Girl Power: Teens Hit the Cosmetics Scene

November 9, 2005

No longer followers, Generation Y consumers are making themselves heard and becoming a driving force in the personal care industry.

Kids grow fast, but kids' markets are growing faster. Children and teenagers have long dictated parents' purchases, but today they have markets all their own, and they're savvy enough to know exactly what they want, according to industry experts.

Teens represent a large consumer group, comprising more than 40 million consumers and spending $155 billion a year, according to The Geppetto Group, New York, NY. Of that total, $8 billion a year is spent on girls' health and beauty aids.

According to The Geppetto Group, teens see, experience and respond to the world and products in a very different way than adults do. Therefore, marketing products to this younger category involves acknowledging, incorporating and designing with these differences in mind.
"Teens are always in motion," commented Sandy Cataldo, president, Jane Cosmetics, New York, NY. "They enjoy 'extreme' everything: extreme sports, dancing and foods."

This fast pace calls for products that capture a teen's imagination quickly, but for very different reasons than those of adults, according to Ms. Cataldo. "Like adults, teens and tweens require products that are quick, easy and multifunctional," she said. "The difference is that adults make quick purchasing choices because we want to manage our time; teens make fast choices because they're seeking something different. They know exactly what they want, they're smart and they make immediate choices based on very strong and confident tastes."

These preferences run the gamut from the look of the packaging to the visual appeal, smell or taste of the product, and even, in some cases, a sense of social conscience and an eye toward health.

Teen girls, especially, are looking at themselves and the world around them with a keener eye than in the past. "Teens today are much more empowered, and they are aware of what is going on in their environment," Ms. Cataldo pointed out.

She added that girls and young women in the media paint a picture of both power and femininity. "Their role models show them that instead of having to sacrifice everything to be a hero, they can be powerful and still be girly. Being a girl no longer takes away from being a leader."

According to The Geppetto Group, it's cool to have a cause, and green packaging and natural/vitamin-enriched products focusing on health as well as beauty are growing in popularity.

But industry professionals warn that marketing to the teen category requires a different vantage point and special consideration of teens' individual needs and wants.
"Kids, teens and tweens are not little versions of us," insisted Julie Haplin of the Gepetto Group. "We can not automatically put ourselves into their world. We can not make any assumptions."

She added that male teens should not be ignored as an up-and-coming market, though male-targeted products are more about fresh and clean and less about adornment and style. For girls, the focus should be on allowing the consumer to customize her products, including multiple sizes, a wealth of colors, textures and scents and mix-and-match kits.

Achieving a Balance
Most professionals agree that marketing to tweens vs. teens is something of a balancing act. The tween and teen markets, though overlapping, do show some distinct differences.

Tweens, categorized as approximately 11 to 13, are perhaps the more difficult of the two categories to identify and, according to most industry professionals, the harder to reach.
Described as being "between a rock and a hard place" by Ms. Haplin of The Geppetto Group, tweens are in transition from elementary school to middle school and as such, tend to vacillate between childlike folly and advancing maturity. Finding products which incorporate both of these very definite tendencies has opened a new market of combination products which perform, yet are still whimsical, colorful and fun.
Kitty Glitter from Too Faced, Irvine, CA, combines whimsy with glamour. This combination enables the company to cater to teens, tweens and adults, according to executives.

Teens-the 14-18-year old age group-are more seriously searching for identity. Cosmetics geared toward teens can cross over into the adult category as these young adults begin to be concerned with the health and purity of their products rather than simply attempting to copy or create a look.

To cater to this intelligent and discerning group, teen-geared products are stepping up in quality while manufacturers attempt to keep costs low enough for teenagers to make a purchase.

Ms. Cataldo pointed out the irony of adults now turning to more youthful cosmetic products as a result. "What's been pleasantly surprising to us is that there is definitely that 16-year-old girl coming to our display, but now, her mother often comes as well," commented Ms. Cataldo.

