The most influential woman in New Zealand is not a celebrity.... she’s not a politician or an up and coming CEO of a venture capital group, or a young and entrepreneurial start-up of an IT company. She is a 55 year old mother and grandmother, little known and even less recognised by marketers – as a ‘baby boomer’.
This is the group of people born in the post WWII years between 1946 and 1964, the youngest of which are entering their fifties now. Mistakenly lumped in with pensioners, they are a ground breaking group of people. They demanded to have their voices heard in the sixties and seventies, and are changing the way we think about the concept of ‘aging gracefully’. They are active; many travelling the world and looking for adventure in overseas holidays. They are healthy; having reaped the rewards of the greatest breakthroughs in science and medical technology, the understanding of ozone depletion, smoking related illness and the consequences of excess. They are more market friendly than any other generation before them.
But most importantly for marketers, they are the wealthiest generation in history. In the United States, baby boomers grow at a rate of nearly 10,000 every day. In three years, half of the adult population will be fifty or older and will have 70 percent of the disposable income in the US, with US$3 Trillion annually in consumer spending. In the UK, people over fifty control 89 percent of all disposable wealth. In New Zealand the aging consumer is not only price-sensitive but brand-aware. There are over one million baby boomers in the country with women over forty accounting for nearly 80 percent of all consumer household spending. They are savvy shoppers and the sheer size of the demographic group has helped define brands in the post war eras. Put simply, they have evolved into the perfect consumers.
The ‘Silent Generation’, the pre-boomer era that survived the Great Depression and the largest global economic crisis the world has seen – were shaped by events to be cautious and fiscal, not spending their few and very hard earned pennies on frugal purchases or luxuries. Many struggled to even put food on their families’ tables. However, boomers are far more affluent and now account for the largest portion of retail spending around the world. They know what’s on offer and unlike their successors; they have the wealth to acquire it and the time to enjoy it.
So how is it that so few advertising dollars are spent targeting the wealthiest population in developed countries around the world – as little as 5% in the US, when they make up the largest proportion of wealth and spending power? Are they too commonly put in the same age bracket as their parents? Instead of being in the 50–68 group of targeted marketing they are thrown in with everyone in the ‘over-fifties’ – which includes marketers targeting the older group of shoppers looking for
adult incontinence and erectile dysfunction products. Does this seem marketing savvy?
A large part of the problem seems to be how baby boomers are perceived. Be clear, they are not withering, frail and vapid. Nor should they be categorised into the age bracket that their parents are in. They have spent more money on housing than any generation before them and will continue to spend more money on their homes, their hobbies, new activities, luxury purchases and overseas travel.
Even after entering retirement age, they are in luxury resort style living with tennis courts instead of games rooms, gyms and swimming pools instead of supper at five and they will drive the newest cars off the lot. They are reinventing, not retiring!
A Marketing Week UK survey shows that this particular age group feels excluded by brands and misrepresented in advertising. A High50 study shows that only four percent of those surveyed in the boomer age group felt that advertising was specifically targeted towards their needs and interests. That means 96 percent of respondents believe advertising that has been created with them in mind – completely misses the mark. A further 67 percent said they feel younger than they are yet they are being made to feel prematurely aged by the advertising industry – risky business when this is the largest sector of the economy who are ready and willing to spend their money. Can your brand afford to get the message so wrong?
The beauty industry in particular should be aware of the importance of not excluding this age group from their target demographic. “Time for a Beauty Marketing Makeover” printed by Mark Bradbury in April 2013 reported his findings that boomer spending in the beauty industry accounted for approximately half of all purchases; lipstick, hair colour, facial moisturiser, blusher, nail care and foundation, yet the dollars are spent promoting products targeted towards the teen to mid-twenties markets. Although the Generation X’ers and Y’ers may be the most easily influenced by tactical marketing – they still don’t have the spending power of their predecessors.
Understanding The Market
Linda Landers, blogger on ‘Girl Power Marketing’ has identified the key areas that women in their fifties and sixties feel are lacking when being marketed to. The most common sentiment in her research, which is widely echoed in discussions across the internet, is that women over 50 do not like the use of younger models in their advertising. Anti-ageing advertising that shows women in their twenties touting the age defying effects of creams, lifts and serums said to chase away wrinkles that are some decades away from gracing their skin, does not sit well.
There is a considerable lesson for marketers to learn from the 2004 Dove advertising “Campaign For Real Beauty” showing real, nude, mid-sixties women in photos that had not been retouched. Hours after More magazine ran the three page campaign, the magazine email inbox was clogged with messages of praise. Women who had never purchased a Dove product were suddenly flocking to the shelves to purchase the product because of the strength of the campaign or simply to support Dove for doing the unthinkable: keeping it real. Ten years later the campaign is still popular, has won a number of awards and boasts product sales increasing from $2.5 billion at the commencement to $4 billion today.
