Beauty Brand Best Practices To Engage Millennial And Teen Consumers


With an estimated annual buying power of over $200 billion, the consumer power of the 87 million American Millennials aged 21 to 40 cannot be denied. This power, and its requisite hype, is significantly amplified when specifically considering Millennial women and the cosmetics industry.

In today’s new retail environment, as many heritage prestige cosmetics brands are making a concerted effort to reintroduce themselves to Millennial women and their teenage cohorts (aka Plurals, members of the Pluralist Generation), every marketer and brand executive will agree that business as usual will not suffice. But what exactly should luxury beauty brands do to build connections with Millennials and Plurals?

A simple Google search will yield countless articles and research studies touting what Millennials want from brands; however, much of the information lacks context, little is tailored to the prestige beauty industry, and most is contradictory—making an already daunting task even more arduous.

Using insights from nearly a decade of studying Millennial consumers and experience advising some of the world’s top prestige beauty brands, Hartwell Communications has created a list of the seven essential marketing, brand, and product best practices for the beauty industry to captivate the elusive Millennial consumer and her teen cohorts in 2017 and beyond.

Photo Courtesy of ABC News

Multidimensional Appeal

Today’s Millennial and Pluralist beauty consumer is empowered and fully aware of her consumer influence. She grew up in a post-Disney Channel/Nickelodeon and post-Title IX world where she has always been focused on as an important consumer AND as a girl. She isn’t one-dimensional and generally won’t settle for products and messages that reduce or limit to one aspect of her life.

Being known for a signature product or a signature look is simply not enough for beauty brands today. Your brand needs multiple go-to options for her busy and varied lifestyle (one day she might be heavily contoured and highlighted, the next sporting a no-makeup makeup look and the next completely bare-faced) and multiple solutions for her various skin and beauty concerns. Most importantly, your brand messaging must be differentiated so she actually knows about them.

This creates tremendous opportunity in both product and narrative development. For example, think of how Anastasia Beverly Hills has successfully transitioned beyond brows to all things sculpted and defined. Additionally, the wild popularity of Urban Decay’s Naked palettes can be attributed to the versatility of the looks they create, fitting for many lifestyles, skin tones, needs, and attitudes.

Photo courtesy of Disney Springs

APPLICATION: The Millennial beauty consumer is complex, with many important aspects of her life and her beauty routine reflecting that. Can you accommodate her complexities? Does she know you can? She’s multidimensional, and you should be too.

Change is your constant

Innovation is a key component of Millennials’ overall evaluation of brands. Consumer brands widely perceived as innovative (e.g., Apple, Google) are also generally known to be beloved brands, spurring loyalty and advocacy among Millennials. While most obviously applicable to technology brands, the importance of innovation in the eyes of Millennials holds true across categories, especially beauty. Her life isn’t stagnant, neither are her beauty needs. Where there is innovation, Millennial engagement will follow.

Fortunately, innovation, or change, can be represented in many forms besides the ever-critical product launches. Content strategy, promotions, social media takeovers and special events will also contribute to your brand’s reputation for innovation. Creating a persona of change and innovation is fundamentally the way to incentivize Millennials and Plurals to keep coming back to your beauty brand. For example, Sephora has shepherded a flurry of product purchases with dedicated monthly themes with corresponding displays and content—color-correcting was barely an emerging trend prior to Sephora’s focus on it last spring and now every beauty junkie and passive beauty enthusiast alike knows what it is.

Photo Courtesy of Teen Vogue

APPLICATION: The Millennial and teen consumer expect something new and exciting regularly. In her eyes, change equals innovation. Are you keeping pace with her expectations? Does she perceive you as innovative? Remember, change should be your greatest constant

Inclusive exclusivity

Luxury categories were founded on the notion of exclusivity. Only those “in the know,” or who had the means, could be part of the club. Exclusivity in this pure sense alienates Millennials, who collectively have a Cohort Perspective mindset. They tend to think in terms of the group, that everyone’s input is equal, and they are heavily influenced by their peers.

