Divide and rule the beauty age gap

Over recent decades, the beauty market has exploded at both ends of the scale. At one end, the ever more savvy teens (and even “tweens”); at the other, a generation of women in their sixties and seventies who make up the world’s ageing population.

Mintel reports that 61 per cent of girls aged nine to eleven would like to wear more make-up than their parents allow, and 33 per cent aged nine to seventeen wear mascara every day. Skip forward three generations and, according to Eurostat, over-65s comprised 16.4 per cent of the UK population in 2010, a figure that’s expected to rise to 20 per cent by 2030. These are women who are adamant that, unlike their mothers, beauty post-60 doesn’t start and end with a blue rinse.

But does such a broad spectrum of consumers open up new opportunities for the beauty industry? Or has the diversification in the market merely presented it with a new set of problems? Gone are the days when grandmother, mother and daughter all used a dab of Astral every day. The question now is can a beauty brand be all things to all women?

The industry’s major players have a spread of brands that overtly aim to capture different consumer groups

In 2010, beauty editor Alice Hart-Davis launched Good Things, a range of skincare designed for women in their teens and 20s. She doesn’t believe a single brand can appeal to everyone.

“In order to both offer the consumer a clear message and distinguish yourself from the seething mass of competitors, you need to be very precise about who you are and what you stand for,” she says.

Look at almost any of the industry’s major players and they have a spread of brands that overtly aim to capture different consumer groups. L’Oréal’s Maybelline New York brand of dazzlingly bright colour cosmetics and Garnier, a range of skin, sun and hair products, are both best sellers among younger consumers. The group’s Skinceuticals and La Roche Posay brands naturally appeal to an older market.

Juan Jose Gonzalez, area managing director for Northern Europe with Johnson & Johnson Consumer Group, whose brands include Clean & Clear, Neutrogena and Roc, explains the physical and emotional reasons behind demographic targeting.

“Not only does the skin’s barrier change with age, on both a macro and a micro level, but what women want from their skin care also differs according to their age,” he says. “Their preferences in everything from packaging to fragrance and aesthetics all change through different periods of their lives and, if we didn’t understand what’s important to them at each stage, then we wouldn’t be able to deliver products that they love.”

There are, however, exceptions to the rule. “If you’re talking about a specific skin care need, such as dry, eczema-prone skin, a brand like Aveeno can be as beneficial and relevant to the skin care needs of a girl of six as it is to a 60 year old,” he adds.

Nina Dunbar Johnson is the managing director of Wizard PR, an agency that represents a broad range of beauty brands. She’s all too aware of the importance of communicating at the right level.

“As PRs, our main objective is to maximise sales and this requires a very targeted approach. For skin care aimed at young complexions, we need to raise awareness with the mothers as they’re the ones who actually buy the products,” she explains.

For brands, such as Elemis and Clarins, who already have a loyal consumer base of women in their 30s and 40s, it makes sense for them to branch out into skin ranges specifically for younger complexions. If a mother visits a shop to buy her own favourite anti-ageing cream, adding the anti-acne, teen-targeted version she sees on the counter to her bill only seems natural.

But winning over mums is only half the battle. “The other important factor is to create a buzz,” says Ms Dunbar Johnson. “Young girls want to use a brand that’s perceived to be ‘cool’. This is where Facebook and Twitter come in. We ensure the right celebrities and make-up artists are endorsing the brand, making it a ‘must-have’,” she says.

In a bid to appeal to teens in Japan, Kao – the brand behind Kanebo, Molton Brown, Bioré and John Frieda – has gone one better, launching a “cosmetic café” that offers free product samples, advice and Kao-branded drinks.

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, such gimmicks don’t wash at the other end of the market. “The older customer wants to know the skin care she buys works,” says Ms Dunbar Johnson. “We produce clinical and user trials to support the claims we make, so that they can have confidence in the product.”

Neutrogena, recently rated fourth most powerful beauty brand in the world, manages to get teens buying spot creams while pensioners simultaneously stock up on hand cream. Mr Gonzalez says the key to success in being pan-generational is the creation of “sub brands”.

“Our medicated skin care range, Visibly Clear, has bright, attention-grabbing packaging and celebrity advertising that appeals to teens. On the other hand, body moisturisers, such as Norwegian Formula, have classic white-and-blue bottles and straightforward yet premium advertising to entice 35 to 44 year olds.”

It seems clear that it’s only by dividing that brands can hope to conquer both ends of the market.

TEENS v 60s


Product requirements

Teens: something that looks good

60s: something that works

Main aims

Teens: to look older than their age

60s: to look good for their age

Want to communicate with the brand

Teens: online or via social media

60s: via a freephone number

Packaging preferences

Teens: bright, neon, fun

60s: classic, understated, sophisticated

Skin care needs

Teens: light, anti-bacterial properties

60s: moisturising and emollient benefits