Does beauty-product marketing need a makeover?


There was once a time when women of a certain age were considered to let themselves go, caring more for comfort than looks. According to AARP Media Sales’ Mark Bradbury, those days are gone forever.

“Beauty companies may ignore the underlying reality…that a woman’s beauty matters at every age,” he said in an April 4 email [link unavailable].

With Baby Boomers hitting their fifties and sixties, this reality is more real than ever.

According to Gfk MRI research, before 1998, when Boomer women started turning 50, women 50 and older accounted for 31 percent of cosmetics purchases. Today it’s 44 percent. And that 44 percent includes 51 percent of lipstick and lip gloss, 50 percent of at-home hair color, 50 percent of facial moisturizer, 49 percent of blusher, 45 percent of nail care, and 44 percent of foundation.

What’s more, use of beauty products doesn’t decline with age. While 81 percent of 18- to 49-year-old women use cosmetics and skin care products weekly, so do 79 percent of women aged 50 to 59, 80 percent of women 60 to 69, and 75 percent of women over 70.

But they don’t buy the same beauty products they did when they were younger, at least partly because their skin and hair have aged. Only one in ten women over 50 buy the same products they did in their thirties and forties, Vibrant Nation reports, and only half use the same brands.

What’s worse, most women over 50 feel the beauty industry has neglected them and finds their advertising uninformative and unrealistic.

Since Baby Boomers have been the dominant demographic cohort in American marketing practically since their birth, advertisers – and that includes beauty-product advertisers – neglect them at their peril.

Bradbury recommends some insights to keep from neglecting a segment that’s almost half of cosmetics brands’ audience:

  • While older women’s thoughts about beauty will change over time, the topic itself will always be a daily priority.
  • They embrace their beauty for what it is – unique, individual and far from perfect. So should advertisers.
  • They want to be attractive on their own terms, so they’re more interested in products that let them express their uniqueness, not the latest trends.
  • They’re dealing with dramatic age-related changes to their hair and skin so they want products that work for them as they are now.
  • That notwithstanding, they don’t like messages about anti-aging products that treat them more like patients than like women.
  • They’re willing to invest in  beauty, but not in products that don’t work. Before they buy your product, they want proof that it does what it’s supposed to.
  • They’re still interested in experimentation and creativity and would love for advertisers to make beauty for again.