As such, beauty brands today must foster a sense of “inclusive exclusivity.” There should always be an element of “we’re letting you in on this great secret” (an age-old element of exclusivity) teamed with “here’s how everyone can be part of it” (the modern element that creates inclusivity).

Social media serves as the primary driving force behind creating inclusive exclusivity—particularly well-planned hashtags (your own and trending tags) and curated content. Event strategies with engaging social components and high-profile partnerships will also foster the inclusive exclusivity so desirable among Millennial beauty consumers. For instance, Lancôme extended the investment of its annual Stars and Wonder Dinner by streaming the event live on Facebook, featuring interviews with influencer attendees and feeding its social profiles with images and videos after the event. Fans could feel like they were a part of the event and share brand love without being in the French Riviera.

APPLICATION: The Millennial and teen beauty consumer wants to be “in the know,” but thinks everyone else can—and should be—too. Does your brand invite and include? Does she think it’s easy to share and belong? Let inclusive exclusivity govern your brand.

Interim Influencers

Relevance is by far the most important connective tissue between brands, and Millennials and Plurals. They view the world with a collective “me filter” mindset, where they expect customization and relevancy at all times. For beauty brands, this is especially pertinent when considering formal brand ambassadors.

Long gone are the days when finding a celebrity partner to pose for a few pictures was enough to cultivate and sustain brand relevance to a generation of women. If beauty brands want to build brand connections and eventually foster brand devotion through ambassadors, not just merely build brand recognition, they must consider which influencers are the most relevant to their target. For Millennials and Plurals, that isn’t necessarily a typical Hollywood celebrity.

Furthermore, brands will get the most attention when those strategic influencer partnerships are rotating “interim influencers,” keeping the Millennial and Pluralist beauty consumer guessing, fostering an aura of innovation and inviting a new group of potential consumers to start connecting. For example, after Becca experienced tremendous success with its collaboration with Jaclyn Hill, the brand released a new collaboration with a different type of celebrity—Chrissy Teigen. Both women are known for their glowing skin (which ties perfectly with Becca’s brand notoriety) but each collaborative palette is authentically her own. Jaclyn’s a hardcore highlighter and Chrissy’s more of an illuminator, thereby appealing to different demographics, preferences, and skin types

APPLICATION: The Millennial beauty consumer tends to be more influenced by the girl next door than the traditional celebrity ambassador. Are your efforts for endorsement well spent? Does she relate to your ambassadors? Cultivate relevancy through interim influencers

Novely and Utility

Marketers have long relied on the daring of young consumers to launch new products and services and eventually bring them mainstream. In recent years, as Millennials have become the coveted early adaptor demographic, this tried and true formula has too often become myopic, focused on novelty while erroneously assuming that it is all that matters to Millennials. This is simply not true.

Ultimately, Millennial consumers are on a constant quest for the best possible experience, and most often that is achieved when utility is coupled with novelty. They may try something once, but without this coupling, they aren’t going to use it again, or perhaps more significantly, recommend it to others. In the world of beauty, the novelty and utility power couple should be most evident in product design (product packaging, product names, etc.) and content strategy (social media best practices and content creation). Beauty brands that effectively bundle utility and novelty set themselves up to be go-to items, cult favorites, and highly recommended.

On the product side, Lancôme’s unique take on the liquid lipstick trend, Matte Shakers, combines a fun product design with a very comfortable and wearable formula. On the content side, Anastasia Beverly Hills offers beauty-grammers utility by consistently re-gramming posts featuring their products. Those re-grams are novel for their followers (not to mention they create a genuine aspiration for many of them) and are a staple of ABH’s content strategy.

APPLICATION: The Millennial and teen beauty consumer wants solutions, but also wants fun and originality wrapped up in one product. Are your products effective and fresh, or are they singularly focused? Will she be satisfied and delighted? Novelty and utility need to be your brand’s power couple.

