What Do Boomer Women Want from Cosmetic Companies? Not What They're Selling

by , Mar 12, 2012, 5:52 AM
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In our recent survey, Baby Boomer women told us that cosmetic and skincare companies aren’t telling her what she really wants to hear about their products.

Age 50: A Time to Capture Women Again

Ninety percent of our survey respondents told us that they use different skincare and cosmetic products than the ones they used at age 30 or 40. And only half said that they are still buying brands they bought 10-20 years ago. Brand loyalty among these women – and more than 10 million are in their late 40s and early 50s – is almost completely up for grabs. Cosmetic companies should be fighting hard to win this woman for the next stage of her life.

But if companies want to win this Boomer woman, they’re going to have a use a different message than many of them do today, because she is not only buying different products, she is also looking for them to answer dramatically different needs than she did 10 or 20 years ago.

We asked Boomer women to identify what they actually need from skincare products and cosmetics. The top two answers? “Protecting Skin from Damage” (24%) and “Looking Healthy” (20%). Another 18% identified “Addressing Specific Skin Conditions” as the key drive in their decisions, meaning that 62% of Boomer women are buying skincare products based on what the products can actually do for their skin, not for their self-image. Only 19% seek products that make them look younger, and only 14% want products that make them look pretty. Yet the dominant message of most skincare advertising is image-related, and related to images of youth and beauty.

Do the changing needs of Boomer women reflect a different outlook on life after 50? Does this mean they don’t care about looking pretty? I don’t think so, but it does mean that women are dealing with an issue that marketers almost never directly address: Women’s skin is simply different after 50.

Ninety-three percent of respondents told us that their skin changed more around age 50 than at any other stage of their lives, including adolescence and motherhood.

Different Messages for Different Skin

This feedback means that women over 50 require their own products and their own messaging.

Because Baby Boomer women want skincare and cosmetics to make them look healthy as much as beautiful, what motivates them to try to new products is not imagery of younger models, but scientific data on efficacy of products (18%); online consumer information (17%); and recommendations from friends (16%).

Skincare and cosmetic companies should use this feedback to tailor their messaging and tactics for engaging Boomer women over 50. They should be talking to women online – where they can deliver the more extensive and detailed information that Boomer women seek – and they should be talking to her through her peers. The best way to capture the vibrant Boomer woman remains other “women like her,” something that social platforms and online communities increasingly support.

Who’s Getting it Right

Just because Boomer women don’t believe the cosmetic industry appreciate them as customers, and just because they find it more confusing and less helpful than when they were 30 (other findings in our survey) doesn’t mean that they aren’t buying skincare and cosmetic products, in great numbers.

They continue to buy a handful of brands that have served them in meaningful ways, and they generally remain confident that the same brands will be there for them 5-10 years from now. Those brands (in decreasing order of popularity) include:

  • Olay
  • Clinique
  • L’Oreal Paris
  • Estee Lauder
  • Lancôme
  • Avon

Most of these brands could be doing a lot more to expand the business they gain from Boomer women; meanwhile, their smaller competitors could easily join this top tier of Boomer-loved brands with some focused and committed investments.

Women turning 50 represent the fastest-growing group of cosmetic consumers in the country. But cosmetic companies that want her business need to talk to her about the skin she has now – not the skin she had (or wanted to have) 20 years ago.

2 comments on "What Do Boomer Women Want from Cosmetic Companies? Not What They're Selling".

  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited
    commented on: March 12, 2012 at 11:22 a.m.
    Over 50 women want the lighting following them around like the one they use in media. Over 50 women know there is no anti aging cream is going to make their skin look like the 30 year old models who are showing them how they should look using the stuff. One bum steer is as good as another are the messages.
  2. Marta Wohrle from Truth In Aging
    commented on: March 21, 2012 at 2:47 p.m.
    Everything in this article resonates. I launched my beauty review website and ecommerce business, Truth In Aging (www.truthinaging.com), because the female boomer market was not being served by the beauty industry. We also recently surveyed 1,000 members of our community and found that these women buy beauty products based on good, objective information, research and results. They have a very positive, but realistic self-image and actively want to nurture it as they grow older. The Truth In Aging community buys small independent brands that are formulating effective and safe products that are good value for money. We only sell products that have been tested and positively reviewed by the community.

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