At the opposite end of this spectrum is Nivea, who recently had their ad for Nivea Vital cream, which promises to “reduce all major signs of mature skin ageing” banned. An Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigation in 2013 found that the photographs of 62-year-old model Cindy Joseph ‘had undergone extensive retouching resulting in substantial changes to the model’s appearance’. Lines, wrinkles and age spots had simply been removed by photo editing, not by continued use of the product.
Baby boomers are clearly aware of the attempts by advertisers to suggest that use of their products will somehow halt (and reverse in many cases) the inevitable marching on of the chemical changes that happen beneath the skin. Even in the ever-expanding world of plastic surgery, patients are still aware that it only slows or hides the unstoppable – that so far there is no cure for ‘age’.
There are scores of people now standing up and asking what seems like the obvious question – is age something that even needs to be cured? Women in their sixties and seventies are lamenting that they should have spent less time trying to win the war against their biological processes and more time keeping their skin and body healthy; allowing them the freedom to enjoy the lifestyles they worked so hard to achieve.
Many of the products being marketed simply draw attention to aging and reinforce its inescapable effects. Advertisers should be cautious when marketing beauty products not to make consumers feel prematurely aged by the very notion that they are ageing.
What products are they looking for?
One thing it is important to note is that boomer women have proven that they are brand aware, but not brand loyal. A survey by MediaPost showed that 90 percent of respondents are using different skincare and beauty products than they used at age thirty or forty – suggesting that product loyalty in their fifties and over is there for the taking.
There is a fundamental shift in what they are seeking from their products now. Boomer women want to protect their skin from future damage as well as maintain a healthy appearance, not merely attempt to steal a few more wrinkle free years from evolution. Global sentiment is that in the 50–68 age group women now derive beauty from confidence, not from physical appearance. They will also seek to remedy specific skin conditions rather than an all over fix for their beauty regime.
It may come as a surprise to manufacturers and marketers that a survey by MediaPost said that only 19 percent of women over fifty are looking for products that made them look younger. This shows that more importance is being placed on what products can do for your skin on a more cellular level and in turn lift confidence in their self-image, rather than merely masking the evidence of a life well lived.
It is clear that mature women require something different from products than any other age group. For example, hair care products need to be tailored to suit the drop in hair density and increasing dryness in hair fibres, not just touching up the grey hairs. A BOOMBox Network study shows that 68 percent of those surveyed said their number one beauty concern was the colour and condition of their hair; overtaking skin texture and tone, aging spots and forehead wrinkles – yet there seem to be very few campaigns that target ‘hair anti-ageing’. Reaching out to your consumer demographic in ways that are targeted and effective is crucial, but what use is this if you’re not offering the right product to meet their needs?
The most sought after skin care products (and intrinsically tied to where the R&D dollars are being spent) revolves around regeneration. The aging process affects the skin cells in a number of ways; elastin fibres break down, oil glands slow production, the epidermis loses lipids, pigmentation can appear (commonly known as age or liver spots), together with the most unstoppable attack on aging skin of all – gravity.
These are the ‘visible signs of aging’ and are responsible for the emerging markets of the most popular anti-aging products now on offer: regenerating serum, those containing retinol (which speeds up cell turnover as well as boosting collagen and elastin), ferulic acid (a potent plant antioxidant), eye creams, marine based skin care, hydroquinone, high quality sunscreens, alpha hydroxy acids and stem cell technology.
Effective marketing strategies
The beauty industry is fiercely competitive and one of the struggles of introducing or promoting products is the battle with the billion dollar companies that dominate it. A possible weakness for these giants though sees them targeting their consumers through very traditional marketing channels and the heavy reliance on their existing retail brands.
Tell the truth, they don’t believe most claims!
Advertising agencies need to give credit where its due: boomers are intelligent shoppers who have been around long enough to know when they’re being had. Stop telling them they need these products to survive and start reinforcing how the products can make them feel. Unlike younger generations, they don’t believe that their value is innately tied up in their beauty and if not attended to will depreciate like a car or a computer.
Use age appropriate spokesmodels
In 2011, Vogue Magazine, the world’s most famous fashion magazine, was heavily criticised due to its readership being
20 percent women over fifty, however they had only ever had one solo cover girl over the age of 40 – Halle Berry at age 43 (without a wrinkle in sight, of course). Even the most age friendly publication, Essence, has nearly a quarter of its readership age over fifty but only nine percent of the women shown in the magazines pages are over forty.
