Online Exclusives

The New Beauty Consumer

By Nancy Jeffries, Online Editor | July 7, 2014

FIT graduates look at shifts occurring in lifestyles and demographics.

There is no doubt that today’s beauty consumer profile is changing. This was the subject explored by the graduates of Fashion Institute of Technology’s (FIT) Master’s Degree program in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management (CFMM). The commencement took center stage at the annual Capstone presentation, held June 4, 2014, at FIT’s Haft Auditorium.
 
“At the age of 14 years, this program is still a great source of pride for FIT,” said Dr. Joyce F. Brown, President, FIT. “Each year the students explore themes of great relevance to the industry, and this year the theme is a powerful one.”
 
Dr. Brown acknowledged the support of this year’s sponsor, Unilever, and noted the contributions of Coty, for sponsoring the Coty Award for Professional Excellence; Limited Brands, for the Limited Brands Student Leadership Award; the Estée Lauder Companies Faculty Leadership Award, and all of the students and faculty who contributed to the unique event.
 
Gina Boswell, executive vice president, personal care, Unilever NA provided the keynote. “This program is integral to the development of the beauty industry. It creates an opportunity for the best and the brightest to come together and acts as a think tank to allow enhanced understanding of the industry from both a consumer and retail perspective,” said Boswell.
 
Clearly, the graduates of the CFMM program are already professionals in their own right, holding executive positions in such companies as L’Oréal USA, Shiseido Group USA, Unilever NA, IT Cosmetics, Estée Lauder Companies, Bath and Body Works, Givaudan, IFF, and Coty Prestige.
 
“For us at Unilever, our vision of beauty is we believe people are beautiful, not made beautiful,” said Boswell. “We believe in caring for our consumers and helping to make products that make lives better.”
 
This thread permeated the presentation, which offered a keen analysis of the changing face of today’s beauty consumer, in a three-part discussion assessing where beauty is today and where it is going as the new consumer trades up and down for the products and brands they value.
 
David Rubin, vice president, marketing, Unilever Hair US, spoke to the content of the presentation and Unilever’s collaboration with this year’s Capstone.
 
“The quality and content of this program is unique,” said Rubin, “and beauty is incredibly important to our business, both in the US and globally. Not only is it critical to our business, but we try to organize ourselves and our business around consumers. This is an opportunity for a group of the industry’s future leaders to take a really deep look at some of the changes that are taking place with ourselves, both demographically and psychographically, and how we can be successful in light of those changes.”
 
The Changing Face of the Beauty Consumer
 
Students began with a premise that is impacting everyone in the beauty industry and beyond. That is, fundamental shifts are occurring in the US lifestyle and demographics. There are higher price/value expectations from consumers, an expanding dollar store channel and mass brand diffusion. Developing markets are seeing rising income levels, a growing middle class and increased technological awareness.
 
These factors, combined with the transparency of the digital age, increased global travel, and pressure on consumer brands for greater sophistication, product benefits, and accountability, have created a new consciousness. At the same time, according to the student findings, gender roles are shifting, as economics and ethnicity continue to impact the new beauty consumer, posing challenges to companies that will require both innovation and enhanced execution.
 
Accessible Beauty, the first segment in the presentation, looked at the ways in which companies will need to offer value to consumers and become more accessible to this new group. Referred to as the Progressive Rationalists, this group trades up and down. It is technologically savvy. Heather Kovesdy, Shiseido Group USA, said, “It is no longer about one income, one gender, or one race.” While Jessica Dudley, Marketing, L’Oréal, said, “Between now and the year 2030 there will be a growing democratization of the consumer public, largely due to the phenomenon of migration and connectivity via technology.”
 
Presenters noted that by 2020 there will be 2.5 billion smart phones in use, and “need and performance” will be the major criteria for purchase.
 
The new consumer will want ethically-sourced products, delivered in one day, and at the right price, according to student research, and products will need to serve the consumer’s higher order needs with an emotional/functional balance. Brands would need to be convenient, enabling hyper accessibility by empowering local consumers to become points of distribution, in order to fulfill the proscribed model’s Progressive Consumption Equation; that is, function plus higher order need plus performance equals purchase.
 
Brands would need to offer clarity, so that transparency from philanthropy to profits and resources, would become part of the equation. In addition, brands would help consumers save money by developing the next generation of private label products wherever consumers shop, without risking brand image.
 
