Time For A Beauty Marketing Makeover

Justin Timberlake's new music video, “Mirrors,” should be required viewing for beauty execs looking to make a real impact on their companies’ bottom lines. It may just inspire them to rethink dated marketing plans that ignore Boomer and older women—who now make up more than 40% of the beauty consumer market. 

While shot as a tribute to his grandparents' lasting love, the video also serves as a testament to the enduring importance of beauty throughout a woman's life. The storyline traces a passionate couple from their teens to their eighties, and, even at her latest stage of life, the woman radiates vitality. She’s fashionably dressed, her hair is perfectly styled, and a close-up of her face reveals a flattering use of foundation, blush, eyebrow pencil, eyeliner and lipstick. 

Beauty companies may ignore the underlying reality of this slice of life, that a woman’s beauty matters at every age, but they increasingly do so at their own peril, and here’s why: before Boomer women began turning 50, just 31% of beauty product use came from women 50 and older. That number is now 44%, and it includes 51% of lipstick/lip gloss, 50% of at-home hair color, 50% of facial moisturizer, 49% of blusher, 45% of nail care, and 44% of foundation use. (Source: Gfk MRI)  

While those market shares are impressive, even more so is the fact that age has virtually no impact on the frequency of use. Eighty-one percent of women age 18-49 use cosmetics and skincare weekly, compared to 79% of women 50-59, 80% of 60-69, and 75% of women 70+.

What age does appear to impact is purchase behavior. Last year, Vibrant Nation reported that just one in ten women over 50 buy the same skincare and cosmetics products they used in their 30s and 40s, and just half use the same brands. While brand loyalty is vulnerable at this life stage, consumers don’t get the sense that beauty companies care. A majority of women 50+ tell us they have been forgotten by the beauty industry and are left to research beauty products on their own —a result of finding today’s advertising unrealistic.

So what do women 50+ want from the beauty industry? The same thing Justin Timberlake’s grandparents share - a committed relationship that evolves with them at every stage of life. For beauty execs willing to move their companies in that direction, here are some things to keep in mind about women 50+:

  • Her thoughts about beauty may change over time, but it will always be a daily priority.

  • She embraces her beauty for what it is—unique, individual, and far from perfect. You should, too.

  • She wants to be attractive on her terms, not someone else’s, so she’s more interested in products that help her express her uniqueness than she is in following the latest trends. 

  • She’s dealing with dramatic age-related changes to her hair and skin, and she needs customized solutions and products that work for her now. 

  • She’s willing to make a meaningful investment in beauty, but she doesn’t want to waste her time and money on products that don’t work, so deliver products that provide a high level of performance. 
  • She wants to hear from experts, and she wants proof that products work. This gives her confidence that she is buying the best products for her specific needs.

  • Getting beauty advice from others is an important part of her decision-making process, so find ways to drive word of mouth among her peers.

  • She wouldn’t mind if you made beauty fun again. She only hears from you about anti-aging products, but she’s still interested in experimentation and creativity. (As long as she doesn’t have to sacrifice performance in the process.)

  • She wants to hear from you on a regular basis, not only every now and then. That’s no way to maintain a strong relationship or to win her loyalty.

Need inspiration? Check out JT’s video clip for “Mirrors” here.

Unlike many previous generations, women in the Boomer and 50+ audience are looking not to portray the sometimes unrealistic images found in fashion and beauty magazines, but to embrace their current life stage and all that comes with it. The sooner beauty marketers realize this and act on it, the better they will be able to connect with this sometimes forgotten but increasingly valuable, demographic.

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3 comments about "Time For A Beauty Marketing Makeover ".
  1. Lisbeth Kramer from Identities , April 4, 2013 at 11:28 a.m.
    Mike, if I may.. First, this is so interesting arising from a man's point of view...bRAVO!!! And this issue has been one of mY "soapboxes," for a few years.....and I think this issue resides with men's grooming as well (that includes all the cool "shave" destinations on line and off as well). One just even look at how many women 40+ are growing their hair longer, and the bevy of beauty products to support that...however how they try to communicate that need as you say "anti-aging," is not a fun emotional connect. And I also see more 20 and 30 something women, taking care of their skin much earlier..........opportunity for brands to grow with them......... Diane Keaton and her relationship with L"OREAL PRODUCTS I think..was one of he first to see opportunity, but again...how this need/solution is communicated is key as you share.. So I hope many listen (and not only in the beauty category...think in many STYLE arenas, women and MEN 50+ not being addressed in a connective and relevant manner is opportunity missed, including apparel). And I do think, the issue also again, is just as potent opportunity and need for men as for women....looking and feeling younger. and HEALTHY,.
  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , April 4, 2013 at 11:56 a.m.
    Not all 50+ are hooked up or look like models or can wear 4+ inch heels or strappy shoulders straps (those old dogs get tired). Women's bodies change too because not only do women have an extra layer of fat that men do not have that contributes to jigglies even on skinny women, but the brisket fills out even for the women with the most continuous perfect body. Frump from manufacturers is not appreciated and if those anti aging products can make a 60+ woman look 35, we would all stand in line. Note: Fashion Star wake up !
  3. Patricia Lippe Davis from AARP Media Sales , April 4, 2013 at 12:50 p.m.
    If today's hottest pop star appreciates the 50+ gen, it's hard to believe that marketers are still lagging behind. Given that Boomers will account for 84% of the population growth in the next 5 years, women AND men in this demo will be driving even more spending than stated above.