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Beauty and the (tech) Beast: Dissecting the Maybelline and Microsoft Collaboration

Anna Kupriyanova
Artificial Intelligence is infiltrating virtually every industry and Beauty is no exception. They say beauty will save the world. Debatable. But maybe a union of Beauty and Tech will?
For this case study we tested a recent collaboration between Maybelline and Microsoft that released an AI-powered virtual make-up filter for Microsoft Teams. At launch, it provides users with 12 unique makeup looks with different colours and blur effects that can be "applied" to a user's face. Not only that, each look has a product breakdown so users can understand which Maybelline product constitutes the virtual look and recreate it in real life.
The video ad for the beauty filter highlights that getting ready for work only takes a click. It is now possible to literally roll out of bed and into a work video call looking perfectly put-together.
Maybelline x Microsoft Teams virtual makeup filter
Stimuli: a Maybelline video ad, a description of the new filter and how it works.
Target: United Kingdom, male, female, from 18 to 54 years, 100 respondents in total.
Research Solution: Concept test — a ready-to-use research solution by Fastuna (online survey).
Place your bets: do real people love the Maybelline x Microsoft collab or feel something other than love?

Beauty and Tech: a match made in heaven

Or is it?
Consumer evaluation of the virtual makeup filter - Fastuna's research results
Contrary to what we expected, the General Perception Score is critically low, according to Fastuna's standardisation norms. The abundance of the colour red in this report speaks for itself. Let's see what exactly threw off our respondents and dragged down the GPS.
With the Concept Test solution you can test short descriptions of ideas, concepts or mock-ups of products or services. How attractive is the idea? What can you improve? Getting actionable results only requires 15 minutes of your time.
Good news first: the people we asked thought the virtual make-up filter was Unique and Believable. In the comment section many pointed out that it's a useful tool in more ways than one: it saves time, makes you feel confident, lets you try cosmetics before purchasing it.
It is really exciting to see that I can get more comfortable and not worry about how I look when I wasn't prepared or forgot any appointments or virtual meetings. It gave me a sense of confidence. - Female, 34
And my personal favourite:
It's not for me but my daughter would love it. Will save hours. - Male, 54
Saving hours on doing make-up before work doesn't seem to be an advantage for everyone, though. Now that good news is over, let's move on to the not so good part.

Clever in theory, unreliable in practice?

The metrics that reflect a respondent's level of engagement with a product or service are all slacking. The respondents are not likely to tell others about the filter, try it or learn more about it. Neither did they like the concept, find it clear or relevant. Although many said it was relatable, many others also doubted whether the filter would work at all.
It wouldn't work. It would appear really obvious. - Female, 36
Doesn't look very realistic and colleagues may think it's stupid. - Female, 20
Let's circle back to that high Unique metric for a moment. Once again we get proof that if a product is considered unique, there is no guarantee it will also be liked. Uniqueness does not equate likability. It doesn't even seem to correlate with a desire to tell others. In our LG smart home devices case study we already discussed how uniqueness is not a big enough driver to stimulate action in consumers. The makeup filter is following its footsteps.

Turning (user) concerns into clues (for marketers)

A lack of trust in technology behind the virtual make-up filter leads to users not even willing to try it out. One conclusion to draw here is that ads for this filter should spend more time proving it's reliability.
Uncovering users' pain points and concerns (in order to address them and improve a product idea or marketing communication) is exactly the type of problem Fastuna can solve.
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