Inclusivity is being talked about more than ever before, from race, to gender identity and sexual orientation. The advertising industry has often been accused of perpetuating inequality and whilst efforts are being made to try and turn the tide on these issues, challenges remain. In our recent work we’ve explored age diversity within the beauty industry to understand why the 50+ audience still remains an underserved segment of the market.
There is no doubt that the millennial generation are an appealing target, they’re young and energetic which naturally makes them feel exciting. However, this obsession with youth is also marginalising older audiences who are an incredibly valuable target. Within beauty, there is a large proportion of older women who want to engage but ultimately end up feeling ignored.
According to ONS, in 2020 there were 13 million 50+ women, but by 2040 this is predicted to rise to 15.3m compared to just 13.5m under 50 women. They’re not short of a pound or two either - they have benefitted from rising property values and decent pensions, ending up well off compared to their younger counterparts. This high level of disposable income makes them a lucrative opportunity for any brand.
Tackling representation in the beauty industry
Whilst they represent a big opportunity, this is being missed across several sectors. 50+ women feel underrepresented in all major categories from finance to travel, and beauty feels the MOST ageist. Beauty shows the most marked decline between the youngest and the oldest age groups in terms of representation, highlighting the diminishing relationship beauty has with women as they age.
How well represented do women feel within beauty media/ advertising?
These women want to engage with beauty and have a strong set of aspirations, but they are not met with the same positivity from the beauty industry. This has left 50+women feeling frustrated with many parts of the beauty industry:
- Language shames rather than empowers: 78% of 50+ women believe that beauty focusses on fighting rather than embracing ageing
- They do not feel advertising understands them: 65% of this audience believe beauty advertising isn’t relevant to their needs
- They feel ignored and isolated: 80% of 50+ women believe beauty brands are obsessed with youth
Changing the narrative around the 50+ consumer
Why are 50+ women being ignored by beauty brands? A lot of this comes down to misunderstanding and stereotypes, and our research has allowed us to bust some of the myths about this audience.
Myth busting #1 – They’re old and frail
Many still think of 50 as old, a time when life is slowing down. We are living a lot longer these days and retirement does not happen until well into our 60s. And these women don’t slow down then either, they reclaim their lives! They discover hobbies, meet friends for lunch, catch up with family, go on long holidays etc.
Women in their 50’s also rate their mental and financial health, alongside their personal confidence, higher than their younger counterparts do. They also really care about their appearance (80%), more so than the under 50s. What changes is the subjective meaning of attractiveness, which tends to differ from mainstream ideals of sexiness and desirability. Instead, they think more holistically about their wellbeing holistic interpretation (confidence, gratitude, and fulfilment) which goes far beyond simply looking good to feeling good.
Myth# 2 - They’re stuck in a routine as they’re happy with what they currently use
It’s easy to think this audience aren’t really thinking about new beauty products, they have their tried and tested products and they’re happy with those. This assumption is incorrect, women 50+ are open to trying new products: 85% within cosmetics, 80% within hair and 78% for skin. They’re not doing it as much as they would like as they aren’t being targeted, there’s no relevant messaging to draw them in, and the challenge is different by category.
Skincare: There’s a disconnect between products and the relevant benefits; 33% see the category as having relevant products but only 20% believe the relevant benefits are communicated to them. Not every 50+ woman is looking for an anti-ageing product that talks about fighting wrinkles, and nor does every woman over 50 want the same type of anti-ageing product. Brands can inspire with movement away from language such as ‘turkey neck’ ‘sagging’ etc to focus on the positives such radiance, health, smoothing etc.
Haircare: Messaging around age and hair has traditionally only talked about greying and in most instances, from a negative aspect – that women should hide their greys. Greying is not the only definer, nor is it relevant to all ethnicities where greying can happen much later. As women age, hair texture can change too from increased dryness & coarseness to thinning, but this is rarely talked about (less than 2 out of 10 women feel that hair products communicate relevant benefits to them).
Make up: This is the most challenging category for women over 50. As women age, they experience changes to their skin from increased dryness, age spots and thinning as well as decreasing firmness. Not only that but our features also change as we age. Our eyes become dryer, our eyebrows thin and facial hair increases. How is the makeup industry supporting women to adapt to this time of transition? Do they need to change their products or perhaps just their application? At present only 14% of 50+ women think make up brands communicate relevant benefits to them.
Myth #3 – Women 50+ aren’t online
Accelerated by the pandemic, women over 50 are becoming a strong presence online, with an increasing number buying beauty products through apps and websites. They are also active on social media, but brands need to think carefully about which platform will be effective in reaching these women. They don’t engage with all social media platforms; they aren’t using apps like TikTok but they are using Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. These represent effective channels to engage this audience, and this doesn’t just mean traditional advertising - tutorials are also an effective way to deliver tailored solutions for these women.
The opportunity for brands
What’s clear is these women have a big appetite to engage within beauty, but this opportunity is being missed as they’re under supported. These women are craving more support and education and relevant products than many of us realize. Ageing, and in particular menopause, has been heavily stigmatized throughout society. These women want beauty brands to lead the way, speak out, and fight against this stigma, and be a source of education for others and themselves, as well as delivering products that feel relevant to them and their changing needs.
50+ women are an audience that cannot be ignored any longer by the beauty industry; they’re a big and valuable target who are looking to engage. For brands to truly cater to this audience they need to understand them and the diversity that exists.
At 2CV we have over a decade’s experience of working with beauty brands. We can support you to design relevant products and messaging for this audience as well as finding effective ways for your brand to support and empower these women and ultimately help you Make Your Mark on the beauty industry.
2CV ran a proprietary online survey in Feb 2021 with a sample of 1041 women 50+ based in the UK. To compare and contrast the findings, we also included a representative sample of 518 women aged 16-49.
The data for this study was collected using Cint, a global leader in digital insights gathering that operates the world’s largest consumer network for digital survey-based research.