Design for the Ages

Examining packaging and marketing targeted at specific age groups.

Leah Genuario

Beauty is ageless. But beauty products aren’t. Formulations, package design and marketing efforts can vary greatly depending on a beauty brand’s targeted demographic. The differences are most apparent when examining the two opposite ends of the beauty-buying spectrum: consumers that are below age 20 and the 50-plus crowd.

Below 20

“[This demographic] is breaking into little tribes,” says Bill Goodwin, president and chief executive of Goodwin Youth, Philadelphia, PA. The under 20 segment is heavily influenced by age. According to Goodwin, the below 20 category is divided into several distinct “tribes”: infants (two and under), toddlers (three through five), kids (five through seven), tweens (eight through 12) and teens (13 through 19). While a younger tribe might choose a brand targeted at an older tribe in order to connect, it generally does not work the other way around.

In the first 19 years of life, children’s interests and motivations for purchasing vary — and change — considerably. But there are common elements. “The purchase choice is made by the look of the package — it’s basically how the whole category shops,” says Goodwin.

“Playful packaging, unique delivery systems, cheeky, bold graphics and the idea of collectables and limited edition make up appeals to this sector,” adds Rebecca Goswell, global creative director for HCT based in the U.K.

And while there are packaging similarities, there are also a lot of differences.

The Stoked line donates a percentage of profits to spokesperson Bethany Hamilton’s charity.
The personal care industry has recently homed in on the youngest groups, with many lines capitalizing on this demographics’ growth in numbers. Packaging that borrows credibility from licensed cartoons or utilizes playful characters works very well with young consumers.

But skip the cartoons and characters for the oh-so-sophisticated tweens and teens. Even at age eight, a study found, fashion is important. More than 40 percent of 8 and 9 year old girls say they like to keep up with the latest fashions, according to The U.S. Market for Tweens & Young Teens, a Packaged Facts (publishing division of study published in May 2005. Product packaging for this demographic needs to be playful, but it also needs to be trendy and cool.

BONNEBELL’s f’Lip Style pocket-friendly gloss secured Seventeen magazine’s award for Best Lip Balm in 2006. The brand generally targets girls aged 12-18 years old. “Each flavor/shade has a different design full of bright colors that appeal to teen girls and double as an accessory to their ever-changing wardrobe,” says Mary Ann Milo, spokesperson for The Bonne Bell Company. “Also, the one-handed flip mechanism makes the lip gloss easy and fun to use.”

BONNEBELL’s f’Lip Style collection is a pocket-friendly gloss that tween and teen girls love. It was recently voted Best Lip Balm by Seventeen magazine.

A Positive Impact on the World

A trendy looking product is not the only thing that attracts teens. “Teens accept that brands are a part of their world, but what they want is for brands to be a positive influence on their world,“ says Goodwin, citing environmentally friendly Burt’s Bees as a top teen brand.

Revelations Perfume & Cosmetics’ Stoked line has also recognized teens’ desire for a brand to have a positive influence. The Stoked line includes perfume, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, lip balms and lip glosses. Sold at Claire’s, Target and surf shops, its target audience is 10-25 year olds. The products are housed in clever surfboard shapes supplied by Italian molders Maticplast and PMP.

The spokesperson for the line is celebrity surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm from a shark attack. “We view Bethany as a real role model to kids. She has recovered from a tragic accident and is back surfing and winning — a real testament as to what kids can do to work through adversity and never quit,” says Larry Couey, president of Revelations Perfume & Cosmetics. “Most importantly, we have pledged a percentage of our profits for this brand toward Bethany’s charity, World Vision.”

Yet while teens react positively to do-gooder brands, they aren’t loyal. “The trouble with this youth market is it is volatile and there is very little brand loyalty,” says Goswell. “By the same token, this volatility and lack of loyalty is a good opportunity for brand growth if marketed and design-led cleverly.”

The Celebrity Connection

“Young consumers have increasingly large disposable income and they are absolutely driven by the cult of celebrity, pop stars, MTV, etc. Celebrity endorsement can affect the success of a brand greatly,” says Goswell, who pointed to the brand Rimmel and supermodel Kate Moss.

In the beauty industry, celebrity endorsed products are everywhere. But is the celebrity-endorsed brand a short-lived solution to effectively market to youth? “Tweens and young teens are growing increasingly skeptical of traditional marketing approaches such as celebrity endorsements. Thus, youth marketers must continue to search for innovative ways to capture the attention of multi-tasking, technology driven tweens and young teens,” states The U.S. Market for Tweens & Young Teens report.


Many brands have also found success through co-branding, such as The Bonne Bell Company and Dr. Pepper (offering a flavored lip gloss). Goodwin advises two other ways to make an impact on the youth market through packaging:

“The two most influential devices when working in packaging are structure and color. If you can own a structural shape or a color, the likelihood that you will be remembered, or that you’ll own a spot in the category, is at its highest. When you are communicating with youth, their skill at color association is highly evolved; way beyond what it was when we were young. They are immersed in media, they are much more visual than we ever were. They have a good ability to associate things rapidly,” says Goodwin.

