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By Claire Croft Proximity London
Introduction Beauty. Really? Talking about our generations… Under pressure Who am I again? Better for longer Hope is near A world of opportunity 05 06 08 10 12 14 16 18 28 04 08 14 20
We set out on a journey to understand what beauty means to different generations of women. How does each generation feel about beauty, what pressures do they face and do they feel able to achieve their ideal? And importantly we explored how generations interact about beauty. How they see one another, what they admire and what they envy about each other.
To uncover genuine insights we needed to spend real time with these women, and by using observational documentary style interviewing we did just that. It was important to us that the views that women shared were not influenced in anyway, as they might be in something like a focus group. By being in their homes, and spending hours upon hours chatting to them we found out what they really think. Across all our conversations one theme stood out. For women beauty feel good about themselves. It’s simply about being able to achieve a goal
of looking the best they can, for them. And confidence is at the
heart of how women feel about their looks and their ability to look good.
This paper provides a summary of the conversations we shared with women during the time we spent with them and also outlines some thoughts about what opportunities there are for the beauty industry to evolve and enhance it’s relationship with women of all ages.
exists as a concept rather than a reality and that concept
changes and evolves over the course of ones life. It is always however something which feels beyond the reach of the individual. For young women this is because beauty is defined primarily by celebrity. Older women on the other hand believe beauty is something that exists naturally in youth, not later life. The result? Most women are striving to achieve something much smaller in aspiration; they just want to be able to
It is rare for women to describe beauty in terms of what they see in the media i.e. celebrity. For most that is manufactured, unreal and unobtainable beauty. Whilst it can provide some inspiration in terms of looks to try and experiment with it is overall a distant concept.
One notable exception in the conversations we had though was Kate Middleton. Younger women in particular are inspired by how natural she is. Her beauty is real to women, and this is genuinely motivating for them hence the frenzy to achieve her look. Retail analysts have estimated that her influence on the British fashion industry has generated a £1bn boost to the economy. So, when beauty feels obtainable women engage and take action. Why? Women are striving to feel like they look good, because this gives them the confidence they need to face the world. Achieving the goal of “looking good” is a really personal journey. For some women who are naturally confident it is a smooth ride and the beauty industry simply provides the tools they need to achieve their look. For most though they really are seeking advice and guidance for them personally. This clearly indicates the potential for the beauty industry to evolve and enhance its relationship with women.
can become something, which is defined by each woman and her reality of looking good.
A starting point would be for the beauty industry to adopt the everyday dialogue women have about beauty. Engaging with their more grounded dialect about beauty will motivate less confident women to engage more actively with the beauty industry.
By championing the idea that every women has the right to feel confident about who she is and how she looks beauty
• “Beauty” as a concept is unreal and unobtainable • Women simply want to feel they look good because that gives them
• Looking good is a personal journey and most would value tailored,
• The beauty industry has the opportunity to champion every woman’s
right to feel confident about who she is and how she looks
“If you’re happy with the way you are you have a beauty”
“Good is a more everyday word for me than beauty. Beauty just seems too big”
“Some people are just beautiful. In relation to me it’s a different idea. It is more must looking after myself or trying to look good”
Talking about our generations...
Confidence, or rather perception of, was at the heart of the relationship between generations. And those perceptions manifest themselves as a positive envy.
Younger women wish they had the confidence derived from the experience that older women have. To them older women know who they are and therefore can be more confident about looking good. For older women they envy the confidence derived from actually being beautiful when you are young. Each generation has quite clear ideas about what “looking good” means for the other. They share views and ideas. And interestingly those ideas actually become a source of inspiration. So for example older women strive to achieve a natural beauty because that’s what they think young women, who are naturally beautiful, should be embracing (rather than slapping piles of make up on and covering it up). Younger women enjoy hearing the lessons learnt from older women (e.g. cleanse, tone and moisturise, always wear make up with SPF in it etc.). Mothers provide many of these insights but not exclusively. And older celebrities, who are seen to be growing old naturally, (think Helen Mirren) are a source of inspiration for younger as well as older women.
• There is a positive envy between the generations. • Young women envy the confidence older women have because of their
• Older women envy the natural beauty that exists in youth • Each generation has clear ideas about what looking good means for
• And they talk to each other A LOT!
Carly and Cindy Daughter / Mother Single / divorced Hairdresser / Beauty therapist Aged 23 / 47
Sally & Shakini Mother & daughter Married / single Aged 33 / 16
Maddy & Sandy Single / Divorced Student /Manager Aged 21 / 42
“Its just part of getting older mum, but there’s things we can do!”
