Age is just a number to some of us — yes, when we humblebrag about how we completed a vertical marathon at 40 or when medical technology lets a 73-year-old woman conceive. To brands and marketers, your age, however, is an opportunity for consumption profiling and name-calling.
These days, there is a Dewey Decimal System. If you are aged 22 or younger, you are filed away as Gen Z-er or Post-Millennial. If you are born between 1981 and 1996, you are a Millennial.
And these two age groups are prize catches (sorry, Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers). Everyone wants to court them and everyone wants their money, or rather their parents’. Every brand wants to have Gen Z-ers and Millennials sipping their bubble teas, slipping into their streetstyle sneakers and slurping their rainbow ice creams — then posting all that on Instagram in the next five seconds.
Gen Z and Millennial customers are particularly coveted by beauty brands. The act of selling and promising acquired youth — with age-defying hair dyes, skin-illuminating concealers and pout-enhancing lip glosses — is most optimally fulfilled when you associate yourself with fans and customers who are already young.
Plus, when young, hip people love a brand, the older ones who think they are young and hip at heart will follow shortly. On the contrary, try finding a 20-year-old who claims she’s a Baby Boomer at heart.
But not every brand gets it right with the Gen Z-ers and Millennials. Sometimes, there is a fixed formula and, sometimes, success is serendipitous — well, young, restless and bored people have always been hard to fathom.
What is formulaic science: Euromonitor International’s 2017 Consumer Lifestyles Survey found that under-35s love beauty brands with unique founder stories (hello, former-struggling-makeup-artist-turned-beauty- influencer) and brands with founder stories that resonate with their own (“I was once like you, working in a high- paying job that I did not enjoy”).
Your founder or brand should also live and propagate the ethical, multicultural and all-inclusive life, so no to launching liquid foundations in only five shades (and all with names like Ivory, Porcelain and Milky). And no to testing on animals, no to copious plastic packaging used and no to excluding men from using eyeliners.
Or, maybe, you know what, don’t even try selling products overtly to the post-1980 crowd. They prefer spending their gig economy money on experiences, not on products. So, sell them an experience first, in the for of pop-up events (quirky backdrops are a must, please), give them free, useful and fun content that can be easily read or watched in less than two minutes on blogs, and let influencers tell them how to get Bambi eyes in 10 seconds.
Finally, insert a subtle link to your retail site where you sell products that are experiential to use: think magnetic fake lashes, champagne-scented facial mists, hologram-effect lipsticks and the perennially popular promise that you are young, reckless and loved by brands only once in your life — that is, until someone somewhere figures out what comes after “Z” in the alphabet and coins a new label for the next generation.
Vegan Products For “Unicorns”: Lime Crime Makeup
Forget old-school terms like customers and makeup fans. Lime Crime Makeup wants you to know that it sells vegan, cruelty-free makeup for unicorns. And who doesn’t want to be a unicorn in 2019, right?
The rebellious-sounding brand promises that its products will let you “express yourself unapologetically, experiment with every colour of the rainbow and escape from looking like everyone else”.
Its Instagram account with 3.5 million followers is updated with selfies of nonchalant- eyed influencers with pastel hair streaks, close-ups of sequins and rose decals on wet, glossy lips, photos of boys wearing eyeshadow (because inclusivity) and, of course, makeup in lime shades.
Once you are intrigued, pop over to its website to buy Unicorn Hair Tints — forget boring names like Hazel or Auburn, you get Shook, Tweet and Sushi here — black or green lipsticks, and limited- edition eyeshadow palettes launched just for Halloween but meant for everyday wear.
Pretty, But Not Too Pretty: Glossier
Beauty fans step into Glossier’s perfectly powder- pink stores with the same reverence that iPhone collectors channel in an Apple flagship.
Started in 2014, it is popular with the younger set for a few good reasons. It is a spin-off from founder Emily Weiss’ blog Into the Gloss, which remains popular for its celebrity interviews, product reviews and how-to articles. Weiss herself is a millennial.
The digitally savvy Glossier carries a relatively small range of just 40 back-to-basics, easy-to-understand products with intriguing names like Wowder (a finishing powder) and Boy Brow (a brow pomade), designs packaging that is minimalist yet still pretty, and believes that its merch should be inspired by real life.
