them. These feelings can be amplified by the perpetual fear about their bodies as they fear cancer recurrence. Acquiring this type of tattoo can be a meaningful part of healing and also connect one to a community of women who have opted to do the same thing. Social media has facilitated the display of mastectomy tattoos, with TikTok and Instagram having the majority of posts and dialogue.

Source: Instagram

Marnie Schulenburg’s untimely death

Searches for American actress Marnie Schulenburg surged in the days following her death on May 17. Best known for her role on the soap opera As the World Turns, as well as her roles on One Life to Live and Blue Bloods, Schulenburg’s passing at only 37 years of age came as a shock to many. Searches for “Marnie Schulenburg breast cancer” were highest in Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Colorado, and New Hampshire. Diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2020, she used social media to draw attention to her specific condition (which can be mistaken for mastitis) and to inspire others battling breast cancer.

Celebrity Diagnoses: Clea Shearer and Terra Jolé

Two stars of popular U.S. shows have recently gone public with their breast cancer diagnoses, and both of their names have been surging according to Google Trends.

Netflix star Clea Shearer (from the show The Home Edit) shared on Instagram that she has started chemotherapy to treat her breast cancer. Her over 235K followers were made aware of her diagnosis, as well as the variety of upsets (to do with sleep disturbances, anxiety, frustration, and sadness) that came with embarking on a course of chemotherapy. LA star and Dancing With the Stars alum Terra Jolé went public with her breast cancer diagnosis on April 29 and revealed that she planned to have a double mastectomy to address it. Upon making the announcement, many of her friends and fans that make up her over 918K Instagram followers sent messages of support and encouragement to the star.

Source: Instagram

Beauty Influencer Dionne Phillips

Before her breast cancer diagnosis, Dionne Phillips was well-known for her work as a celebrity lash expert and beauty influencer. Since her diagnosis earlier this year, she has been using her platform of 34.6K Instagram followers to share her treatment journey and raise general awareness about breast cancer to hopefully save other women. She highlights that she had undergone mammograms on a regular basis for many years and yet her cancer was not detected. Her diagnosis was particularly terrifying as this type of breast cancer (invasive ductal carcinoma) commonly spreads into the lymph nodes, making treatment more challenging. Dionne posts about her chemotherapy sessions, has shared her rationale about undergoing a double mastectomy, and talks about supporting Black women, a group that faces disproportionate barriers in accessing screening and care in the U.S.

Mastectomy-Oriented Fashion

Women rethink their clothing choices after they have had mastectomies since the surgery can result in the loss of one or both breasts, the reduction of one or both breasts, the loss of one’s nipples, or major changes to the entire area (e.g., loss of tissue in the armpit area or having to adjust to breast implants). Not being able to wear items from one’s wardrobe or encountering challenges when shopping for new clothing can be frustrating, and has prompted some women to share tips and experiences online. Using the hashtags #foobs (which refers to ‘fake boobs after mastectomy’), #foobfashion, #flattie, #flattiefashion, and #flatandfabulous (among others) on TikTok and Instagram, these women are giving practical advice, extending solidarity to others, and approaching a lot of their struggles with humor as they reinterpret fashion to suit their needs and tastes.

Source: Instagram

Our AI tool, Sphere, tells us that social media posts related to breast cancer are dominated by positive and neutral content. 44% of posts are classified as optimistic and 40% as joyful, while 13% of posts are classified as sad. The top three emotions detected from Instagram posts are happiness, affiliation, and affection, which indicates that people are taking to social media to share uplifting and empowering content related to overcoming breast cancer.

The color palette of Instagram posts is in sync with the brand colors associated with breast cancer awareness campaigns — proving that these have, in some ways, been effective.

Colors detected from Instagram posts about breast cancer

While there’s a long way to go to increase awareness about the early detection of breast cancer and make treatment accessible to all, keeping track of social media conversations and search trends can help healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies better understand and design their communication and outreach initiatives.

For more such insights on healthcare-related topics, visit Quilt Health or write to us at [email protected].


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


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.
Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.
Request a Sphere demo
Transform the way you understand online data
Try now