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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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Brands can also appeal to multiple generations through different value sets. Prius is an environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient vehicle that resonates with Millennials and Boomers. 64% of Millennials rank “making the world a better place” as their priority in life and this hybrid car allows them to feel as if they are truly making a difference (Lily, Unilever). The value proposition for Baby Boomers is saving money, as 57% say their household finances have worsened since the Great Recession. A higher share of Boomers say they have cut spending in the past year and around six out of 10 have to postpone retirement (Pew Social Trends). Prius saw the opportunity to be universally appealing to multiple generations for various reasons and is a strong example of how to reach more consumers rather than isolating some based on age brackets.

Age does not define product need, even in beauty. Generational values are a much stronger indicator of a consumer’s purchase intent.

Gender Spectrum

The standard definition of a man or a woman does not drive lifestyle or consumer needs anymore. Society’s established norms no longer apply to everyone. Gender roles are blurring and brands can capitalize on the ability to further drive change. There are three specific areas relating to gender roles that are already experiencing dramatic change: family unit, gender blurring, and sexual orientation. “Others” are not always one thing or another.

Women are not limited in the same way they once were; they graduate from college at higher rates than men. While most couples are evenly matched scholastically, 28% of married women are better educated than their mates, which is true of just 19% of married men (Angier, 2013). The number of stay-at-home fathers in the United States has more than doubled in the past 10 years. Nearly half of men would like to see more ads tailored specifically to their needs and interests. Additionally, more than half of men agree that fathers today take a more active role in parenting than they have in the past (Cassandra, 2013).

It wasn’t long ago when parents dressed their children in white dresses and diapers. From a practicality standpoint, white cotton could be bleached. In fact, gender-neutral clothing was the norm. In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland, and Marshall Field in Chicago. The reason was that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, was more suitable for the boy, while blue, which was more delicate and dainty, was prettier for the girl. Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences, as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers. Now, one can easily tell if a baby is a boy or girl based on blue or pink cues. (Maglaty, 2011). Western culture views gender as a linear concept with two options: male or female. Expression and identity can be seen as a spectrum of multi-dimensional possibilities.

Gender neutral clothing is having a resurgence. For example, Manila-based brand Proudrace, creates gender neutral clothing influenced by the 1990s, sports hybrids, and youth culture. Proudrace found a common ground to produce clothing that is androgynous without being contrived (Santiago, 2010). Fashion brands like Proudrace are blurring traditional notions of gender and embracing the common interests of all people.

Just as there is fluidity in sexual identification, gender does not solely define consumer values. Many people do not see the need for such strict parameters. Facebook, for example, gives 56 options for gender, allowing a person to use 10 at a given time on their profile. Users have been requesting the ability to reflect their gender accurately, so Facebook worked with leading LGBT figures in order to come up with the new terminology. This customized option allows users to feel comfortable and authentic to themselves while connecting with people, causes, and organizations that they care about (Griggs, 2014).

3.5% of Americans identify as LGBT and 19 million report that they have engaged in same-sex behavior (Gates, 2011). The Spring 2014 Barney’s “Brothers, Sisters, Sons, and Daughters” campaign brought attention to the transgender community by featuring 17 of these models in their ads. One model was quoted as saying, “if gender is black and white… then I am gray.”

New family structures, called “start up” families are replacing the traditional family unit from decades past. A growing number of gay men and lesbians are pursuing parenthood, which is creating a “gayby” boom. In fact, gay couples with children have doubled in the past decade and there are currently over 100,000 same sex couples raising children (Angier, 2013). In fact, only 19% of families are traditional, as defined by mom, dad, and 2.4 kids (Stylus, 2014).

Recently Honeymaid aired a new brand advertisement featuring a two-dad family, a rocker family, a single dad, an interracial family, and a military family with the tagline, “no matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will” (Solomon, 2014). This ad shows diversity but goes a step further and labels these families as “wholesome,” which implies that family values are deeper than typical stereotypes. Diverse parents with dynamic roles are the future and other industries have already evolved their communication to reflect this new norm.

There is an aspirational way to still be inclusive, and the beauty industry can take cues from these companies to evolve marketing strategies to more accurately reflect today’s changing society.

Community Spectrum

Consumers are constantly balancing their sense of self with their awareness of community. People’s communities are becoming larger, both virtually and physically, through social media and travel. In turn, they are struggling to define their self-identity amidst these wide communities. “Others” don’t stay in one place.

Generation Y moms report feeling twice as lonely as Generation X moms, despite having double the social network. The reason they point to is that motherhood is so diversified today that it is just harder to find other moms “like me,” which points to a new form of loneliness emerging from a lack of relatability. The Curve Report findings describe a generation that will have far less in common with their peers than members of the previous generation did and consequently, will have a harder time finding others “like them.” All this adds up to a wide set of highly disparate interests, which will present a new challenge for brands. (PSFK, 2013).

Social networking has completely reshaped the way humans interact. According to a Ted Talk by Sherry Turkle in February 2012, more and more people are defining themselves as lonely. People are collecting friends like stamps, not distinguishing quality versus quantity. Friendship is now understood as chat conversations and photo exchanges. Instead of building true friendships, people are obsessed with self-promotion. In reality, however, people are vulnerable and lonely. Social networking allows them to present themselves as they wish to be seen, with the ability to edit and delete. People are faking experiences so they will have something to share (Turkle, 2012). Brands have the opportunity to address this by connecting with consumers in the deeper way they are missing.