Are consumers placing a new-found faith in astrology?

Horoscopes. For years, they’ve been confined to the back pages of tabloid newspapers, a reliable place for a quick giggle after you’ve had a hearty leaf through the stories covering this week’s major political scandal and the latest update on Posh and Becks’ marriage. They used to be a cliched laugh a minute – dished out by a ‘Mystic Meg’ or equivalent – and one which the general population has, on the whole, refused to take seriously.

Until now. Over the past few years, a clearly discernible tide change has come into force when it comes to treating astrology with a new level of seriousness. While previously considered to be the reserve of the particularly free-spirited or naïve, the zodiac has begun to assume an unprecedented level of influence amongst the masses, and particularly millennials. In the US, a whopping 58 per cent of 18-24 year olds believe astrology is scientific, and cult digital magazine Refinery29 (which writes for 18-40 year old women) states that ‘we invest a lot of meaning in the astrological sign we were born into — like, a lot a lot.’

Horoscopes are becoming a serious business in all areas of culture. But it’s not just a question of books, kooks and niche intellectuals – any cursory glance of the right hashtags on Instagram throws up a plethora of posts (try #newmoon and #mercuryretrograde), many of which are authored by young, cool – and totally normal looking people.


A selection of posts from @notallgeminis.

Astrologer Chani Nicholas (@chaninicholas), who has an Instagram following of 150k, claims to offer her network a form of astrology that is ‘practical, approachable, and useful. Otherwise it’s all just cosmic hot air and planets far from reach.’ And cult account @notallgeminis (200k followers – named in reference to rapper Kanye West’s infamous status as a Gemini, a star sign which allegedly causes a split personality) has triggered what can only be described as a viral phenomenon for creating comic memes based on the specific quirks of each zodiac sign.

As a result of all of this, it’s now not uncommon to hear coworkers earnestly blaming Mercury being in retrograde for their difficult meeting, or championing the new moon as a source of a fresh gust of professional energy.

And brands are beginning to catch on, particularly stateside in the beauty industry. Zodica perfumery creates scents tailored specifically to your zodiac sign, and a range of make-up brands have created products personalised to your star sign – see Julep nail polish, Bite lipstick and Spectrum make up brushes for inspiration.


Julep’s Zodiac collection

So, what’s going on? Why are consumers placing a new-found faith in astrology – and do they really take it as seriously as the cultural evidence suggests? Three reasons perhaps explain this phenomenon:

First, horoscopes still belong to feminine space – something women are starting to reclaim as something vital and important. Second, there has been a huge cultural shift away from rationalism, meaning there is more space for the weird, mystic and other-worldly aspects of existence in our everyday lives.

But thirdly and most importantly, beyond any esoteric cultural reasoning – people just love things that are personalised to them. This applies especially to a world where platforms such as Instagram force you to think about how you project your own sense of selfhood to the outside world, on a near-daily basis. Individual zodiac signs allow you to form a sense of identity and even community around qualities and concepts that ostensibly don’t apply to 11/12ths of the population.

A simple truth, but a powerful one – just look at the success of the personalised Coke and Marmite campaigns. It’s also why we’re seeing the birth of platforms like Co-star astrology, an app which allows you to chart and track your daily, weekly and annual fate according to the zodiac – as well as those of your social network. What’s not to love about something that provides personalised analysis about the intimate nuances of your social, romantic and professional life?


A Natal Chart from Co-star

Which leads us to a clear takeout for brands on the topic of horoscopes. Why don’t more brands use the zodiac as a basis for new campaigns or product ranges? For beauty and personal care brands, star signs are ripe for the picking. The results could be anything from zodiac-scented body lotions, skincare regimes that are in sync with the phases of the moon, or tongue-in-cheek communications that empathise with the disruption felt by mercury being in retrograde – whichever way, the commercial potential is huge.

In 2018, it seems like Mystic Meg could be starting to have some clout.

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