"That's another reason why quality in teen-geared cosmetics is important." She added that this, in itself, is a major chunk of Jane's purpose: "At one time, dollar-lipsticks and eye shadows were the only cosmetic choices out there for the young consumer," she insisted. "That dollar lipstick is still out there, and teens will still buy it, but Jane goes a step further by offering products that respect the teenage consumer's sense of taste and still offer affordability."
Rather than starting off with the price point and working a product into that budget, Jane first develops a desirable, beneficial product and then works it into an affordable form, according to Ms. Cataldo.

Too Faced, Irvine, CA, has also experienced an age crossover, but in the opposite direction, according to founder and chief executive officer Jerrod Blandino. Though the company creates products that honor the diva in every woman, younger consumers are seeking Too Faced products for their colorful and creative packaging and interesting product lines.

However, bold is still top on teens' lists, much more so than for adults. "Our highest sales to teens is color," Mr. Blandino said. "They're not as interested in foundation since they're not looking toward or worrying about the future as much as adults do. It's more about shimmer, micro-glitter and more technologically-advanced products."

Mr. Blandino pointed out that young consumers are more experimental and willing to try new looks. "Teens are very creative, very progressive," he commented. "They're driving the market right now, not following it."

He also stressed that teens today are much more savvy than those of the past. "They recognize quality," he said. "They know junk versus great stuff. They definitely have very discriminatory taste."

Too Faced's double-entendre product names and fun and fantastical packaging have attracted the upper end of the teen spectrum with such products as Kitty Glitter, First Base eye shadow base, Pretty in Pink matte blush and Gossip Gloss lip gloss.

Though the glam/diva concept may be a little weighty for younger girls, the upper end of the teenage spectrum is investigating glamour more and more and gravitating toward crossover products, according to Too Faced executives.

To Please a Teen
So what to offer a group that is a hard-to-hold mix of serious and whimsical, bold and progressive, tasteful and experimental-and above all, quick to either purchase a product or toss it back on the shelf?

Head Wear offers a complete line of teen-geared shampoos, conditioners and styling aids.

Again, companies that cross over between age groups have a good chance of success due to their diversity. While a teen may or may not think pink, any tween is likely to identify with light, bright colors, for example. And adult-geared products that offer a touch of fun can be tempting to those in their late teen years, according to industry professionals.

"The truth is, when we (adults) were growing up, moms were 'old!'" said Mr. Blandino of Too Faced. "Now, moms are sexy, chic, hot. Girls actually want to emulate their mothers now. They do want their own identities, but they're following in their mothers' footsteps much more than we did."

Jane Cosmetics took a leap of faith by focusing entirely on the youth category rather than crossing over into more than one age group. Ms. Cataldo of the company believes that this is due to the company's attitude, which closely mirrors that of a teen: taking risks with entirely new products, addressing the beauty in individual cultures and focusing on confidence and inner beauty which is reflected in the shopper's product choices.

"We broke a lot of firsts," Ms. Cataldo said. "We helped make it okay to be unusual by celebrating individuality. And we were the first to recognize the importance of teens as a major force to contend with."

She added that prior to companies such as Jane appearing on the market, choices for the youth category were few, and the physical ideal was difficult to fit into for most teens.

"Jane made color cosmetics fun," she insisted. "A decade ago, there were few teen role models who could be both fun and strong. As far as personal products went, one had to either be a Barbie doll, or contend with prestige products at much higher prices. We told teenagers that beauty can be unusual; it's exciting and fun and audacious. Suddenly, not being perfect is the trend."

To that end, Jane offers a full range of products in stores and on its website. The company is careful to produce products that girls can be proud to wear, according to Jane executives.
Going Steady eye definer is both an eye liner and eye shadow in a cream-to-powder formula that goes on smoothly and doesn't drag on delicate eye lids. The liner/shadow is available in Good Jeans (denim blue), Ghost Story (frosty white), Pink-A-Boo (shimmery pale pink), Hocus Pocus (lavender) and Tiara (glistening silver). The products retail for $3.49 each.

