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In My Opinion: Market Smart to Special Needs

By: Nadine Vogel
Posted: May 3, 2007, from the May 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Yet, when these women and teens approach retail cosmetic counters they are often spoken to with disregard or serviced improperly, or worse yet, ignored. My own daughter has had these experiences, coming home in tears. Her facial deformities cause many folks working behind the counter to avoid her requests to sample products or have a makeover; worse, she is often spoken to as though she is a child or someone with a cognitive impairment. Unfortunately, for most women with disabilities, this appears to be the rule rather than the exception. The beauty industry has not yet embraced this large, loyal segment of the population and said, “We want your business,” and more importantly, “We want your business not in spite of but because of your special needs.”

This community is not looking for research and development of new products. They are looking for an understanding that although they have some unique needs, which do need to be met, they are women first and foremost and are entitled to feel beautiful and to be treated like everyone else. They want to celebrate their differences, not hide behind them. The beauty industry has an incredible opportunity to help them accomplish this with confidence through sensitivity and service at point of sale and through appropriate marketing. These women want to know that when L’Oréal says, “Because I’m worth it,” and Estée Lauder says, “Every woman can be beautiful,” that those messages include women with disabilities.

Avon recently launched its Instant Manicure Dry Enamel Strips. This happens to be a fabulous product for some segments of the special needs population that have difficulty polishing their nails the traditional way, yet the company has not proactively marketed it to the women who may need it the most.

Busting Myths
So why, if women and teens are such a large segment of the population with money to spend and a desire to be marketed to, are they largely ignored by beauty marketers? The three reasons or myths I most often hear are:
1.    People are not comfortable seeing folks with disabilities in the media.
2.    The special needs community is too small or niche.
3.    The special needs community lacks disposable income.

I believe I have shown these items to be more fiction than fact. One last reason often cited by a company is the fear that they will “do it wrong.” This last item is a very real concern and should be taken seriously, yet the solution is quite simple. As with any new business venture or entrance into a new market segment, consulting with the experts from the very beginning can make all the difference and assure success.