Meet their needs
A growing trend in the success of attracting and retaining a loyal consumer base in this age group is in providing enjoyment in the experience. Research shows that older consumers would like to see treatment providers who are more age appropriate and have familiarity with the specific needs of mature skin, or at least experience with a more mature clientele. It won’t inspire confidence receiving treatment or beauty advice from a newly graduated technician who may be decades away from understanding their beauty concerns and needs. They would also like to see specialised product offers that are specifically tailored for their skin type, lifestyle and age group. Consider the lighting you’re using as eyesight will degenerate with age – this includes using fine print in clinics or on product packaging. Most importantly, they demand an exemplary experience and a superior level of service.
Use social media
Boomers are among the fastest-growing groups on social media (particularly Facebook). As their children travel and settle across the globe they are using it ever increasingly to keep in touch.
A targeted strategy on Facebook is an excellent, low cost way of promoting products to your demographic and can be tailored to your clients needs. Positive news also spreads quickly on Facebook through groups and peers, ‘likes’ and being able to forward interesting posts on to friends and family. According to an iProspect study in the United Kingdom, 68 percent of people in their fifties have a Facebook account. Even of those aged over 70, more than half have a Facebook account.
Use the right packaging
Just because boomers don’t like to be seen as old, there are biological changes in the body that are obviously unavoidable. Deteriorating eyesight is one of them; with a massive 96 percent of the UK population aged over fifty five wearing reading glasses. This is a crucial statistic to consider when preparing reading information for clients; whether it is on packaging, the products themselves, client feedback forms or in accompanying print information – don’t make reading harder than it will already be for most.
Similarly, design ergonomic packaging that won’t cause unnecessary pain for those suffering with osteoarthritis (305,000 in New Zealand). Design boxes that are easy to open, consider ergonomic bottle manufacture with indented sides and flip open lids rather than small and awkward screw on lids.
A common mistake is a pump that dispenses too much product which then has to be scraped back into a small opening or is painful to apply the perfect amount of pressure will cause frustration. Consider packaging that is easy to use and dispenses the right amount the first time.
Use the internet!
Assuming that older people aren’t online or internet willing couldn’t be further from the truth. According to Forrester Research, those in the 47–55 age group spend more time online (over forty hours each month) than either Generation X (35–46 years old) who spend 35 hours or Generation Y (under 35) – only 32 hours per month. Baby boomers are responsible for more than 40 percent of Apple sales showing a readiness to embrace technology (remember – this is the age group that can afford it). The worldwide web celebrates a quarter of a century this year, meaning that most people in their 50s have probably spent the majority of their working lives seeing the internet develop, in fact 78 percent actively enjoy using it. Remember, it was baby boomers like Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs that are responsible for so much of the technology we now use.
Give them information
The majority of women over 50 feel like they’ve been left behind by the marketing teams responsible for targeting the beauty industry, meaning they are left to research products on their own. Be cautious relying on brand names alone as few women at this age are still loyal to the products they used in their younger days. They want up to date information backed by solid research. If you’re making claims about a product then be able to verify it with reliable and accurate scientific data – it will be verified by your clients!
Be aware that cosmetics from the United States have a reputation in New Zealand for quality and safety and hold an 18 percent import market share of beauty products, so tell your clients where your products are from. Kiwi consumers believe natural cosmetics and toiletries are pure, gentle and effective – this is valuable information so make sure you use it.
They define beauty in terms of confidence
Beauty companies are still investing a lot of money in trying to ensure mature women don’t get too comfortable with their reflection in the mirror, implying that without ageless beauty remaining attractive is a near impossibility. The mature audience no longer believe this so don’t try and sell a complete package of day cream, night cream, neck firming, wrinkle reducing, under eye night cream, de-puffing cream, overnight resurfacing serum and a plethora of other lotions and potions. Find out what they want for their skin and customise a regime that enables them to feel confident stepping out of the clinic.
Recognise their value
According to marketing expert Ann Fishman, mature women will not respond well to celebrity endorsements like other groups do. They will associate more closely with marketing messages that reflect their own experiences and tap into their values. Phrases like ‘You’re important’ will resonate better than a heavily photo-shopped image of Diane Keaton (a faux pas for L’Oreal at this years Golden Globe awards) which received immediate and wide spread condemnation.
Finally – don’t treat them like they’re old!
They are redefining the concept of ageing gracefully and will laugh at terms like ‘age correcting’. They feel young, are vibrant and know that the secret to life is being young at heart. The saying goes that ‘youth is wasted on the young’ – but this implies there isn’t as much joy in life as a mature woman as there is in being young.
Article researched and written by D McKinnie for BeautyNZ Magazine.