Fan Club curling mascara is a formula built with a natural curling polymer and contains vitamin E, aloe, chamomile and lavender. It is available in both washable and waterproof formulas and retails for $3.99.

Shine Language lip gloss contains a vanilla flavor and retails for $3.49. It is available in Magic Work (gold), Hush (soft peach), Girl Talk (sweet pink), Punchline (rich red), Slang (purple) and Gossip (warm brown).

"Jane listens to today's teenage consumer and creates products just for them," Ms. Cataldo said. "That's why girls have claimed our brand as their own. It talks to them, instead of at them."

More is Better
If there is any one demographic group that embraces the concept that more is better, it's teens. A focus on kids as individuals and the success of teen-geared personal care companies in recent years has ushered in a plethora of choices for the young consumer.

Head Wear International, "for cool guys and girls," according to the Miami-based company, has introduced a six-SKU line. The line was launched with ads in Seventeen magazine, a toll-free store finder program, a website and links to retailers, as well as a national public relations campaign.

Head Wear's Hydro Blast shampoo is enriched with natural soy proteins, rich emollients and what the company calls a Mega Vitamin cocktail to deliver strength, body and shine. Accompany-ing the shampoo is Hydro Blast conditioner, which restores body and manageability to the hair without weighing it down.

Head Wear also offers a variety of hair styling aids made just for teens. Disco Diva thickening gel is loaded with body-building resins that attach to each strand, making the hair look thicker without feeling sticky, according to the company. Download straightening serum is weightless and humidity-resistant and contains guar gum, panthenol, vitamin A and vitamin E for extra environmental protection. Phyto-phusion pliable putty contains stretching fibers, allowing the wearer to create, scrunch, separate, mold, sculpt and direct his or her look. And Strung Out! styling goo molds and holds the hair for dramatic styles. Head Wear products retail from $3.99-5.99.

Fetish Cosmetics, introduced in 1998, is geared toward girls ages 12-19 and includes lip, eye, face and body products. According to the company, Fetish's strategy is a combination of fun and trendy sophistication.

The Fetish line includes Gimme Some Lip lip color, Two Timer lip accent, Let It Slide lip gloss, Fat Boy mascara, Flip Your Lid eyeshadow and Let's Face It blusher. Fetish Cosmetics has signed on pop star Christina Aguilera as its spokeswoman to pull attention to its offbeat, trendy products. The products retail from $2.99-7.99 and are updated seasonally, with shimmering reds, golds and silvers to be introduced for the holiday shopping season.

Flygirl, Toronto, CA, takes a futuristic approach and targets an audience from 15-24. The makeup is edgy enough to grab a teenager's attention, yet clean and fun enough for parents to approve of, according to company executives. The Flygirl line also features three "flygirl" characters, Jami, Kiki and Chloe, as representatives of the fun side of being a teenager. The product line, with price points ranging from $8-12, will soon add bath and body products, eye shadows and lip glosses to its current range of lip balms and nail colors.

New York Color (N.Y.C.) touts its line as street-style savvy and offers products for both teens and adults. Its products retail from $.99-$1.99 and include Long Wear and Fast Dry nail enamels, Fruit Flavored lip gloss in fun and appealing pots, Long Wear lipstick encased in metro-style silver tubes, roll-on Fruit Flavored lip gloss, oil-absorbing powder blush and pressed and loose powders. Eye products in the N.Y.C. collection include Lengthening and thickening mascaras, eyebrow and eye liner pencils, all in slim, portable containers. The silvery packaging and multi-colored N.Y.C. logo are on-trend, according to company executives. The company also offers body glitter gel, press-on nails, false eyelashes, tools and accessories.

Such ancillary products have gained popularity with the younger crowd, and are appearing in virtually all teen-geared lines and in collections for tweens as well. Naturistics has carved out a teen niche with a hippie-style lineup. Super Shine nail gloss and Super Shine face shimmers deliver "petal power" in a variety of shades. The nail gloss is offered in Spring Fever, Lil' Petunia, Crazy Daisy, Mum's the Word and Flower Power. Face shimmer comes in Rose-a-Rama, Spring to Life and Shrinking Violet.

