December 8, 2022
Trends in this Year’s Best Sellers: #BookTok, Romance, and Colleen Hoover
9 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: Publishing and readership is changing rapidly due to new market forces such as the rise of self-publishing and the growing relevance of #BookTok. Amidst this shifting landscape, romance novels are the new vogue genre, with authors like Colleen Hoover reaching heights of popularity rarely seen before. Older trends remain relevant, such as the staying power of children’s fiction or the adaptation of popular books into films, but with new readers entering the fray, the novels that reach the best seller lists aren’t always received the way they used to be.

The publishing industry is changing. Between the rise of self-publishing, the growing importance of #BookTok in marketing and sales, and the popularity of alternative formats such as E-books and audiobooks, the way that books are being read and discovered is evolving rapidly. The results are sometimes strange — like the sudden emergence of decades-old titles on best seller lists — but it’s ultimately been an important shift, reshaping an old and established industry for the next generation of readers.

However, with so much information available, in such a fluid and dynamic space, it can be hard to understand the drivers behind book sales. When titles are just as likely to gain buzz on TikTok or Twitter as they are in the bookstore, new methods are needed to discover insights about the latest trends in readership.

That’s where we come in. Using our culture AI platform, Sphere, we can go directly to the source — the internet — and break down what readers are celebrating about this year’s biggest sellers. Using data from TikTok and Amazon’s Bestseller list, we used Sphere to better understand 2022’s book market.

Here are our results:

Love Stories Stay On Top

Genres come in and out of style. Sometimes, they fall into obscurity for a few years, destined to wallow on the bookshelves of only the most dedicated fans. Other times, they have their moment — a few months or a few years of fame and popularity, with dozens of authors hopping on the bandwagon of success.

This year, it’s clear that one genre is having its moment: Romance.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Romance novels have experienced an enormous boost in popularity. So far, love stories have been the vogue genre of the 2020s, as dozens of the best-selling books on Amazon this year are of the romantic variety:

However, it’s not just the numerous romantic titles on bestseller lists that evidence this trend. On TikTok, users come out in droves to discuss their reading habits using the hashtag #BookTok. Of the categories Sphere detected in these videos, one familiar genre stood out from the pack:

But, what might be driving the popularity of romantic books on TikTok?

#BookTropes Take over TikTok

The answer may lie in one of BookTok’s most prolific trends: ranking and dissecting tropes.

TikTok users are fascinated by the use of literary tropes. Videos with the #booktropes have collectively amassed more than 1.8 billion views, and users have even created a filter titled “Which Trope Am I” that has been used in nearly 150,000 videos from around the globe.

What’s more, the trope side of TikTok orbits almost exclusively around the romance genre:

Romantic tropes have become so ubiquitous on TikTok that a few have branched out and developed large followings in their own right. They develop catchy names and hashtags like #fatedmates, #onlyonebed, #grumpysunshine, or #secondchanceromance. Many of these trope trends have spawned thousands of videos and millions of views — including the #enemiestolovers, which has actually enjoyed more than 4.3 billion views.

Users make videos that debate the efficacy of these tropes and sometimes even meme the cliché ways they appear in novels:

More importantly, though, they give recommendations and spread awareness about new romance titles that use their favorite tropes successfully.

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

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grasping the distinct consumer perspectives that these diverse regions offer

#BookTok has become familiar with the strategies that authors use to tug on their heartstrings. But that self-awareness doesn’t detract from their admiration or enjoyment. Writers, publishers, and booksellers take notice: the romance genre is still buzzing, and readers aren’t scared away by tropes or clichés.

On the contrary, they’re seeking them out.

Crazy for Colleen Hoover

There are a ton of hit authors on Amazon’s bestsellers list this year — James Patterson, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling among them. However, no author has come close to touching the success of Colleen Hoover.

Hoover has eleven books on Amazon’s top 100 best sellers of 2022, including five of the year’s top ten best sellers. Her books span across many genres — from romance to young adult fiction all the way to suspensful thrillers — but find a consistent audience on the world’s largest bookseller (and its largest retailer, in general).

So, how did Colleen Hoover rise from a self-published social worker to become a best-selling author who sold more copies than the bible this year?