Good for them = good for you

Millennial consumers are weaving an interconnected world—they don’t separate what they care about as an individual and what they want as a consumer. They want their decision to use a product or brand to make them feel good and to reflect well on who they are and the values they hold. While this isn’t the most important factor when making purchase decisions (quality and price are always the most important, even for Millennials), it is an important differentiator when price and quality are similar, and a key driver for loyalty.

For the beauty industry, this consumer expectation used to be satisfied by not testing on animals, but that alone isn’t enough today. Millennial consumers want to feel good when using products (meaning it should deliver results and be a pleasant experience) but they also want to feel good about using them.

Beauty brands can achieve that important balance by highlighting natural product ingredients (things she can pronounce and has heard of), creating programs that give back and incorporate messaging reflective of important contemporary issues. Look at the continued growth of natural skincare lines like Drunk Elephant and ingredient-centric color lines like Bite Beauty. The long-standing MAC VIVA GLAM line and its edgy campaigns have not only raised awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS, but humanized the brand in an important way. In many ways, prestige beauty brands can take a cue from Dove and the Campaign for Real Beauty (recent bottle shape disaster aside). Standing for something beyond your bottom line that mirrors things your consumers care about has a tremendous impact.

APPLICATION: The young beauty consumer seeks products she can feel good when using (results) and about using (her conscience). Do your products boast that kind of dual appeal? Does she know that? Does she feel that? When it’s good for her, it’s good for you too.

"E.V.E.N." your content and messaging

Millennial and Pluralist consumers tend to evaluate brands the way they do people; they aren’t going to waste their time or attention on something that doesn’t connect with them. Today, content marketing is the keystone for beauty brands to demonstrate the relevance Millennials and Plurals expect, and thereby seize their attention. Effective content generally follows four important guidelines, all of which are especially pertinent for beauty brands:

  • ENLIGHTENING – content should be informative and offer a tidbit consumers might not have known before encountering
  • VISUAL – whether video or still images, content should be visually stimulating; also never underestimate the power of short video
  • ENTERTAINING – excellent storytelling is central to compelling content, but a little clever humor always goes a long way
  • NON-EXCLUSIVE – content should always be inclusive—inviting feedback, having conversations, and featuring a variety of input

The most successful beauty social media stars follow these guidelines to a tee.

APPLICATION: Millennial and teen beauty consumers expect content that is enlightening, visual, entertaining, and non-exclusive. How does your content stack up on those four ideals? Are they confident in what they’’ll get when they engages? “E.V.E.N.” your content and messaging.


All brands are acclimating to our omni-channel world, but the need for truly strategic marketing, branding, and product efforts is greater now than ever primarily because powerful young beauty consumers are simply demanding more: more complexity, but more simplicity; more Millennial, but more ageless; and always more fun.

  • MULTIDIMENSIONAL APPEAL – Reflect the multi-dimensional lives of your consumers. Great success can’t be built on a signature look or product anymore.
  • CHANGE IS YOUR CONSTANT – Young consumers demand innovation, especially in an industry heavily entrenched in experimentation.
  • INCLUSIVE EXCLUSIVITY – Pure exclusivity is a turnoff; but enabling everyone to be “in the know” leads to major payoff.
  • INTERIM INFLUENCERS – Less typical celebrities, more genuine influencers who will steadily build new connections for your brand.
  • NOVELTY AND UTILITY – It’s not enough to be novel or to be useful. Your brand/products must exude a unique personality AND practicality.
  • GOOD FOR THEM = GOOD FOR YOU – If your consumers can feel good about using it and when using it, they’ll feel good about you.
  • “E.V.E.N.” YOUR CONTENT AND MESSAGING – Follow four rules for your content and messaging: enlightening, visual, entertaining, and non-exclusive.

This article first appeared on Beauty Matter


Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.

In a recent study conducted by, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.

Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of, believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.