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Beauty

Pondering the Makeup of Generation Y

May 14, 1999|BARBARA THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Grandma said, "You only have one face, you've got to take care of it."

When Grandma is Estee Lauder, founder of the giant cosmetic company that bears her name, the simple advice carries weight. You can bet that granddaughter Jane Lauder listened.

And now, says Jane, Generation Y is listening to this same valuable advice as well. The 25-year-old marketing manager for Clinique Laboratories says that today's youngest consumers--5- to 19-year-olds--"are embracing the same ideals and values."

Lauder, who is admittedly a card-carrying member of Generation X, has been studying the upcoming new generation since she assumed her job in June. Gen Y, after all, could be future buyers of the fragrance- and allergy-free Clinique line. The goal is to maintain the company's franchise with young women.

"It's the No. 1 department brand by a long shot in terms of what they like to use, second only to Cover Girl. It's much more popular than any other brand you can mention." says Irma Zandl of the Zandl Group, a New York consulting firm that specializes in the under-30 consumer.

Staying on top means understanding the customer.

So it's smart that the Lauder family has put Jane in charge of marketing this company. A younger person is undoubtedly more open to understanding a consumer who might spend $150 on a pair of athletic shoes, and then the same amount on five pairs of shoes from Payless. Or more specifically, says Zandl, $18.50 for Clinique Extra-Help foundation and then 99 cents on an outrageous nail color from Wet 'n' Wild.

Generation Y has a few surprises up its sleeve, says Lauder, youngest member of the cosmetics family to enter the business. (Her father Ronald is chairman of Clinique and Estee Lauder Cos., sister Aerin is director of creative product development at Estee Lauder and cousin William launched Origins.)

"Generation Y is much smarter. They just get information much more quickly. They really understand the idea of quality and value," Lauder says.

"They really want to take care of their skin so that they can wear less makeup--that's a huge change from our generation using makeup to look older and better," she says.

Clinique's average customer age is 30, Lauder says. Not surprisingly, it has an extraordinary number of mother-daughter clients.

Though the mothers and daughters agree on skin care and product value, there are a few differences between the two groups, Lauder says.

A recent Clinique study showed "that 50% of teens would consider tattoos, 51% would consider getting body piercing," Lauder says. Of the mothers surveyed, "15% would consider getting a tattoo, but 3% would consider getting a body piercing."

Don't expect a company as savvy as Clinique to jump on the trend bandwagon. Sure, the company may introduce lipstick shades of Tangerine and Hot Pink, but it is not expected to dump the tried-and-true products.

Any change must be carefully researched and thought out. To remain relevant to that younger generation, Lauder goes on "cool-hunting" expeditions, traveling to some of the world's "coolest" cities--Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Tokyo, Stockholm, London, Dublin, Manchester and Paris.

Many of the trends were the same in all the cities: utilitarian chic; action daredevil (X-treme sports as fashion); and individualism.

Other trends, however, were city-specific. In Tokyo, says Lauder, Japanese teens are mixing tradition with modernism, buying makeup sets with a lot of different colors and changing the colors to match their mood or outfit.

Teens in other cities were more inclined to stay with specific looks.

Her findings reflect separate research by the Zandl Group.

Says Zandl, "There is much more diversity in people, and they are much more willing to live in a fragmented world." This year, when a large group of young consumers were asked to list their one favorite brand of jeans, 112 brands made the list.

"That's a 20% increase from last year," Zandl says. Contrast this further back to the '80s, when everyone wanted a pair of Calvins.

"There's much more of a comfort level of using a brand that not everybody knows," Zandl says. Clinique, however, is an anomaly in this mix, with customers remaining loyal despite so many other choices.

Each generation rebels in a certain way, and at 18 a young woman may be inclined to buy 12 shades of lipstick. After all, women of previous generations, who could afford to, have done the same and then graduated to two shades as they mature--a good neutral and a flashier party color.

Generation Y, Zandl says, is used to being entertained, and what better way to entertain oneself than different lipsticks.

"Maybe the 16-year-old today, in 20 years, may end up having four colors," she says.

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