Celebrity Cache: Kylie Cosmetics
Although detractors have long attributed the brand’s success to founder Kylie Jenner’s celebrity clan, Kylie Cosmetics has continually raked in very healthy profits — to the tune of US$360 million in 2018 alone. That is probably why Jenner was recently able to sell a majority stake in her cosmetics company to beauty conglomerate Coty, for a cool US$600 million. This, along with the overall valuation of Kylie Cosmetics, makes Jenner the youngest self-made billionaire at 22 (sorry, Mark Zuckerberg).
And it all began with the Lip Kit, a sold-out duo of liquid lipstick and lipliner that could give you the same bee-stung pout that Jenner flaunts on her personal IG account of 147 million followers.
Aspirational celebrity founder story aside, Kylie Cosmetics enjoys a load of star power and cross-account mentions from Jenner’s momager Kris and the whole Jenner and Kardashian brood. Moral of the story: if you can’t have a famous family, at least get the lipliner.
Glam Is For All: Huda Beauty
There are beauty influencers and then there is beauty influencer Huda Kattan.
The Iraqi-American felt disgruntled in her job and created a makeup tutorial blog in 2010. It has since become yet another billion-dollar beauty empire — after Kattan launched her first item, faux eyelashes, in 2013 and received a publicity boost from celebrity fan Kim Kardashian West.
While Lime Crime Makeup is subversive and Glossier is about clean aesthetics, Huda Beauty seems to target a Gen Z and millennial population who prefer their brows bold, their eyeliner flicks glamorous and their lashes beauty queen-worthy.
A bonus: the brand’s Instagram account is filled with makeup looks of women and men of various ethnicities, attracting a diverse young customer base from the world over.
Kattan hopes that Huda Beauty will become an Estee Lauder for the new generation. And nothing baits a millennial more than a desire to disrupt the old economy.
Lipsticks You’d Wear To The Disco: Chanel
How do you launch a new lipstick line in 2019? With other brands, it’s the usual media lunches, counter promotions and celebrity endorsements. Chanel? It built a disco from scratch.
Earlier this year, to launch its new Rouge Coco Flash, Chanel created a pop-up 1980s-style disco at the Esplanade — complete with dance floor, Chanel jukebox, double-C-logo records that actually worked and makeup rooms!
In 2017, its first pop-up, Coco Cafe, at Dhoby Ghaut Green was a runaway hit with fans getting in line to try the latest makeup, skincare and fragrances, and enjoy a specially curated menu of drinks and desserts. This was followed by the Chanel Coco Game Centre in 2018 with arcade-style game machines.
The brand has built on these successes and pulled off other highly Instagram-ed pop-up events in cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul.
Skincare For Young Adults, Fruit Tea, And A Bed-Like Backdrop: Clarins
Natural plant-based ingredients in your skincare may be a trend that blossomed recently but Clarins has been using these since its founding in 1954. And since the Gen Z and millennial population love anything natural, why not create a line specially for them?
Launched just this year, My Clarins uses vegan- friendly formulas free of phthalates, parabens and sulfates, and packaging that focuses on recycling and recycled materials. The target age group for this line is relatively young: think 18 to 24.
But what’s the point of having a youth-friendly skincare line if there aren’t any Instagram-centric events to go with it?
So Clarins Singapore set up a House of Clarins pop-up (exclusive to Singapore) at Mandarin Gallery where “a large number of customers aged 35 and younger” flocked to play an augmented reality game, take selfies against a bed-like backdrop, do lip makeovers, receive product samples and — which must be the ultimate millennial thing to do — sip on Heytea fruit teas.
“As the flagship market in Southeast Asia, Clarins Singapore strives to delight consumers with immersive and surprising experiences,” says Guillaume Nagy, executive vice president, Southeast Asia and Agents Asia Pacific for the Clarins Group.
Wasabi-Inspired Skincare And Coffee In A Truck: Shiseido
Shiseido Co. owns Nars, Laura Mercier and now “clean” skincare brand Drunk Elephant. All three are popular with the young, though not Japanese.
Last year, the flagship itself, founded in 1872 and one of the world’s oldest beauty brands, announced it would discontinue about 100 products and revamp its makeup line.
In 2017, it also launched Shiseido Waso for skincare users under 30. Waso products use ingredients (that wouldn’t look out of place in a hipster grain bowl) like carrot, honey and tofu, to target “younger” concerns like oily skin, and come in playful, colourful packaging with stickers for you to personalise your Waso products.
“To reach out to more customers”, the brand also recently despatched a pop-up truck around Singapore to malls like Robinsons The Heeren and Bugis Junction as a shout-out for its Autumn/ Winter makeup launch. Visitors could take a fun personality test, mail out postcards and guzzle on complimentary roasted artisanal coffee.