The company's Hippie Slixx lip gloss is packaged in a funky wand-application bottle that mimics the look of a lava lamp, according to company executives. The glosses are flavored in Hip to be Strawbery, Way Out Watermelon, Lava that Berry!, Groovin' Grape, Bubbly Yum and Kool Kiwi. They retail for $3.50 each.

Longtime player and trusted name Bonne Bell, Cleveland, OH, has updated its look and appeal with products that overlap into both the tween and teen categories. The company offers Eye DeFiner kohl eye pencil, Get Bronzer tanning lotion and its range of Bottled Emotion fragrances.
Bottled Emotions are available in spray cologne, solid fragrance and even fragranced tattoos.

The 10-SKU line includes such whimsical names as Flirty, Pretty, Hip, Romantic and Crazy.
Bonne Bell's glosses include Lip Burst, a clear, clean wet-look product, and Flip Gloss, a protective lip balm that goes on clear and natural. Teens can also add a host of lipsticks to their shopping carts, either at the store or on the Bonne Bell website. Lip Shades is a medium-coverage, subtle-flavored lipstick in a "flip"-style package. Lip Lites liquid lipstick delivers a flavor burst in addition to glamorous color. And Lip Sheers Slimline lipstick subtly en-hances the wearer's natural lip color.

Traditional cosmetics companies have picked up on the booming teen market as well, and are entering the arena with youth-geared collections.

Mary Kay introduced Velocity, a fragrance, skin care and color products collection, to evoke the concepts of energy, enthusiasm and motion, company executives said.
Velocity includes a facial cleanser, retailing for $10, a lightweight moisturizer for $12 and two color cosmetics sets, retailing for $25. Trendy names such as Shell Shocked for eyes, Electric Current for lips and Reboot Rose for nails appeal to the teenage market.

Avon will also delve into the youth category with its teen business division. "The teen market is growing rapidly all over the world," said Andrea Jung, Avon's chief executive officer. The company plans on launching the new business in early 2003.

Reaching a Mercurial Market
All of these offerings translate to big business in this enthusiastic category. "Teenage girls shop up to 54 times a year," insisted Ms. Cataldo. "That's more than adults shop."

And today, they have money to burn: according to The Geppetto Group's research, teenagers account for a $155 billion per year industry. However, teenagers tend to be more stingy with their money because unlike adults, they don't always know when they can expect more, according to industry professionals. Teen incomes tend to be more sporadic, with fluctuating allow-ances accounting for a large portion of what they view as their income.

"For teenagers, money is not so easy to come by, so they're not going to shell out big dollars for just anything," Ms. Cataldo commented. "They're very savvy consumers."

According to Ms. Halpin, in order to connect with teens, a few key elements are essential: connecting with them on an emotional and rational level; honesty in communications; allowing them to make choices and helping them to define their style.

In order to encourage teen consumers to spend their limited resources on makeup as opposed to movies, clothes or snacks, companies must now address the teen as a whole, catering to her overall wants and needs, according to Ms. Cataldo.

"We find out what teens want in a number of ways," she revealed. "Research companies, trend forecasters and going out into the marketplace are all key elements. But most important is to actually work with the teens themselves, to ask them what they want. We are constantly changing and presenting ourselves differently, because teens are always doing the same."
Mr. Blandino added, "Today, we're telling kids, 'don't settle for average. Go for the stars!' Because we're telling them that it's okay to be individuals, they're more focused on quality all around. Cosmetic companies need to do the same in order to reach them."

Seeing the teen as an individual in her own right as opposed to a mini adult seems to be the key to success for today's youth market. "You need to remember that you're not marketing to one teen; you're marketing to many teens," stated Ms. Cataldo. "What's really important is to communicate, to understand. Today, teens don't have to adapt. The culture adapts to them."

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