“It (beauty) is youth… it is sort of effortless not having to bother”
“I wear a lot more than she would on a night out (mother)… she’d look like a hooker”
“I have a friend who’s about 60 who I guess I see as a role model”
“Once you get older you are more experienced in what looks good on you so I think that is why a lot of older people actually look better”
Under pressure - Young women
As one might expect younger women feel the most pressure to look good. This is a real challenge for them because the pressure is highest when they are trying to establish their identity and build confidence in “their look”.
It is their love of digital socialising, which is proving to be a double-edge sword in terms of where they face pressure. Social sharing is natural and habitual for this generation and so on the positive side it is very easy for them to gather opinions and advice but also to share their own “pearls of wisdom”. They are highly aware however that the social space means they are on show 24/7 and this presents the downside of social engagement. Young women are exposed, and are constantly being
judged. The commentary which social media inevitably invites means they receive both positive and negative feedback about how they look. And in terms of impact negative opinions far outweigh positive opinions. For many this means social media both facilitates and suppresses experimentation, and it directly influences how confident they feel about themselves.
T • hey face the most pressure just when they’re trying to build confidence in how they look
• Social sharing is a double edged sword • They feel they are exposed to judgment 24/7 • Any hint of negativity in the comments they receive directly affects how
confident they feel about themselves
Holly, in relationship Stable lass, 20
Lavetta, Single Hairdresser, 19
Ebele, Single, Unemployed, 27
Maddy, Single Student, 21
“She wouldn’t upload that picture to FB because she didn’t want people thinking she ate pudding”
“If another girl had a bad pic we would be going ‘OMG have you seen blah blah’s picture’ and I don’t want to be that girl”
“I have this pressure that I now have to have a different outfit every time I go out”
Who am I again? - Motherhood
As a life stage becoming a mother is known to significantly change ones identity and as a result confidence. The conversations we had did not challenge this “truth”. But they clarified what it means for beauty.
They talked about the fact that whilst their looks become less of a priority they still need to find time for some sort of beauty routine. And equally they want to be able to feel like they look good for their partner and interestingly their child (for when they are older and are aware of mum’s looks). The psychological benefit of achieving this is not to be under estimated, as it actually affects their confidence about being a mother. But we did uncover a sense that mums to be/ new mums do feel slightly abandoned by the beauty industry at a time when they would really appreciate support and advice. They are working it out for themselves or through the experiences of others.
Their approach to beauty mirrors their approach to motherhood, they learn through trial and error.
• Mothers need time for
some sort of beauty regime. It protects identity and therefore confidence
• Mums to be and new mums feel slightly abandoned by the beauty
industry when they really need support
Natalie, Married Mum-to-be, 32
Julia, Married New Mother, 34
“Putting my make up on takes five minutes. But to me that’s a minimum to still feel like me” “I’m trying to get my routine down literally because in know when the baby comes I’m not going to have much time to myself”
“My baby’s going to grow up one day and I don’t want them to think god my mum’s really old and ugly”
Better for longer - Older women
Younger for longer is a well-trodden phrase when it comes to 50+ women. It’s the hope the beauty industry has been offering them for some time now with a whole new category of products flooding the market. However whilst their actions indicate a desire to stay young most do not express it in these terms.
Their language is slightly different to that of the beauty industry. They perceive the treatments, therapies and routines they engage with as simply slowing the ageing process as much as they possibly can. So they express it as better or best for longer. And it is this ambition that means they continue to invest (quite significantly in many cases) in being experimental. And indeed those who are young don’t see older women as being beautiful. This is not a negative though because the language they do use to describe older women includes, elegant, natural and graceful. It comes back to the positive envy. Older women are well established in their journey with beauty and outside of the media, in and amongst consumers, this is something which is to be celebrated. Importantly we didn’t experience any sense of older women actively engaging with the beauty brands beyond making a purchase. They get their inspiration and guidance from beauticians, cosmetic clinics, doctors and to some degree magazines. Given that they most strongly engage with the idea of “hope in a bottle” this generation presents a significant opportunity.
• The desire is to stay young but they don’t express is like that.
Older women say they want to look better for longer
• The ambition is to look natural, elegant and graceful not beautiful • This is a quest, one which drives significant investment in products and
• Little indication of genuine engagement with the beauty industry
Kate, Single IT Director, 44
Gill, Mother Divorced, 36
Kerri, Married Cleaner, 50
Nicky, Married Housewife, 52
“As you get older you so realise less is more”
“At my age the most I aspire to is looking like I’ve just come back from a really good holiday”
“…As you get older… [you don’t feel] that you’ve got to slap more on…you can take more off because you feel more sorted”
Hope is near
As we have shown it is the journey through confidence that explains why across the generations they are all experimentalists. The hope of feeling like you look your best drives all women to keep on trying new products, new regimes and new options like cosmetic surgery.
