A cross-generational study of the positioning of skin care products based on female perceptions.
The Baby Boomer market is a lucrative market, largely ignored by marketers. This fact has attracted much media attention, both in South Africa and abroad. Research conducted by the UCT Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing and Synovate shows that the mature market often feels marginalised and ignored by the retail, corporate and media worlds (Scher, 2008:Para 7). Furthermore, they feel estranged from marketing communications, disregarded by product developers and dissatisfied with customer service (Mitchell, 2008:Para 10). Hence there is an opportunity for marketers to communicate with this market, by positioning products better in the minds of Baby Boomers. Positioning as described by Mullins, Walker and Boyd (2008:191) is “both the place a product or brand occupies in customers minds’ relative to their needs and competing products or brands, and to the marketer’s decision-making intended to create such a position”. Thus, positioning has many facets. It relies on consumer perception, segmentation and targeting and selecting attributes which are both important to the target market and distinctive in comparison to competitors. Hence it is important to choose a position which creates a competitive advantage and use this position to guide the development of the marketing strategy, more specifically the marketing mix. Ultimately the marketing mix communicates with the target market and thus potentially influences perception as well as the way consumers position the product. Generational theory explains how different generations develop different value systems, and the impact that this has on how younger and older people interact with the world around them and with each other (Codrington, 2008:1). Schewe and Meredith (2004:51) explain that, generations experience similar external events during their late adolescent and/or early adulthood years which influence their values, preferences, attitudes and buying behaviour in ways that remain with them over their entire life. Hence, since each generation experiences different events, generations differ and need to be targeted separately and differently from the other generations. As Underwood (2007: 43) stresses since career, consumer, and lifestyle decisions are significantly influenced by generational values and attitudes, all businesses need to be trained in generational marketplace strategy and generational workplace strategy. One industry which seems to have recognised the attractiveness of the lucrative Baby Boomer market and recognised the necessity for targeting this generation using an approach which has been customised, is the skin care industry as many facial care products are specifically developed and targeted at the ages which make up the Baby Boomer Generation. Thus, this research investigates the positions occupied by skin care brands based on the perceptions of three generations of females, namely the Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y. The research focuses on determining if there are differences amongst the generations and whether Baby Boomers feel marginalised by the facial care industry. Consequently the literature review focuses on positioning, generational theory and how it affects marketing strategy as well as the current state of the facial care industry. A triangulation methodology was implemented to conduct the research. The triangulation methodology combines qualitative and quantitative data (Banister et al., 1994, cited in Holzhausen, 2001: Para 28) and for the purpose of this research the methods were used sequentially, collecting qualitative data before the quantitative data. One of the biggest advantages of using qualitative and quantitative research is that the styles have complimentary strengths, and as a result research that uses both methods tends to be more comprehensive (Neuman, 2006:150). First three focus group sessions were conducted to gather qualitative data, each focus group representing one of the three generations central to this study. The participants were selected using a snowball sampling method which is a non-probability sampling technique where an initial group of respondents identify others who belong to the target group and subsequent respondents are selected based on referrals (Malhorta, Hall, Shaw and Oppenheimer, 2008:274). This initial group was selected purposively to ensure all race groups were included and to attempt to ensure representivity. A mall-intercept method was used to collect quantitative data, where respondents were selected using convenience sampling. The findings were presented and briefly discussed. This was followed by an in-depth discussion of each of the research objectives, which enabled conclusions to be drawn. It was found that in terms of the attributes which are most important when choosing facial care, Boomers most important attributes differed from the other two generations. Boomers look for facial care products which last all day, have effective moisturising capabilities and make skin soft and smooth. The perceptual maps showed that based on the perception of Baby Boomers, Clinique held the most favourable position. In addition this research identified that Boomers are more sceptical of advertising than the other two generations and generally rated the various media vehicles as less effective than both Xers and Yers did. Finally a number of recommendations were made, these included recommendations as to how the generations differed and how marketers could ensure they target the specific generations and capture their attention. It also included brand specific recommendations, focussing on ways each brand could improve their positioning. Since the study found that females from the three generations central to this study do differ and place importance on different attributes the main recommendation is that each brand needs to ensure their marketing efforts are focused on the generation they wish to target and that they base their positioning on an attribute which is important to the target customers and which will allow customers to differentiate the brand from competitor brands.