To what extent is the consumer behaviour of Millennials different to that of previous generations (e.g. Generation X and Baby Boomers) in the area of luxury cosmetics? By Sophie Toseland - 13434377


Within consumer behaviour, it is often too broad to group together the total population (Weinstein, A and Cahill, 2014) and is beneficial to break it down into smaller market segmentations (Wedel and Kamakura, 2012). Market segmentation can be defined as ‘an identifiable group that shares birth years, age, location and significant life events at critical developmental stages’ (Kupperschmidt 2000, p. 66). A large amount of attention has been placed on the segmentations differencing between generations (Parry and Urwin, 2011). These segmentations can then be applied to different areas of the market.

The Different Generational Segmentations

Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1964)

Baby Boomers had the belief that they could change the world and the traditional values of society, as a result of living through events such as the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Sexual Revolution. This generation believed that institutions were unable to correctly process social responsibilities and that it was their responsibility to rectify these wrong doings (Busari, 2013).

Generation X (born between 1965 and 1964)

Those whom were born within this period grew up in a time of social and financial difficulty. In addition, because of their parents, the Baby Boomers, seeking social self-fulfilment and monetary gain, this generation are often described as ‘latchkey children’ (as they were frequently left without any form of adult supervision). This generation is often referred to as the most self-sufficient and sceptical generation, however they typically have the quality of being extremely loyal. (Busari, 2013).

Millennials – (born between 1985 and 2005)

Millennials, when compared to other generations, are believed to be the most protected. Whereas Generation X spent most of their time without parenteral supervision, this is not the case for the Millennials (Busari, 2013). Those within this generation are ‘digital native’, referring them growing up with electronic technology and digital media. This is unlike their parents and grandparents who are considered as ‘digital immigrants’, as they did not grow up in a digital age, yet live in one now (Prensky, 2001). A Millennial's perception of life is extremely influenced by social media, with life and world events being viewed through these platforms (Busari, 2013).

Generational differences can form different consumer behaviours (Shin, 2008; Stephey, 2008) These can be applied to luxury cosmetics.

'Luxury is a necessity that begins where necessity ends' - Coco Chanel

Luxury Cosmetics

In recent decades, the concept of ‘luxury’ has changed, as before luxury products could only be purchased by the affluent and wealthy. Although luxury products are considered as more expensive, the mass market has access to these brands (Atwal and Williams, 2009). Luxury cosmetic brands include Chanel, YSL, Bobbi Brown, Estee Lauder and Mac. Brands such as these are more expensive and exclusive than other alternatives. These brands perceived to have a higher status and to be better quality (Kapferer, 2006).

Millennials and Luxury Cosmetics

In the previous years, millennial women have purchased a large volume of luxury cosmetics. This is a new type of beauty consumer and is rapidly growing. By some this is viewed as the most profitable generation (Libby, 2016).

Millennials have been suggested to be less loyal than previous generations, this includes the area brand loyalty (Lodes and Buff, 2009). Previous generations, such as the Baby Boomers and Generation X, are likely to buy traditional brands that they have loyalties towards, whereas Millennials are more likely to buy limited edition products, as demonstrated by figure one.

Figure one: A compassion between the purchasing of limited edition products between Millennials and other generations

Marketline (2015)

It is often thought that traditional luxury cosmetic brands have been rejected by Millennials, as brand status means less to Millennials than previous generations. Millennials appear to be attracted wanting fresh, new brands that are more interesting, fashionable and more exclusive (MarketLine, 2015). Despite behavioural differences, some brands are popular across all generations, for example MAC and Bobbi Brown (Kastanakis and Balabanis, 2012).

Theory of planned behaviour (TOPB)

Differences within consumer behaviour between generations can be understood further by applying it to the TOPB.

Ajzen (1991)

The Theory of Planned behaviour (TOBP) focuses on how an individual’s behaviour is the result of the three variables; attitude, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control (Ajzen, 2011).


