The Last Word - US industry vs Europe

By Dr Martin Godfrey / 01 Jan 2016

Dr Martin Godfrey argues why the aesthetics industry in Europe is falling behind other continents and advises on what we should be learning from the US

The global market

I’m not usually much of a globetrotter, but over the last few months I’ve had the privilege to attend three of the most prominent medical aesthetics conferences in the world. The experience has not only opened my eyes to the truly global nature of our industry, but also to the very real differences that still exist between continents.
It’s clear that medical aesthetics, with or without surgery, is huge – estimates vary, but last year worldwide, its combined value was put at €5billion, with projections of more than €6.5billion by 2018. However, growth appears to be inconsistent across the globe. Not surprisingly, the US continues to dominate, with a market value of €2.5billion last year and projections of €3.5billion by 2018.1 And while most of the world, including Latin America and Asia-Pacific regions, are expected to maintain growth, for the first time there has been a contraction in Europe, especially in Southern Europe. In addition, Asia Pacific looks set to overtake Europe as the second most important region for aesthetics.1 But why is Europe falling behind?

Success in the US

The under performance of the European market is debateable. Much can be attributed to the recession that continues to affect Europe, but less so in the US and Asia. However, not all can be due to a lack of money, since sales of luxury goods in Europe (a market populated by a very similar purchasing group) have performed much better.2 One can speculate, though, that the US could be thriving because it’s an industry that appears to be more widely understood and accepted by the public, and we have much to learn from them.

Public relations

In my opinion, US-based aesthetic practitioners appear much more comfortable in their own skin, compared with their European counterparts. Clearly they are able to use a much wider gamut of media to promote themselves and their clinics and, as a result, many become local and even national ‘celebrities’. This allows them to project a much more personal, emotional image to their potential customers, enhancing their ability to hook into the patient-friendly appeal of non-surgical cosmetic procedures.
Practitioners in most of Europe cannot advertise, but by marketing their clinics in a more media-savvy way and understanding the social media preferences of their patients, they could improve their appeal. In the US there is a plethora of local TV and radio stations that I believe makes it easier for practitioners to appear regularly as ‘experts’. Health and beauty programmes, like the Dr Oz Show, for example, have dedicated anti-ageing sections with available slots for aesthetic practitioners. These programmes can then be downloaded and added on to the practitioners’ website.

Enhancing their service

Faced with a polyglot mix of races, including Hispanic, black American, Caucasian and Asian, more US aesthetic practitioners seem committed and informed of the significant differences and challenges that these skin types can present. This has led to an increased offering in a greater variety of skin products, over and above the mainstream aesthetic techniques. I believe that European practitioners could also benefit from this approach, offering a wider range of moisturisers, serums, growth factors and cosmeceuticals, which are tailored to individual patients rather than the mass market, as add-ons and enhancers to their work.

Patient demographic

Last, but certainly not least, is the rise of men as significant consumers of aesthetic medical treatments. A report, released by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, indicated an overall increase of 43% in men having surgical and non-surgical treatment within the past five years in the US.3 Although Europe has also noted an increase, the US approach appears to me to be more unique in driving male custom. I have noticed that the West Coast in particular is seeing a boom in male-only clinics, where the ambiance is designed to appeal and resonate directly with men. These new clinics are often staffed entirely by men, eschewing any touch of the feminine. As far as I’m aware, we don’t have any clinics like this in the UK and believe it could serve us well to tap in to this potentially profitable market. It is clear that the male market is becoming a significant new source of work for many clinics in the US, and we could do more to encourage such growth in Europe.

Follow the leader

Ultimately, though, it’s marketing that makes the difference; and it’s not just regulation that is holding us Europeans back. Like our timidity to experiment with techniques, we still haven’t jumped onto the social media bandwagon and really sold ourselves as they do in the US. And until we do, much of what we do in Europe will remain a wellkept secret, known only to a few well known, well-defined population groups. At the moment it seems as though the US is pulling away from Europe and, in fact, our industry appears to be going in the wrong direction. Europe can try to narrow the gap and deliver US-level treatment outcomes, but we have to keep up with the latest global trends, ensure our equipment is state-of-the-art and that our marketing techniques are fine-tuned to the real needs of our patients. With the multiplicity of sophisticated techniques, equipment and complementary products such as cosmeceuticals now pouring onto the market, it’s hardly credible that Europe cannot improve on what the rest of the world, particularly the US, seems so good at already.

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