Meeting the Needs Of Teens Tweens

November 22, 2005

Long before children become teenagers, they begin purchasing a wide selection of cosmetics and toiletries.


The shift in age demographics has resulted in a significant growth in 10- to 14-year old consumers in the U.S. compared to most other developed countries, where young people are declining in numbers. According to Claire Briney, analyst for Euromonitor, that helps explain why marketing to teens really has its roots in the U.S.

In the all-important U.S. market and elsewhere, the teenage population demands to be heard and catered to and have an unprecedented amount of disposable income,” she maintained. “Consumption by teenagers in the U.S. cosmetics and toiletries market is estimated to amount to up to 20% of total value sales, thus making teenagers a very important consumer market.”

And it is not just in the U.S. that marketers are focusing on these younger consumers. It is even occurring in those countries where the biggest demographic growth has been among older consumers. In several European countries, the numbers of 10- to 14-year old consumers are starting to rise, including Germany (+1.1%), Italy (+0.2%) and the UK (+2.7%). But in Japan the trend is the reverse with 10- to 14-year olds declining by almost 10% between 1998 and 2003.

The “kidult” phenomenon starts young, with girls as young as five or six wanting to beautify themselves with all manner of lip glosses and balms, nail color and hair products. According to Mintel, in its report entitled “Teenage Cosmetics & Toiletries UK,” young consumers’ interest in cosmetics is fuelled by reading teen magazines, swapping ideas and recommendations with their peer group and watching what their mothers use.

“Teenage girls are concerned with acne and having a clear complexion, keeping their long hair in good condition, feeling fresh and being attractive to the opposite sex. These grooming habits, obtained early, stay with them as they grow older and become more sophisticated in their choice and usage of products,” reported Mintel. Ms. Briney concurred. “Teenage consumers are at a critical point in developing brand preferences that may endure to affect the market for decades,” she said.

The other significant group of young consumers are 8- to 12-year old girls who typically emulate the fashions of teen consumers and buy into products aimed at this older demographic. More products targeted at tweens are being launched, representing another potential growth area.

“In fact, the mass-market Naturistics brand recently updated its marketing campaign specifically to reach the 22 million female tween to teen shoppers, a group estimated to be growing by 10% annually,” said Ms. Briney.

Targeting these young consumers means tapping into today’s media culture through the TV, internet and music scenes and being aware that they quickly adapt to emerging styles they see promoted in the mass media. “This aspect of the teen market poses a peculiar challenge for marketers,” noted Ms. Briney. “However, certain themes remain constant in what teens demand from their favorite brands—fun, convenience and basic quality.”

The tastes of these young consumers can be extremely fickle and more than one cosmetics company has had its fingers burned. Estée Lauder, for example, purchased the mass-market teen cosmetics Jane brand only to sell it in 2003. And LVMH Moët Hennessy similarly acquired and disposed of the youth-oriented Hard Candy and Urban Decay cosmetic lines.

According to Mintel’s global new products database (GNPD), a total of 486 new products aimed at tweens and teens were picked up in Europe and North America in 2004. The largest increase in new lines was seen in Europe, where 223 tween- or teen-oriented products were registered, up from 131 in 2003. Cosmetic products make up by far the greatest number of new introductions, accounting for 43% of the total for both regions. Makeup palettes are popular with the younger set, such as Boots 17 Electric Vibe Colour compact, a limited edition kit containing “everything a girl needs for a big night out,” including three eye shine creams, two lip and cheek colors and a glitter lip gloss. U.S. brand Mary-Kate & Ashley has recently launched a new range of makeup aimed at young teenagers called Glam collection, which includes a body color kit of Go Shimmer shimmering lotion, Shimmer Plus All Over Color pencil, Sequin Dust Sparkling powder in a Divine variant and Aroma Sparkle body spray available in a Warm Vanilla scent.

Novelty plays a key role in attracting teens and tweens, especially if linked to other consumer products. Bonne Bell’s Smackers Gloss ‘n Greeting Card is a neat two-in-one idea of a lip gloss attached to a greeting card, while Bonne Bell’s Lip Smacker soda flavored lip balms and Lotta Luv Hershey’s Kisses (a chocolate scented lip gloss) tap into young girls’ favorite candy flavors in a lip product formulation.

Children’s and teenage-targeted fragrances are far more popular in Europe than the U.S., reflecting the tradition for mothers to use fragrance on their babies and young children. In 2004, there were 35 new fragrance launches in Europe aimed at this group, compared to just five in North America. New brands included Barbie My Scene from Compagnie Européenne des Parfums (CEP) in France and Coty’s Chupa Chaps I Love Me eau de parfum range of three variants called Night Fever, Pop Vinyl and Soul Shine, launched in the Austrian market. Parfums Vanderbilt extended its French Pure Fashion Fragrance eau de toilette range with new color-coded variants.

Mintel reported that future growth in cosmetics and toiletries for tweens and teenagers depends upon manufacturers and retailers creating new opportunities for new and existing brands. Young consumers may appear to be sophisticated in their use of products, maintained Mintel, but many do not see the link between categories, such as personal freshness and taking a daily shower. Education should therefore be a key plank in manufacturers’ strategies in selling to this young target market.

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