Age before beauty? Boomer beauty versus millennial make-up

Age before beauty? Boomer beauty versus millennial make-up

From digital developments to billion-dollar acquisitions, it appears that our biggest beauty giants are obsessed with one thing, and one thing alone right now: millennials. From Lauder to L’Oréal, Shiseido to Sulwhasoo, everyone is making eyes at the younger generation of shoppers.

And no wonder, as Trefis puts it, “This is the fastest growing segment of beauty users and also one of the largest and hence it is no surprise that all the beauty leaders are chasing them.”

But is this new focus at the expense of our more mature consumers – and ultimately, therefore, a missed opportunity to make some serious cash? After all, the anti-aging category is expected to register a CAGR of 9.2 percent up until 2022, reaching a value of US$238 billion, according to Trefis. And boomers are poised to hit a heady 50 percent of the US population by the end of the year, controlling 70 percent of the nation’s disposal income, according to a 2012 Nielsen study. Globally, our population is ageing – and fast. On that basis alone, beauty companies would be wise not to place all their eggs in the millennial basket.

Then there’s a study conducted by the University of Michigan showing that marketing campaigns targeting boomers are twice as likely to be successful as those targeting millennials. Oh – and boomer women make more than millennial men (and therefore millennial women) on average, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics – and they’re not saddled with student loans, young families or exorbitant housing costs. Yep, according to Landers, women over 50 control a whopping net worth of US$19 trillion. That’s a whole lotta face cream.

So why aren’t we marketing to them? Because if a comprehensive report published by the American Association of Marketing (AMA) is to be believed, we’re not: less than 5 percent of advertising dollars are spent on this lucrative target market and 53 percent of boomer women feel overlooked by product advertising and marketing. But when a brand gets it right, it’s a license to print money – Dove’s US sales leapt 600 percent in the two months following the launch of its 2004 Campaign for Real Beauty (pictured).

The good news is there’s still time to pull it back – perhaps that’s exactly why L’Oréal has hedged its bets with one of its latest acquisitions, IT Cosmetics, whose USP is to combine skin care with make-up for multi-purpose products that appeal to both camps. It’s also been buying up active cosmetics brands with some zeal.

Boomers are digitally savvy too, so those who are already reaching out to millennials on social media platforms and e-tailers need only apply the lessons learned to the older generation. Equally, according to a report published by Business of Fashion, Lauder’s focus on millennials isn’t so much a sign that its leaving its more mature consumers for dust but rather redressing the balance of a portfolio that was heavily skewed towards traditional distribution channels and skin care, leaving it exposed. “Lauder’s acquisition of Too Faced is a signal that the company recognised how important it is for them to diversify their distribution,” Maureen Mullen, Co-Founder of research firm L2 told Business of Fashion.

It’s not so much a case of millennials OR baby boomers then, more a gradual process of adjustment as we all adopt different shopping habits. Just whatever you do, don’t call the boomers old.