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Engaging the New Beauty Consumer

By: Roshini Greenwald (group leader), Jacquelyne Smerklo (co-leader), Gayathri Balasundar, Kimberly Lam, Deanna Spence and Brenna Stone
Posted: June 4, 2014

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In 2050, 25% of Asian Americans and African Americans will have recent mixed ancestry, as will nearly half of all Hispanic Americans. In fact, the United States is no longer viewed as a melting pot, but as a mosaic, with mixtures of various “ingredients” that keep their individual characteristics (Millet, 2000). This has been seen in the drastic shift from assimilation to multiculturalism to now universalization.

There are 22 different Latino groups in the United States that reflect the ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, and religious diversity of their countries of origin. For example, a black Dominican in New York City would purchase very different products than a white Cuban in Miami and a more recently arrived immigrant will likely purchase products they are familiar with from their home country. Second or third generation Latinos are more influenced by national advertising campaigns (Matusow, 2014). They are looking to build loyalty with brands that properly represent their voice and authentic identity, which empowers their heritage by effectively embedding their cultural characteristics in the ways a brand speaks to them. With $1 trillion in spending power, Latinos are a segment that cannot be ignored.

Therefore, brands are starting to recognize that their “multicultural strategy” must adapt as well. Nothing represents the fusion of cultures more than food. Major consumer packaged goods companies have already started leveraging this spectrum.

Pepsi has introduced the concept of cultural fluency, marketing at an intersection of interests, rather than to one particular group. It is about being inclusive of the entire texture of multicultural consumers. 20% of Pepsi’s market is composed of Latinos. The majority of Latinos are ambi-cultural, with the ability to seamlessly pivot between the English and Spanish languages and to embrace two distinct cultures. Although marketers once felt that Spanish language was the most important piece of the puzzle, they have learned that it is actually about so much more (Wentz, 2003). Race is not the unifier. The multicultural mindset is more about a person’s interests, like music or sports, than whether they are African American or Latino.

Pepsi’s competitor, Coke, has also been focusing on building cultural competencies. They utilize both a Total Universal Integrated Marketing Strategy as well as a Targeted Precision one, designed to celebrate unique cultural experiences. They target consumers all year round instead of focusing solely on stereotypical events such as Cinco de Mayo. This creates an intersection of interests across consumers’ passions and values (Nielsen, 2014). Their “America is Beautiful” Super Bowl campaign was a major source of disruption in the market. The ad featured “America the Beautiful” sung in English, Spanish, Senegalese-French, Hebrew, Mandarin Chinese, Tagalog, Arabic, Hindi, and Keres, a Pueblo language. The song played over a series of scenes depicting the geographic and cultural diversity of the country. In each scene, Coke is portrayed as the common link between people of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds (Russo, 2013). It hit a nerve with Americans, either with fear or excitement about the shifting societal changes in this country.

McDonald’s also takes a unique approach to multicultural marketing as they lead with ethnic insights rather than isolating their marketing campaigns by ethnic minority. Their fiesta menu was created utilizing minority taste and flavor preferences to influence the general preference, which became a success in the mainstream market. McDonald’s uses “general marketing” money to back these campaigns (Helm, 2010). Minorities exert an increasingly influential role in McDonald’s traditional advertising as well, as they believe these people provide early exposure to new trends. This is a progressive approach to the traditionally boxed and pinpointed multicultural marketing strategy.

Network television is also noticeably more diverse than ever before. Many shows are implementing color-blind casting where the ethnicity of actors is not considered. Even advertising is more diverse. There’s a clear, simple message that being seen as inclusive is better for brand image. It makes a brand seem more desirable, aspirational, and in tune with a society that is growing more varied and socially tolerant with the generations. The beauty industry has an opportunity to incorporate this color-blind perspective into marketing strategies as well (Davies, 2014).

Cultural relevancy is a two-way conversation. To recruit consumers, find the common thread between race and culture. To retain them, go beyond singular cultural events and engage them 365 days a year.

Generational Spectrum

Similar to boxing people into arbitrary definitions of race, the old targeted marketing model segments people based solely on chronological age. Age is nothing but a number. Analyzing an actual age bracket reveals that a person at the top end of the demographic curve is drastically different than someone at the low end (Bhargava, 2008). To get a more realistic picture of this consumer, they cannot simply be segmented by the year they were born. What matters is relevancy to their core views and individual experience, which may share commonalties across generations. “Others” defy expectations and stereotypes.

A generation’s values have much to do with the parenting style in which they were raised. For the most part, Generation Y has been raised by Baby Boomers, and Generation X is raising Generation Z. Baby Boomers’ parenting style is group-oriented while Generation X’s style is individual-oriented. While both Gen X and Gen Y make up the current 18-49 demographic, they tend to have vastly different values and beliefs, showing that there are more relevant indicators than age as a number.

Generation Y and Generation Z are both viewed as the future, and the groups that companies need to learn how to market to in this ever changing digital age. Generation Z is the first generation to have been connected to the Internet for their entire lives. All, 100%, are connected for one or more hours per day, and about half, 46%, are connected more than ten hours per day (Needle, 2013). They are also the first to be truly skeptical of the “American Dream.” Both Gen Y and Z, however, believe that they have the power to change things and know how to impact change through social media.

For the first time in history, consumers aged 20 and aged 60 are listening to the same music and going to the same concerts. This presents brands with new opportunities to connect with audiences across multiple generations. Music has a universal appeal, which allows brands to connect with people in a more engaging and emotional way. Music can tie together the goals, achievements, and landmark moments relevant to a particular life stage. Using nostalgia is not groundbreaking, but if done right it can be the bond between generations. This convergence in taste can also strengthen the retail experience. Research shows that music encourages people to shop longer in stores. Research also shows that 90% of people would recommend a store that plays music (Tesseras, 2014). Successful brands such as MAC utilize music to create unique in-store experiences. Music transcends all generations.

By segmenting generations, many brands are missing out on an opportunity to capitalize on women who feel that they are “18 with 32 years of experience.” Typically, beauty brands steer these consumers away from color cosmetics and towards expensive skin care, often making them feel uncomfortable in a setting that is “too young” for them. In reality, there is still a need and want for color cosmetics purchases at all ages. Some beauty brands have started to break the unspoken prejudice of age. Illamasqua launched “Beauty Before Age” with products that are transcendent of age and allow anyone to feel empowered and beautiful. The brand is never defined by social demographics, age, or sex, but simply by a mindset. People of any age are encouraged to celebrate their experience and vitality rather than hiding behind the number. Marc Jacobs Beauty famously chose 64-year-old Jessica Lange as the face of the brand and Nars employs 68-year-old Charlotte Rampling as a spokesperson.

Brazilian beauty company Natura created Vovo fragrance products designed to promote physical and emotional contact between grandparents and grandchildren. They used scent as the common thread to create a connection across generations (Stylus, 2014).