In beauty, clever product names act as a canny marketing trick. Calvin Klein has Euphoria, Charlotte Tilbury has Filmstar Bronze & Glow and Maybelline has Lash Sensational, a product that promises to volumise and define even the tiniest lashes we didn’t know we had — for the bargain price of £8.99.
Perhaps now more than ever, in the context of political correctness, women’s marches and body positivity, product names carry weight. Having spent hard earned dollar on lotions and potions, we want the brands we buy into to make us feel our very best — these products have to inspire and sell us a dream. In a bid to shake any off potential negative vibes, the Soho House-owned Cowshed beauty range has undergone an entire rebranding. Gone are shampoos called Grumpy Cow, Moody Cow conditioners and Horny Cow shower gels. They’ve instead been replaced by ranges titled Balance, Indulge and Replenish.
“We felt it was time for a positive change,” says Beth Blakeman-Shead – managing director at Cowshed – of the rebrand that launches today. There are new products, too, including anti-pollution face mist and a microdermabrasion scrub. “Our longstanding mood names like Grumpy Cow helped the brand stand apart from competitors and were playful and fun but as time went on, we felt the names didn’t do the quality of our products justice,” she says. “The change is about placing the focus back on the efficacy and quality of the products, their ingredients and how they make you feel.”
In the era of self-care and wellness, this shift makes perfect product sense: no-one wants to feel like a moody cow, after all. “Cowshed exists to make people feel better,” continues Blakeman-Shead. “We wanted the names to just describe this.” And while the brand insists that the connotations of the word cow weren’t behind the rebrand, it’s easy to connect the dots. Remember in 2014, when Beyoncé encouraged us to ban the word bossy, suggesting it was only ever used in relation to women — and that men with similar traits were simply referred to as ‘leaders’? “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss,” said the singer, in a campaign video for the Ban Bossy movement sponsored by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg — and Sandberg knows a thing or two about being a woman in a man’s world. Comparisons with the word cow — like bitch — can be made. Is a man ever called a moody cow? According to Urban Dictionary, moody cow is a pejorative term usually aimed at women.
Enter, then, the new era at Cowshed, which focuses not on the mood you’re in (with products to counter that), but the desired effects the ingredients have and how they make you feel. Horny has become Cosy — a blend of rose absolute, patchouli and cinnamon to put you in touch with your sensual side. Knackered is now Relax, with lavender and eucalyptus that promises to restore harmony and clarify the mind. Balance, meanwhile, includes uplifting rose geranium, linden blossom and frankincense to restore harmony and aid relaxation. “We wanted to bring the focus back to the natural ingredients,” says Blakeman-Shead, of the brand refresh that took 18 months to incept. Indeed, Cowshed was “designed for the bedrooms at Babington House, and has taken their ingredients and inspiration from the Victorian walled garden there. We wanted to get back to the roots of the brand and really understand the starting point of the product and our core values.”
It chimes with the wider trend for sustainability and transparency in the beauty industry, where many brands like Hourglass are turning vegan. The packaging has also been given a reboot, with bottles crafted from a carbon-neutral by-product derived from sugar cane, and labels made from recycled paper. “Our goal is to eliminate as much plastic as we can, alternatively using glass and aluminium,” she says. “We’re also increasing our level of manufacture in the UK to reduce our carbon footprint and will host drop-off points in our spas where customers can recycle their plastic bottle tops, which can often be harder to reprocess.”
Is the all-new Cowshed now one of the wokest beauty brands out there? Maybe. But its new-found awareness additionally raises questions as to whether other beauty brands will follow suit. Not just in terms of sustainability, but whether new products launching on the market will promote such positive messaging. What does the future hold for Nars’ Deep Throat blush, or Opi’s Pussy Galore polish, or Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics’ Trollop lip tint? In 2008, US Presidential candidate John McCain — who was also, as it happens, anti-abortion — called his wife Cindy a “trollop plastered in make-up” after she teased him about his baldness. (Thankfully, Obama won the race.) Fast forward to 2019 and with the mess of Brexit, a looming Boris Johnson reign at number 10 and Trump’s anti-abortion insanity Stateside, this sadly might not be the year of woke politics. But it could be the year of woke beauty, at least. A small win for the bathroom cabinet.