Trends: Signs Of The Times…The New Lipstick Index

We welcome your comments on the article written by Cheryl Swanson, Principal at Toniq, USA
Time magazine recently reported on “The Lipstick Index” (Time, Special Money Issue, October 10, 2011). Lipstick sales have long been an economic indicator; when the economy is down, lipstick sales have traditionally gone up. Women would rather spend on little luxuries when purse strings are tighter and the economy is uncertain— and lipstick has been that one affordable luxury that makes a women feel pampered and more confident. Afterall, when you feel beautiful, you are more likely to be optimistic. According to Time magazine, lipstick sales are up 14% in 2011. But what’s more interesting is that nail polish is up 54%. Nail polish is evidently becoming the new US economic index. So if nail polish is the new lipstick, what other new indicators are we seeing in this recessionary economy?

Home Hair Coloring as the new Lipstick Index

USA Today reported that 44% of women say their mood is affected by the type of hair day they are having. Maybe that’s why we spend so much money on haircare products! Recent surveys also state that women color their hair about 4 times a year. But let’s not leave out the men. Men’s home hair-color sales reached $113.5 million last year, a 50 percent increase in just five years. The rise in DIY home hair coloring systems prove that people are skipping the salon and doing it themselves to save money. There is also a steady increase in new innovations and products in this category reinforcing that home hair care is another index of the economy. Several companies have taken note of this trend and are creating new and easier to use home hair color systems. For example, Samy has launched Fat Foam whch launched exclusively for the first six months at Walmart. It is exactly what it sounds like, a whipped, non-drip, permanent hair color foam. Sales were 3 times faster than expected in the initial weeks at Walmart. Home hair coloring is another lipstick index.

Teeth Whitening as the new Lipstick Index

Along with great lipstick and home haircoloring, white teeth are another sign of the times.  The $1.6 billion dental hygiene market is fueled by teeth whitening. This is not just whitening in the dental chair but also includes home teeth whitening products such as toothpastes, gels and kits. In the first quarter of 2011, sales of tooth bleaching and whitening products rose 12% to $55.9 million according to SymphonyIRI Group Inc. Innovations in this category are driving sales and allowing consumers to achieve professional results at home.  Teeth whitening products are another lipstick index.

And looking beyond beauty…

Smartphones as the new Lipstick Index

On Friday October 14th, 2011 Apple set new records, again. The iPhone 4S was released in 7 countries around the world (US, Canada, Australia, UK, France, Germany, and Japan).  By the end of the first weekend, Apple had sold over 4 million units, breaking all previous sales of iPhones. The phones ranged from $199 to $399 depending on the model. So are iPhones the new gender neutral lipstick index? Well, growing sales of multi-functional technology, like the iPhone, is a great indicator of the uncertain economy. Smartphones are pretty much a hybrid of a laptop, digital camera, music player, television, and game console in one. The multi-benefit technology outweighs the superficial, frivolous, luxury, as it was once percieved. A smartphone keeps you connected and entertained. Consumers would much rather spend on the newest iPhone than replace an old laptop, digital camera, television and game console. In the fourth quarter of 2010, smartphones outsold and outshipped PCs for the first time, according to Fortune Magazine (February 7, 2011). This is huge for a technology that is still in its adolescent years. The first iPhone was only released on January 29th, 2007, almost 5 years ago. Can you imagine life without it now?

Coupons as the new Lipstick Index

Have you used a coupon recently? The extreme couponing trend is also a great economic index. With rising food costs, gas prices, and overall consumption costs, the demand for coupons are becoming more of a necessity than a marketing strategy. Couponing has become so popular that the network, TLC, began airing the show “Extreme Couponing” in April 2011. The show follows extreme couponers and how they save money in this economy. According to the Annual Topline U.S. CPG Coupon Facts Report for Year-end 2010, released by NCH Marketing Services, Inc., shoppers saved $3.7 billion with coupons in 2010, a 5.7% increase from 2009.  They also reported that 78.3% of all US households regularly use coupons. As the economy continues to roller coaster, we foresee extreme couponing to gain even more momentum.  To some, it is more than just saving a few dollars, but a competition to see who can save the most at checkout with the biggest grocery cart— even if this means you have to store 30 rolls of paper towels in the garage. Coupon usage is another lipstick index.

“Sandwich Generation” households as the new Lipstick Index

Since the early 90’s, Carol Abaya, a journalist and expert on elder care, coined the term “sandwich generation”. She defines it as those who are “sandwiched” between taking care of their elderly parents while also raising their own children. How many people do you know live in multi-generational households? Meaning grandparents, parents and children under one roof or parents living with their grown children or families living with extended families, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.? According to Pew Research, the number of multi-generational families in the US reached 51.4 million in 2009 and is growing. Pew also reports that in 2010, one in four adults aged 18-24 and one in five aged 25-34 moved back in with their parents. The number one reason for this is financial. The rise in the cost of living has given increased value to families to share childcare and elder care responsibilities, increased value of grocery shopping and feeding 8 versus 3, hence the couponing trend, and the more income that comes into one household by more employed members the easier it is to stay financially afloat. The poverty rate for mulit-generational households in much lower than traditional households. We are not only witnessing this trend but many of us are living it. The “sandwich generation” is another lipstick index.

The Takeaway…

The “lipstick” is no longer the key index in this more complex economy, culture and society. We have to look beyond the sale of one item or beyond just the beauty industry, but at the lifestyles, shopping behaviors, and cultures that surround the people that live in this economy. These are the signs of the times and the index is much more than just lipstick.

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About the Author

Ms. Swanson founded Toniq in 1999 after leading several design firms to world-class status with her emotions-based, visual approach to brand strategy development. At Toniq, she continues to evolve her strategic expertise by seeking new ways to connect with consumers.

Swanson’s years of trend tracking, design management and research have coalesced in a theory of “Brand Effervescence ™” an innovative approach to brand building. This image-based approach is a synthesis of cultural anthropology, consumer trends research, marketing and design, and a study of the psychology of symbolism and color.