For one, Colleen Hoover is perhaps #BookTok’s favorite author. The #ColleenHoover has more than 2.7 billion combined views on TikTok, while her own profile has more than 1.1 million followers to enjoy her funny, relatable content.

She combines her sizable presence on the platform with books that play right into BookTok’s favorite genre; Love and Romance were the top positive emotions found alongside videos about her work on TikTok.

What’s more, many users take to the short-form video platform to share their personal reaction to reading Hoover’s work:


This practice was so widespread that it came to define the visual aesthetic of TikToks about Colleen Hoover. Sphere detected “E-Girl” and “Emo” as the top two aesthetics in videos with the #ColleenHoover, in large part because of the sheer number of bittersweet reaction videos that are posted in response to her work:

Colleen Hoover’s success on BookTok — and by extension, her success on the bookshelf — demonstrates how powerful face-to-face communication is for book marketing. The old cliche of the reclusive author, whose books are discussed in prestigious magazines and college classrooms, is no longer the best seller that it used to be.

Whether it’s by her own effort to connect with readers through content, or by the viral reactions posted by her most adamant fans, Colleen Hoover has proved that the biggest author in the world is one that is accessible and exciting to her fanbase.

Passing Children’s Books on to the Next Generation

Another genre that sees itself highly represented on the Amazon Bestseller’s list is children’s fiction. Children are an audience that will always be available for education and storytelling, so it’s not the type of genre to come in and out of fashion.

A surprising observation we found about the children’s fiction on the Amazon’s Best Sellers list is the older publication of some of the titles:

Although some new children’s titles are also selling well on Amazon, there are an inordinate number of older kid’s books populating this list. One explanation might be the desire older generations have to share the books they grew up on:

Reviews often talk about these books as gifts for children and grandchildren, or classics that are essential for any young reader. Regardless, it’s clear that older, nostalgic favorites still carry immense value in the children’s book market.

The Film/TV Pipeline

It’s well-known that popular books are often adapted into equally popular films or television shows. Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Life of Pi, and Game of Thrones are just a few examples of smash hits that stemmed from already successful novels.

Among Amazon’s bestselling books of 2022, there are plenty of titles that fit this pattern. Examples include The Summer I Turned Pretty, by Jenny Han, and Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. Both found enormous success off the page this year: The Summer I Turned Pretty was the number one show on Amazon Prime upon its release in June, and Where the Crawdads Sing grossed more than 136 million at the box office this summer.

What’s interesting about the on-screen and off-screen success of these novels is that they’re both more than a few years old by now: The Summer I Turned Pretty is from 2009, and Where the Crawdads Sing is from 2018. Both books are actually on best seller lists for the second time because of their successful adaptations.

These aren’t the only two older titles that are benefiting from a recent adaptation. Other examples include Fire and Blood (adapted into House of the Dragon on HBO), My Policeman (adapted into a film starring Harry Styles), and Blonde (adapted into a film by Netflix).

The implication is that the book-to-screen pipeline can go both ways; Popular film and television can bring attention back onto the books that they are sourced from.

Sometimes, though, this brings newfound expectations.

Written by Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde was a finalist for the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize when it was published back in 2000. But after a widely reviled Netflix adaptation in 2022 that many viewers found difficult to watch, the book has come under reevaluation from readers:

The film adaptation of Blonde was criticized by many for exploiting the life of Marilyn Monroe and promoting troubling perceptions of her character and behavior. All the negative attention brought by those problems with the movie has been extended to the book on Amazon:

Fire and Blood is another book that has come under more scrutiny after the release of its adaptation (HBO’s House of the Dragon):

George R.R. Martin’s history of the Targaryen family failed to meet the expectations of some readers after its exciting HBO adaptation debuted. Many Amazon reviewers cited the book’s format as an unexpected departure from the show. Namely, it reads a little more like a class assignment than a riveting drama:

TV and film adaptations can be a boon to book sales — even for novels that came out years ago. But in 2022, renewed attention can also bring renewed criticism.

2022’s bestselling books represent a diverse array of readers and genres. They demonstrate the power of #BookTok in book sales and the staying power of children’s fiction. They also show how a relatable author or a hit TV show can take a book’s sales through the roof. However, more than anything else, they show the instrumental role that the internet plays in buying, reading, and publishing books.

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

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.
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