November 29, 2023
Single and thriving: Life lessons from the solo economy

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.

Singlehood gets a bad rep. In pop culture, it’s typically framed as a reluctant layover, a waiting room till the next romance comes along. But with 2.1 billion singles worldwide and growing, being single is becoming a mainstream lifestyle. For many, it's not a temporary phase but an intentional choice, proving that fulfillment doesn’t require a partner. 

As the number of singles rises, their preferences drive new trends, influencing everything from solo travel experiences to single-serving portions. The surge in solo-friendly events and fitness classes also signals a shift towards enjoying one’s own company. Singles are not just exploring the world independently, they’re ready to spend on themselves

A testament to the economic impact of singlehood is Singles Day in China. It falls on November 11 or 11/11 each year, symbolizing four singles standing together. Originally conceived by single college students in 1993 as a cynical response to couple-centric celebrations (here’s looking at you, Valentine’s Day), Singles Day has evolved into a major online shopping extravaganza.

It started when Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba started offering massive discounts for 24 hours on 11 November in 2009 because, any excuse for a sale right? ​​Since then, Singles' Day has become synonymous with spending, comparable to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S. In 2020, Alibaba reported a staggering 540.3 billion yuan (US$76.1 billion) in sales from Singles Day, far surpassing the US$22.1 billion generated on American e-commerce platforms from all Thanksgiving sales.

The sheer scale of Singles Day underscores the potential of recognizing this growing demographic. Beyond shopping sprees, marketing to singles unlocks a significant consumer base that wields spending power but remains underrepresented. By celebrating the single life and catering to single needs, brands not only tap into a lucrative market but also contribute to a broader social conversation championing diversity and independence.

To learn from the best, we look at brilliant advertisements from recent years that skillfully explore the single life with creativity and heart. We applied Sphere’s Ad Benchmarking app for a frame by frame analysis against various industry benchmarks, and got insights into the strengths that set them apart.


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

Pantene: A lesson on not settling for less

This cinematic piece is set in the Breakup Salon, where the recently single go to get makeovers and life advice from a sagely stylist. There’s refreshing diversity in their breakup stories; from navigating a controlling partner to overcoming the challenges of a long-distance relationship or facing parental pressures. Each character leaves empowered in their own way, by a blend of wise words and great hair transformations.

Brand archetypes

In line with its high reliability, this ad signals Everyperson the most. The down-to-earth characters with their familiar life experiences add an intimate touch and make for accessible viewing.

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.

Jetstar: A lesson on celebrating me time

This clever ad starts out playing up the romance of travel, with characters who appear to be on adventures with their partners. But here’s the twist - as the camera pans, an outstretched hand is revealed to be holding a selfie stick instead of a significant other, and a cafe date turns out to be an indulgent solo brunch. The ad’s playful celebration of singlehood injects some fun into an industry associated with a formal, polished image.

Brand archetypes

This ad embodies the Explorer the most, not only through its travel scenes but also with its open-minded ethos of finding fulfillment in solitude. The characters fearlessly enjoy the world on their own, making every experience count.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.

Jollibee: A lesson on appreciating the here and now

This feel-good family ad follows the journey of Kat, who is unlucky in love. She suffers commitment phobes, two-timers, ghosters and painful breakups. She’s exhausted from looking for love in all the wrong places and comes to an epiphany that the only support system she needs is her family, who have been there for her all along.

Brand archetypes

This ad signals the Lover archetype by emphasizing the love and support within familial relationships, diverging from the typical Hero archetype often signaled in the Food and Beverage industry. Instead of drumming up heroic qualities like innovation or exceptional product features, this ad takes a softer approach by focusing on emotional connections.

How brands can celebrate the single life

With inclusive representation:

Craft marketing that accurately reflects the diversity of the single experience. Gain insights on this by speaking with real-life consumers from a wide range of ages, ethnicities, genders, and lifestyles, regarding their diverse needs and nuanced experiences.

With authentic storytelling:

Share authentic stories and experiences of singles in marketing campaigns. Feature real-life individuals and their diverse journeys, respect their individual choices, and avoid stigmatizing narratives.

By emphasizing self-care and well-being:

Adopt an informed approach that prioritizes self-care and mental well-being. Show how your products or services can contribute to enhancing the individual happiness and personal growth of singles.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.
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