We were surprised by how strong the need for immediate gratification is. Products are given little opportunity to work, some only giving it one try before they decide whether it’s good or not. And it is this desire for immediate results, which meant that almost universally women see cosmetic surgery as a genuine option in helping them achieve their goal. The stigma of “having work done” is disappearing. It really is becoming an everyday thing. And importantly women discussed treatments like Botox and facial peels like they were an integral part of their beauty regime. They see it as part of the steps they are taking to make themselves look as good as they possibly can rather than to make them look beautiful.
• All generations are experimental • Immediate gratification leaves products with little opportunity
• Cosmetic surgery is widely accepted and desired • Many treatments are seen as an integral part of a beauty regime
“…. Would definitely have anything done” “I had a breast enlargement done… it was a confidence thing”
“Botox [is] no effort at all – just pop into the doctors”
“…. Definitely wouldn’t say no to facial surgery at some point”
A world of opportunity
Our observational documentary approach to engaging with women about beauty has uncovered one simple fact, which could provide a platform for the beauty industry to evolve and enhance its relationship with them.
beginnings of their journey with beauty. Using a CRM social media strategy there is potential to enable young women to establish a core confidence in themselves. To do so will cement a positive and dynamic relationship with the beauty industry for the years ahead.
“Beauty” is a personal and ever changing journey for women. The opportunity is there for the beauty industry to partner them on their journey so that they can feel confident about the way they look.
For mums to be and (indeed mums in general) the specific opportunity is two fold. Firstly by being there at a time when they really need it the beauty industry should seek to help women to adapt and evolve their relationship with beauty before a baby arrives. This would be of great value to them. Yes their identity and confidence will still be challenged but women could feel more prepared to cope with and manage the change. Social media engagement provides a platform not only for the beauty industry to give advice but also to facilitate sharing of advice amongst mums to be. This would work for both new and second (even third) time round mums. Secondly our insights hinted at the potential for new products to be developed, specifically for this audience. There are a lot of specific pre-pregnancy products out there but few postpregnancy. Mums are looking for simple effective beauty solutions, ones which
A (primarily social) CRM strategic framework, where interaction is grounded in women’s everyday perspective and language, would enable the beauty industry to provide women with the support they need as they move through their personal journey. There are some specific opportunities to consider along the journey:
Championing the idea that every woman has the right to feel confident about who she is and how she looks resonates most strongly with this generation. Young women are at the very
cut corners! Like one woman said, she’s now adding oil to her baths so that she doesn’t have to moisturise when she gets out. Helping mums to look their best quickly would again deepen the relationship they have with the beauty industry, because it would be helping them to feel more confident about themselves.
with the beauty industry and embrace their lifestage positively. They can enjoy looking better for longer.
And something which applies to all
To address the impatience shown by all women, the beauty industry can use social engagement to provide better information and education about how to use products. Expectations can be better managed to drive longerterm usage and fuel more positive conversation. Women are clearly more comfortable with cosmetic surgery as an option. By embracing this shifting relationship the beauty industry can actually partner women along this new journey they are on. Through advice and information and perhaps product innovation women could be enabled to make the very most of these treatments and maximise their chance of achieving the desired outcome, to look as good as they possibly can.
It is older women who most strongly engage with the idea of “hope in a bottle”. They experiment just as much as youth and often on higher quality products and brands. Therefore there is commercial benefit to closing the distance that exists between them and beauty brands. An engagement strategy grounded in delivering the beauty therapy experience and support within the home would help to establish a genuine relationship. It is worth noting once again that adopting the language used in communications can provide older women with more confidence to engage
• A CRM social media strategy to establish a core
confidence and create dynamic relationship with the beauty industry for years to come
• Educate about routines and how to use products
• Support them through the biggest challenge
to their identity and confidence
• Create products to meet their very specific needs
A • n engagement strategy grounded in the beauty therapy experience they adore
• Help them to celebrate their lifestage, use their
Contacts: Simon Bond, Chief Marketing Officer, Proximity Worldwide firstname.lastname@example.org Chris Slough, Managing Director, Proximity London email@example.com Claire Croft, Planning Partner, Proximity London firstname.lastname@example.org
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