The New Conversation on Ageing

May 14, 2018

The New Conversation on Ageing

by Elisabeth King

Innovation might be the most loved buzzword in the beauty industry. But marketing keeps repeating itself. The end of World War II ushered in the modern consumer age and every new generation since has been targeted as the next big thing. That’s a logical move, of course, but each and every time an over-emphasis on youth has been shown to have limitations. It’s ironic that the word Youthquake was nominated as the word of the year for 2017 because it first surfaced in the 1960s to refer to the consumer impact of then-young Baby Boomers. 

It’s been brewing for a while now, but Mintel finally called time on brands who have been focusing too much on Millennials at the expense of reaching out to all generations. In January, the global research firm advised that “brands stop targeting consumers based on their age, gender and body type”. Just the latest reminder of the well-known fact that just because people are born within the same 18-year timeframe, they don’t necessarily have the same habits, lifestyles or much else.
Remember psychographics? The profiling of consumers based on values, interests, lifestyles and opinions rather than age. The theory first emerged in 1965 and has been revived regularly since. It’s time has come again and it’s no coincidence that the comeback is occurring as the oldest Millennials are within sight of turning 40.

Age Neutral Beauty…All Ages Digitally Savvy

In the September issue of Allure, the prestigious US beauty magazine announced that it would no longer use the term anti-ageing. That doesn’t mean that anti-ageing products have lost their appeal. It’s a reflection of the fact that multi-functional, dermocosmetic and preventative skincare has become the preferred choice of many Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers because today’s conversation about ageing is different. Terms like Ageless Beauty and Age Neutral Beauty have been coined because many women want to age well rather than turn back the clock and also want to stay healthy for as long as they can as lifespans increase. It’s a sobering thought that two-thirds of all people who have ever lived past the age of 65 in the entire history of the world are alive today. 

There’s no doubt that Millennials with their love of selfies and seeking advice from beauty vloggers have spurred a boom in the colour cosmetics category and they remain key players. Younger women have always spent more on makeup, as witnessed by the upsurge in designer and makeup artists brands in the 1980s and 1990s, notably M.A.C and Bobbi Brown. M. A. C has even had the tagline - All Ages. All Races. All Genders - since its launch in 1984.

But what often goes unrecognised or is largely ignored is that women in their 40s, 50s and 60s are digitally savvy and are also drawn to beauty apps and YouTube tutorials as they look for guidance on how to update makeup techniques and research what colours best suit their changing face shape, hair colour and skin tone.

Communication technology has been around for a long time. The widespread use of personal computers in the home dates back to the 1980s and the World Wide Web went live in 1992 - 26 years ago. Over 65 per cent of Internet users in Australia are aged 35-plus - with 30 per cent aged 55-plus. In contrast to 35 per cent aged 15 to 34. Daily Internet use is high across all demographics in Australia from 86 per cent for those over 50 to 99 per cent for Millennials and Gen Zers, according to the 2017 Sensis Social Media Report. Close to 80 per cent - 79% - of the Australian population use social media and 88 per cent own a smartphone. Yet many beauty brands act as if only young people are constantly connected when the opposite is true.

40 No Longer Viewed as Mature/ Remaining-Active Beauty Consumers

There’s an old gag that runs - old age is 15 years older than you are. Today’s older women have changed the goal posts and are demanding that brands use more mature models in order to be more inclusive and representative. What used to be tokenism has now become commonplace with companies like L’Oréal signing 70-somethings Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren and Maye Musk joining the Covergirl stable of ambassadors at the age of 69. But what really indicates how much things have changed is that celebrities in their 40s like Cate Blanchett for Giorgio Armani, Julia Roberts for Lancôme and Sofia Vergara for Head & Shoulders are not viewed as “mature” anymore and are portrayed as not only glamorous but sexy in major ad campaigns. 

There’s an old gag that runs - old age is 15 years older than you are. Today’s older women have changed the goal posts and are demanding that brands use more mature models in order to be more inclusive and representative. What used to be tokenism has now become commonplace with companies like L’Oréal signing 70-somethings Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren and Maye Musk joining the Covergirl stable of ambassadors at the age of 69. But what really indicates how much things have changed is that celebrities in their 40s like Cate Blanchett for Giorgio Armani, Julia Roberts for Lancôme and Sofia Vergara for Head & Shoulders are not viewed as “mature” anymore and are portrayed as not only glamorous but sexy in major ad campaigns. 

Giving the Flick to Generalisations and Stereotypes

Focusing on age groups is an easy approach for marketers, but it can be a trap that perpetuates stereotypes, especially today when 19 year olds watch old episodes of Friends and 60 year olds are fans of Narcos. To achieve longterm success at counter, brands have to move beyond the latest Instagram micro-trend. Over the past couple of years, as it has become apparent that Millennials do not dominate the skincare market, more brands have moved to addressing needs such as dryness, pigmentation and redness which are common to all age groups and this trend will intensify. The watershed moment arrived about three years ago when sales of age-specialist skincare in the US declined for the first time in two years. According to Karen Grant, global beauty analyst for the NPD Group - “Millennials are just less anxious about the lines, the wrinkles, the grey hair. There’s the overall sense of “Oh, that’s good enough”. It’s the same story in other key markets in Europe where simplicity and solution and problem-centric skincare rate more highly among younger women in their 20s. Generalisations about beauty budgets can be another curse. Just because a Millennial aspires to a Chanel lipstick in a focus group doesn’t mean she will become a purchaser. She may search for a cheaper “dupe”. Older Millennials are also ageing and their priorities are changing. Over 80 per cent of babies in Australia are now born to Millennial mothers, so cosmetics move down the list of necessities. While empty nesters suddenly have more money to spend on themselves because their children have left home.

Ageless beauty has become a major goal of the over-35s and pointing out a customer’s physical changes such as wrinkles has become yesterday’s approach. The global anti-ageing market is now worth US$25.1 billion a year, with sales divided between US$13.3 billion for mass and US$11.8 billion for premium. The market is fuelled by women of all ages. Many older women just want basic no-fuss skincare - in a US study 38 per cent of Baby Boomers preferred hydration claims over anti-ageing ones. While a significant number of Millennials, especially in Asia, are buying more products as sunscreens, antioxidant-rich creams and serums and products designed to minimise dynamic wrinkles such as crow’s feet or protect against pollution and artificial blue light emitted from smartphones, computer screens and tablets as they age. Regional differences are very pronounced. 

The key takeaway of today’s approach is that many trends were firmly entrenched long before Millennials became serious beauty buyers - natural/organic, personalisation and multi-purpose. The Body Shop, L’Occitane, Max Factor and Prescriptives led the way decades ago and created fertile ground for Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to just keep doing what they have always done; ie, be tempted with new technologies, textures and formulas. Even Rihanna’s much bally-hooed range of foundations that cover most skin shades isn’t ground-breaking. M.A.C and Lancôme also have a huge shade range. In fact, this year marks the 120th anniversary of the launch of the Hygienic Manufacturing Company in the US in 1898. Its founder, Anthony Overton, was the first African-American to lead a major business corporation and one of its best-selling products was High Brown Face Powder - the first market success in the sale of cosmetics to black women.




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