L’Oréal Paris’ Age Perfect Pro-Calcium line is a line marketed to women around 60.

The baby boomer generation: they’re aging, they’re wealthy, and there are a lot of them. While today’s 50-plus group does not encompass only one generation; boomers — characterized as people currently age 42-60 — have many marketers suddenly very senior friendly.

Not that you should call them seniors. “Those baby boomers over 50, if you call them old, they will look at you like you have lost your mind. They think old age starts in your 70s,” says Matt Thornhill, founder and president of the Boomer Project in Richmond, VA.

Aging boomers don’t feel old, and they aren’t acting old either. “This age group, in my opinion, are the ones that are enjoying pursuits that were historically targeted at youth and young popular culture: tourism and backpacking have become more sellable to the 50-plus range that are empty nesters, affluent and have retired early,” says Goswell.

So how does a marketer appeal to an older generation that doesn’t feel or act old? How can marketing and packaging target consumers who are 50 plus without alienating them? It may be a difficult feat, but it is an important one to accomplish.

The 50-plus age group is a demographic that is brand loyal and less likely to swap brands, says Goswell. This presents a huge opportunity for beauty brands.

“If you can capture that audience at 50, you are going to still have them at 75 if you do the job. You have a very long cycle. You have a sale for a long, long time if you have a satisfied customer,” says packaging consultant JoAnn Hines, based in Kennesaw, GA.

Anti-Aging Lines

There is no secret about the rapid growth of anti-aging products. But perhaps less well known is the target audience of these lines. “Certainly boomers are buying [anti-aging] products as well, but the market is shifting to people in their 30s and 40s in an attempt to capture youth at a younger age,” says Goswell.

The package for Revlon’s Vital Radiance Moisture Boosting Lipcolor is distinctive for its clear cap and slim case produced by CROWN Risdon. 
Avon has recently released the Ageless Results line, a set of three creams — a day cream, an eye cream and an overnight cream. It’s target audience? “This is an anti-aging line that targets someone who is starting to see the signs of aging in her skin and is looking to not only improve her appearance but also protect it from further damage. Our target is most likely to be in her 30s, but she could be slightly younger or older as well,” says Shalini Fernandes, global marketing for Avon Products in New York City.

The Ageless Results packaging makes use of clean lines and easy-to-use closures. For the day product, an airless pump supplied by Wiko USA was utilized. “The color scheme — black and silver with a lilac accent — was chosen because it reflected the more serious nature of the products (its anti-aging emphasis),” says Fernandes.

Models are used in line’s marketing efforts. “Since we are targeting a consumer in her 30s, the models reflect that age group, but are also aspirational for an older consumer,” says Fernandes.

Products for 50-Plus

If anti-aging products are not targeted at 50 plus, then what are mature women buying? “This demographic isn’t really marketed too, especially by cosmetics,” states Hines.

There are a few marketers, however, that have thrown their hat into the ring. Revlon’s Vital Radiance line specifically targets women over 50. The mass market line, featuring more than 100 cosmetics, was introduced in 2005.

Hines praises the packaging. “Revlon is one of the few cosmetic companies that has stepped up to the plate with its line of product that are for the over 50 generation. It’s not just that it’s cosmetically formulated for women over 50, they have actually increased the size of the font on the package knowing they were going to market to an older audience,” says Hines. “They are specifically targeting, not only through their [age appropriate] models, but through their formulations and carrying it over into their packaging.” Despite its thoughtful planning, however, Revlon announced in August disappointing 2nd quarter sales of the products, as retailers reduced space for Vital Radiance.

L’Oréal is hoping its targeted products perform better. L’Oréal Paris’ Age Perfect Pro-Calcium line is marketed at “the skincare needs of women 60’ish”, states the company, enlisting the services of Diane Keaton as the spokesmodel. Aimed at restoring and maintaining skin density and substance through topical calcium treatments, the line was launched nationwide beginning in July. According to the company, the product is “luxuriously packaged for the woman who loves that art of the beauty regimen.”


How do you appeal to the 50-plus demographic through packaging? “If it speaks in any way that it is for old people, [aging boomers] won’t buy it. If it’s a giant picture of a person with gray hair, they may say it’s not for me. The key for packaging going forward is universal design,” says Thornhill.

If a model will be used on the package, Thornhill offers this advice: choose a model ten years younger than your target demographic, but put the model in a relevant situation, such as appearing with a college graduate, for example.

Hines suggests awareness of functional design elements. Larger font and bolder graphics are helpful as many 50-plus women have deteriorating eyesight. An easy-open container and easy grip shapes are also useful.

“The shape of the products, especially products in a wet environment, should be ergonomically shaped for better gripping purposes. Instead of a sleek bottle with a straight up and down, it should be a shape that’s easy to grip,” says Hines.

The importance of color should not be overlooked. Pearlescent and metallic colors give a perception of quality, says Goswell.

Hines also advises against the color pink, as the 50-plus demographic identifies pink as a little girl’s color.

Finally, recognizing that their reasons for purchasing product differs from women in their 30s will help in marketing efforts. “Their wrinkles are there. They know they might slightly minimize them, but what they are really looking for are products that are going to make them look good for their age,” says Hines.