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Who's in the Video
Geoff Jones is a Professor of Business History at Harvard Business School. Jones researches the history of global business and has written on the evolution of international entrepreneurship and multinational corporations,[…]

The concept of what is beautiful is becoming broader and broader.

Question: Is beauty becoming homogenized?

Geoffreyrn Jones: I think most of the 20th Century saw a huge wave of this rnhomogenization, but I think it’s also important to remember that this rnwave of homogenization was never complete. And this proved to be really rndifficult for companies as they sought to globalize the industry. To rngive some examples... So as companies pushed out their brands and went rnto different markets, they discovered, often to their surprise that rndifferent cultures, different societies continued to have some very rndistinct preferences that were very hard to shift. 

So, the rnUnited States was a huge consumer of makeup. Europeans and East Asians rnspend much greater on skin care. East Asians hardly spent on perfume andrn whatever companies did, they have so far failed to raise that. The rnFrench had disproportionate spending on perfumes. So for all the rnhomogenization going on in how we meant to be beautiful, persistent rnnational differences were still noticeable. And my argument is that rnglobalization in the last 20 years has started to work in the opposite rndirection from how it worked previously. I think globalization is rnspreading diversity now rather than constricting it. And there's a rnnumber of reasons why this is happening. One is that in the major rnwestern nations, the United States or France, populations are ethnicallyrn very diverse now, so there was simply a lot of different marketing rnopportunities that companies wish to take advantage of. 

But alsorn the rise of power and wealth of countries like China, India, and rnRussia, is suddenly making their beauty ideals aspirational, perhaps. rnCertainly impossible to ignore. So the major players in the industry nowrn are very interested in supplying those markets, for sure. But also rnexperimenting with taking their beauty ideals and brands derived from rnthose ideals back to western countries as consumers now increasingly rnseek greater diversity in what it means to be beautiful.
Recorded on April 21, 2010