Name Games: The dirt on selling beauty

How a little bit of ugly can make a pretty profit.

By Jocelyn Voo
Psychology Today | November/December 2006



The multibillion dollar beauty industry spends plenty promising to make you desirable. So why would a cosmetics line christen a shade of eye shadow "mildew"?

Studies suggest that consumers may be sold on "ugly beauty" because the more time they spend reconciling the inconsistency—a pretty product with a nasty name—the more likely they are to remember and purchase the goods. Even a few seconds could be enough to trigger an effect, says Lars Perner, assistant professor of clinical marketing at the University of Southern California.

Results from the lab bench and makeup counter agree: A little bit of ugly can make a pretty profit.

Are you sold on the trend?

Product:

Funeral Home by Demeter

Behind the scent:

When co-creator Christopher Gable first smelled the blend of lilies, carnations, and chrysanthemums, he exclaimed, "It smells like my grandfather's funeral!"

Product:

Rubber Cement by CB I Hate Perfume

Behind the scent:

Part of the "chemical series." Creator Christopher Brosius describes it as "the scent of the unnatural."

Product:

Dirt hair-texturizing paste

Product:

"I love the way hair looks and behaves a day after washing," Jonathan Antin says of Dirt's effect