2017: The year that… the industry scrutinized its audience

2017: The year that… the industry scrutinized its audience

The first step to success? Getting your audience right. This year there was more emphasis than ever on who should be targeted, and how. And if 2017 taught us anything, it’s that millennials are still a huge pull. However, while there was a clear focus on the desirability of the tech-savvy, brave beauty buying, forward-thinking younger generation, they weren’t the only target market getting a look in. But let’s focus on them for a second – because, let’s face it, they rule the school, so to speak.

And if we’re talking millennials, we need to look at digital, as online is without doubt where they spend most of their time. Absorbed in Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat, young consumers in 2017 wanted their beauty brands to be as adapted to the digital age as they are. Indeed, proving the draw of digital in securing the spend from this lucrative consumer group, the Estée Lauder Companies even announced the removal of the millennial-focussed The Estée Edit brand from its portfolio, a move the company said was because, “Simultaneous efforts by the core Estée Lauder brand have recruited millennials via digital and make-up at an unprecedented rate.”

Digital aside, it seems all sectors were attempting to draw in the millennial consumer group this year, with even the luxury sector adapting its marketing plans to keep up with them. Affordable luxury fragrances? Tick. millennial-focussed brands? Tick. Shiseido even created a new skincare line WASO to specifically target the consumer group, a route PZ Cussons Beauty also took with its Gen Z-targeted ‘Being by Sancturary.’
Of course, no millennial round-up would be complete without looking at Kylie Jenner and her cult beauty brand Kylie Cosmetics. Controlling the scene like no one else, Jenner has got millennial marketing nailed. However, let’s not roll out the red carpet just yet – she did have 10 years to cultivate her fan base through the popular reality show Keeping up with the Kardashians and she has had her fair share of controversy this year (see: empty product packaging, risky product names, and toxic smells). But let’s take nothing away from the teen queen, she has successfully developed a brand that is revered by the age group of the moment, with a loyal and dedicated following across all social media channels for all that she’s got wrong, she’s got much more right. Collaborations with her famous sisters and partnering up with fashion focussed retailer Topshop are just the tip of the iceberg, and some of the reasons that she’s on course to be a billion-dollar brand by 2022.

The above is all well and good, but what of the other audiences out there? One that was starting to make waves was Generation Z. The younger, snappier cousin to millennials. Was my colleague Georgina right in her blog post back in June? Is the industry moving on from millennials in favour of their successors, Gen Z? If this year is anything to go by, it seems there is space for all. While brands are undoubtedly still millennial focused, Gen Z is increasingly getting a look in. Indeed, manufacturers are creating products and developing marketing dialogues to fit in with this spend-happy 18-25 year-old age group due to them ‘being invested in beauty because of the way they live their lives on screen and on social media,’ according to Chloe Combi, an expert on this demographic and consultant to PZ Cussons. Forever 21’s offshoot Riley Rose, for example, launched an ‘Instagrammable’ retail concept aimed at Gen Z’s, while Walgreens Boots Alliance unveiled CYO Cosmetics – a new make-up brand targeted at this specific age group, stating, “This is for the new generation of beauty lovers who want to create and re-create the many versions of themselves.” And it was retail innovator Sephora and Victoria’s Secret that came out as the two most favored brands with Millennials and Gen Z consumers, according to the Conde Nast and Goldman Sachs 2017 Love List Brand Affinity Index – in case you’re wondering.

But what do brands need to do going forward in order to target this lucrative audience? As Jacqueline Burchell, Global Marketing and Product Development Director for PZ Cussons Beauty, says, ‘Their hyper connectedness means they are comparison shopping all the time. Strong branding, compelling and honest products and strategies to connect with this audience are key components.” And as Burchell and her colleagues are doing, the industry needs to ‘think completely differently’ in order to filter through to these young, spend-happy consumers.

So what of the other categories? Baby Boomers? Perennials? They’re still there, and with a disposable income Gen Z’s and millennials could only dream of, they’re also still a focus. And with baby boomers thought to be less brand loyal and overall unconvinced about their skin care routine (see our Street Talk video here) – they’re perhaps an audience to better focus on. Indeed, a problem going into 2018 is no doubt how marketers round up and target all the audiences at once. In the words of YouGov Data Journalist Hoang Nguyen, “Finding the right messaging – one that takes into account female millennials and baby boomers – is a challenge that beauty brands must address.” The year ahead will tell us if brands have tackled that challenge head on, or fallen by the wayside.