What are aesthetics?
First things first, we are not referring to aesthetic procedures that usually come up when you search the terms ‘aesthetic’ and ‘marketing’ together. We are talking about the aesthetics recently popularised by TikTok1, defined as a particular style or visual appearance that people adopt and appreciate.
Aesthetics have been a significant part of human culture for a long time. Many have emerged throughout history although recently, there has been a surge in the popularity of various aesthetics among Gen Z. This is partly due to the pandemic. Lockdowns have given them the time to explore their identities with minimal influence of immediate friend groups and having access to the internet, an open world of information.1
Besides influencing style/fashion choices, aesthetics can also affect the surroundings and personality traits of someone dedicated to an aesthetic, curating their spaces and interests to suit them. Aesthetics can also influence the world views of an individual. For example, Cottagecore2 romanticises and promotes the simplicity of domestic labours and self-sufficiency.2,3
To give you a better picture of aesthetics and the culture that surrounds them, here’s some information on the most popular aesthetics:
The Cottagecore2 aesthetic is characterised by a love for the simple and natural pleasures of life. It is inspired by rural living and traditional crafts. It also often features flowy and comfortable clothing, soft colours and floral prints, and cozy and rustic interiors. It emphasises a connection to nature and is usually associated with domestic activities like gardening, baking, and mushroom foraging.1,2
Other popular aesthetics include Retro/Vintage, K-pop, Vaporwave, and E-girl/E-boy.
How can my brand leverage on aesthetics?
First, you must understand the community surrounding these aesthetics. Learn what appeals to them and why they choose these aesthetics to represent themselves. Then, analyse your brand and determine whether the aesthetic aligns with your brand’s vision, beliefs, look, and feel.
Once you’ve determined the aesthetic, you can create marketing content and campaigns inspired by that aesthetic, building a strong brand image and increasing consumer loyalty.
For example, if you have chosen the Dark Academia4 aesthetic for your brand, you can create content and ads that incorporate elements such as tweed, vintage styles, and classic literature references. This can create a sense of affinity with the aesthetic and attract consumers who are interested in this style.
However, as simple as it may seem, it is crucial for you to be genuine in your use of aesthetics. Avoid appropriating or commodifying certain styles or cultures as consumers can pick up on the inauthenticity. Using an aesthetic in a way that is forced or insincere can damage a brand’s image and reputation.
How have brands leveraged on aesthetics?
Lirika Matoshi6 is a fashion designer who has gained popularity for her whimsical and dreamy designs, incorporating elements of the Cottagecore aesthetic. Her designs appeal to those who appreciate the gentle and ethereal qualities of the Cottagecore aesthetic. Her viral Strawberry Dress7 has been seen as a symbol of the Cottagecore aesthetic with its soft colours and romantic, whimsical design.
Selkie8 (not to be confused with Selkiecore) is a fashion brand known for its whimsical and playful designs that feature bright colours and unique textures. Its designs are inspired by vintage fashion with a modern and eclectic twist. This brand is also known for its signature wrap dresses, puffed sleeves, and ruffled details—elements that are often associated with several aesthetics like Royalcore and Cottagecore.
Aesop9 is known for its minimalist and apothecary-inspired aesthetic. Its packaging is simple and understated. Their brown glass bottles and black-and-white labels act as a tribute to traditional apothecary bottles. Overall, the brand appeals to those who appreciate minimalist design and natural, high-quality ingredients, gaining a loyal following among skincare enthusiasts.10,11
NewJeans12 is a Korean girl group composed of five members. Their debut in 2022 created waves with its strong Y2K influence. From the songs to their looks and concept visuals, the group maintains an early 2000s feel—mixing nostalgia with modern elements. This helped differentiate them from the oversaturation of K-pop girl groups (often criticised for looking/sounding the same).13
Aesthetics have the potential to be a powerful tool for brands, not just beauty or fashion related ones but anything that has a lifestyle surrounding it. For example, a coffee brand can leverage on the Dark Academia4 aesthetic—linking it to late night reading or studying sessions.
Aesthetics can be used to connect with consumers and build a strong brand identity, but it is important to approach the use of aesthetics thoughtfully and with respect to the cultural and historical contexts of which they originated.
A downside to consider when associating closely with an aesthetic is that you may be limiting a brand to one identity, look, and community. If your brand is too closely associated, audiences might not be able to view your brand image and products outside of the aesthetic. So, you must be smart with the structure and variety of your content.
Want to see how your brand can leverage on aesthetics?
- 1 The Art of the Aesthetic: A Rundown of Gen Z’s Favorite TikTok Aesthetics
- 2 Cottagecore | Aesthetics Wiki
- 3 Once Upon a Time, There Was Cottagecore
- 4 Dark Academia | Aesthetics Wiki
- 5 Y2K | Aesthetics Wiki
- 6 Lirika Matoshi
- 7 How Did This Dress Get So Popular in a Pandemic?
- 8 Selkie
- 9 Aesop Malaysia
- 10 Aesop Brings Decadent Products to a Minimalist Space on Fillmore
- 11 Finding Minimalist Perfection in Aesop Stores
- 12 NewJeans – ‘New Jeans’ Review: HYBE’s Latest Girl Group Go Against the Grain in an Uneven Debut
- 13 NewJeans Is Already in the Running for Best K-Pop Debut of 2022