Men’s Beauty and Grooming
 
According to the presenters, the current global market for men’s grooming stands at $35 billion. The US represents 17% of that market, while Western Europe holds 26% with 23% growth; China had 280% growth in men’s skin care, and South Korea posted 67% growth in men’s grooming. US growth in the men’s market, according to the students, was an “underwhelming” 7%.
 
Student research focused on the changing economic drivers and social attitudes toward masculinity that are impacting male grooming habits today, noting that the industry is at a tipping point where external drivers are altering men’s wants, needs and aspirations. Consensus has grown surrounding changing roles and behaviors. Three out of four men agree that men and women no longer need to conform to traditional roles. In addition, 76% of men agree that males are under more pressure than past generations to present a polished image; while population growth for the older male segment, combined with millennial men being more accepting of women’s grooming products and routines, has also impacted product adoption and usage.
 
In order to promote growth and change in men’s grooming, the students suggested a four-gear approach. First, ignite men’s interest by authentically identifying needs and genuine consequences by introducing credible, simple solutions. Students noted that in surveys conducted, many men could see no consequences in not using grooming products.
 
Second, steer men toward more sophisticated grooming purchase, by leveraging ease, accessibility and trust. Third, fuel interest by utilizing imagery and communications reflecting the new masculinity; and Fourth, accelerate the focus from the physiological to the self-actualized male image, posited by Maslow, in his psychological studies. Focus on one product at a time, build momentum, sophistication, trust, and loyalty. Their 4G plan is a call to action which also includes a mandate for R&D to invest in men’s products.
 
“Men are looking for options that relate to their identities, roles and behaviors. Herein lies a wealth of design opportunities,” wrote Isabela de Mello, guest author, Ideo, who was cited in the presentation.
 
Engaging the New Beauty Consumer
 
The final segment of the presentation included a new strategy that leverages total consumer identity. This strategy moves beyond the traditional segmentation model of race, sex, age and geography. According to the student presentation, these parameters do not accurately reflect psychographics, attitudes, values, beliefs and desires of the evolving beauty consumer, and brands must engage in a more fluid approach to resonate across the consumer’s multi-dimensional value system.
 
Student findings indicate that age will evolve into a cross-generational spectrum of shared passions and interests. Sex will become a spectrum of complex gender identities; and geography will evolve into a series of connections intertwined with notions of community. Race as a classification system used to identify people according to their physical appearances, geographic ancestry, and inherited characteristics, will evolve as an identifier. In order to engage fully with consumers, it will be essential to consider cultural values. One race can have multiple cultural values and one culture can span many races.
 
To reach the new consumer, instead of promoting products only around key holidays, brands should find the moments that transcend culture and generation to celebrate with consumers throughout the years. This could be as simple as celebrating new beginnings, such as the first day of school or first job. These moments deeply matter to consumers and are an opportunity for brands to stay relevant.
 
Students noted that by 2019, the white child will be a minority in the US (Mintel 2011); and the new face of America will represent the changes. According to a recent article in National Geographic, cited by students, the reality is fast approaching when a new shade will, in fact, be born every day, and the beauty industry is at a critical tipping point to embrace this evolving new consumer.
 
This year’s awards included The Coty Award for Professional Excellence, which was presented by Tennile Kopiasz, senior vice president US marketing, Coty Prestige, to Kendal Ascher, vice president North America, marketing, La Mer & Jo Malone. Dr. Brooke Carlson, assistant professor, FIT Master’s Program, presented the Scholarship Awards to Colleen Celentano, human resources, L’Oréal USA; Michael Kremer, marketing, L’Oréal USA; Brenna Koorse Stone, marketing development, L’Oréal USA; Dudley Williams, development, L’Oréal USA; and Simone Bolotin, public relations, Coty Prestige.
 
Camille McDonald, president, brand development and merchandising, Bath and Body Works, presented the Limited Brands Student Leadership Award to Jessica Dudley, marketing, L’Oréal USA; Karyn Khoury, senior vice president, corporate fragrance development worldwide, Estée Lauder Companies, presented the Estée Lauder Companies Faculty Leadership Award to Mark Polson, adjunct professor, Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management and vice president, innovation and business development, global management strategies, Estée Lauder Companies; and Professor Stephan Kanlian, chairperson, Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management, FIT, presented the Department Medal to Colleen Celentano, human resources, L’Oréal USA. David Rubin, vice president, marketing, Unilever Hair US closed the program, offering his congratulations on behalf of Unilever.
 
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