What does that arched eyebrow mean? Benefit Cosmetics’ new Brow Translator tries to tell you


Eyes may be the windows to the soul, but brows could be the windows to the psyche. Benefit Cosmetics, which deftly stoked social media sharing with a Snapchat lens timed with its massive brow product launch last year and its #Realsies contest in 2014 that solicited selfies showing lashes coated with They’re Real mascara, is out to ignite beauty buzz again with a campaign centering on the emotions brows express. The engine of the campaign is the brand’s so-called Brow Translator that uses facial recognition to detect and interpret brow shapes and angles with the purpose of spreading posts tagged #benefitbrows revealing the feelings they impart.

“Even the smallest micro movements in the brows can change what emotion is being communicated,” said Jocelyn McCanles, associate creative director at Deeplocal, the agency Benefit partnered with to realize its Brow Translator. “Happiness is a relaxed brow that is slightly heightened. If someone is angry, the distance between the brows is narrowed. If they are sad, this can be conveyed by one eyebrow being slightly arched and the other one coming down slightly. There are all these different configurations, and it does matter how your brows are naturally. If your brows are naturally arched or close together, you can look like you have a particular emotion even though your brows are at rest.”

Benefit and Deeplocal worked with Javid Sadr, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, who has studied the role of eyebrows in facial recognition, to help understand the shifts brows make when a person is experiencing seven different emotions, including happiness, sadness, anger, meh and bananas. (The last two are emotions in the spirit of Benefit zest.) Available at the web site, the Brow Translator senses those emotions and produces sayings to capture them inside thought bubbles imprinted on still images, GIFs or videos. For example, the saying, “It’s all fun and games until you drop powder on the floor,” is coupled with a feeling of “meh.”


“We created a way to train our software to learn when someone’s expression indicated something like sassiness or seductiveness,” said Nathan Martin, chief executive officer of Deeplocal, adding, “What excited us about our task was that it was to figure out not just how to promote Benefit, but to talk about brows mattering. Most people think about their eyes or lips conveying emotions, but most people don’t think about their eyebrows. Our real intent is to get consumers to think about eyebrows.”

The Brow Translator is expected to stick around for three to four months. Susan Kim, vice president of strategic marketing at Benefit, explained the campaign is illustrative of Benefit’s strategy to involve customers in its marketing efforts. “We really have to put the customer first in terms of her as a hero,” she said. “That really allows us to have engagement with the consumer in a more authentic way rather than pushing marketing messages to her.”

Kim indicated the measures of success of the Brow Translator initiative wouldn’t simply be shares, follower lift and the like, but whether it enlarges the size of the market for brow products. According estimates from Benefit, the reigning number-one brow product brand worldwide, 27 percent of women do any sort of brow maintenance, and Kim reasoned that leaves a lot of room for Benefit to raise awareness about the power of brows and products to perfect them. She concluded, “At Benefit, we are absolutely obsessed with everything brows, and we think everyone should be as obsessed as us.”


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