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.
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.
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?
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.