Within the TPOB model, Ajzen (1991) refers attitude of an individual. Attitude refers to the beliefs that the person holds about the behaviour (Armitage and Conner, 2001). Millennials hold luxury cosmetics in high regard and view them as a positive (Marketline, 2015), with studies finding that Millennials often save up their money for luxury products to impress others of their wealth (Eastman and Liu, 2012).

The attitude of luxury being held in high regard and is a status of wealth is a common view shared across generations (Han, Nunes and Drèze, 2010). However, Millennials are different to previous generations as they have the more of a positive attitude towards limited edition products and items that are promoted by celebrities (Marketline, 2015). Other generations such as the Baby Boomers have more brand Loyalty to be swayed by promotional campaigns (Reisenwitz and Iyer, 2007).

Subjective Norm

The TPB model states that a subjective norm is the normative beliefs of the groups that the individual is immersed in, for example this may be a peer group (Ajzen, 2011). As a result of Millennials being more active on social media than Baby Boomers and Generation X, Millennials have higher number of individuals partaking in the ‘online beauty community’. Within this community, individuals purchase more high-end beauty products than other groups (Kim et al, 2008) Millennials then see this as the subjective norm and thus purchase a greater amount of beauty products.

All generational segmentations may be equally influenced by their communities; however, the Millennial group have a global community (Libby, 2016) as they are more prominent on YouTube. Other segmentations have more local communities. There are many Millennial women discussing beauty products on social media platforms (Schewe et al, 2013). Click on the link below to see an example of this.

Perceived behavioural control (PBC)

PBC is the only factor that directly impacts on behaviour, as it refers to the individual’s ability to perform the behaviour in question. The individual has a set of accessible controlled beliefs and these either help or prevent the behaviour to take place. PBC may imitate actual behavioural control. An example of PBC is, if an individual wanted to purchase a luxury cosmetic product but cannot afford it, the PBC prevents the behaviour to take place (Ajzen, 2011).

Millennials are becoming the richest generation, with the most disposable income (Lodes, 2009) and can afford luxury cosmetics. Other generations may choose more affordable versions as their finances are required in other areas (Gurău, 2012). This may suggest that there are not differences in attitude and social norms but in disposable income.

Intention and Behaviour

When applying different segmentation characteristics to this model it would suggest that Millennials would be more likely to purchase luxury cosmetics.

Critique of TOPB

Psychologists and theorists are keen to see if there is a regression between the suggested variables and the behaviour taking place. It has been found through experimental research that this model is relatively successful in seeing if a behaviour will take place (Montano and Kasprzyk, 2015). However, despite the relative success of the model, human behaviour is complex and it is extremely unlikely that these three variables are the only factors influencing the individual’s intention to consumer a luxury beauty product. In addition, the model completely ignores any emotional responses that a consumer might have towards a product (Conner and Armitage, 1998).

Furthermore, older generations are more likely to form habits and routines, whereas younger Millennials are more likely to purchase products that are endorsed by celebrities (Marketline, 2016). This model does not explain why this is, in terms of the mediating processes that the cognitive approach refers to (Talmi, 2013), thus making this model a reductionist approach that only refers to the stimuli and the response (Egmond and Bruel, 2007).

Application of Generational Segmentation

Brands are keen to ensure that Millennials purchase their luxury products and have studied their consumer patterns. Millennials are the same as other generations when valuing status and quality, however they want fresh, new products that are celebrity endorsed. Estee Lauder, who are typically known to be a brand for the older female generations have, have launched their sister brand named Estee Edit to appeal to Millennials. Their products aim to be fashionable and fresh. They also have the celebrity endorser Kendall Jenner as the face to their brand. Estee Edit has been extremely popular with Millennial woman (Mayles, 2016).


There are similarities within consumer behaviour across all the generations, for example the perception of quality and status. However, Millennials are more interested in products that are limited addition and celebrity endorsed. In addition, Millennials are more influenced by social media, thus making them more likely to consume a larger number of luxury beauty products.


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