Salons and Millennials: The Missing Ingredient – PART 1

Fifteen to twenty-five years ago, the buzz word in our industry was “Baby Boomers.” Marketing efforts emphasized how we needed to market our services to this segment of the population. I remember taking countless workshops on how to develop specific treatments and service menus to ensure that the Baby Boomer generation’s health and beauty needs were being properly addressed in our industry. Millennials who were born in the 1980’s have also been taught that our industry’s lead consumers are Baby Boomers. While Baby Boomers are still a huge part of the target market we serve in our salons, the new buzz word that has been…well, buzzing for a while, is “millennials”. But we have been so conditioned to target Baby Boomers, that millennials are still an untapped segment of the population by salons and spas, and marketing efforts to attract this generation have not been completely successful because we just don’t know how to address their needs.

Salons and spas need to understand the psycho-social attributes of millennials if they want to be successful at targeting this generation. Millennials, or Gen Yers, are simply different. Born approximately between 1980 and 2000, they can be characterized by very specific traits, which must be carefully considered when offering services, products and the space where they will experience these services and products.

Dubbed as Generation “Me”, millennials are highly confident and tolerant, while also demonstrating a strong sense of entitlement and narcissism. They feel special because their parents have instilled in them that they are vital to our world – that they were born for and with a purpose. They have been celebrated and praised; therefore, millennials expect to receive frequent positive feedback. They are assertive. They believe they are “right”. They crave attention.

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Salon: Use words in your marketing campaigns that allude to being special and how they can conquer the world with great skin. Your customer service must be impeccable. 

However, millennials are also a highly protected generation, having been coined the “Peter Pan” Generation. They have grown up in a world where there have been increased safety measures (school lock downs, warning labels, safety laws). They don’t like to deal with unpleasantness because their parents have advocated on their behalf throughout their lives. This, along with financial uncertainty, has caused a tendency in millennials to delay certain rites of passage into adulthood like living with their parents for a longer period of time and delaying age of marriage and having children. Emerging adulthood has been established now at 25 years of age.

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Salon: Emphasize on their need for safety by promoting your salon’s sanitary and safety procedures. Produce videos on your sanitation/sterilization processes or how main supplies are actually disposable rather than re-usable.  

Honesty gives us all a sense of protection. Millennials, in particular, highly value transparency – that is, open, genuine, truthful, authentic and honest relationships with everyone, be it their employers, their service providers, their family members, their peers and the products they buy.

Millennials have accumulated more debt (student loans) than any other generation prior, and experienced firsthand a global financial crisis and the highest unemployment rates in US history – second only to the Great Depression. And, considering that data from a 2014 study of US Millennials, which revealed that over 56% of that group considers themselves as part of the working class, and that only nearly 35% consider themselves in the middle class, transparency seems to be the most powerful motivating factor for millennials as consumers of goods and services – not money. Millennials are loyal to brands that they feel convey authenticity, trustworthiness and reliability and are willing to pay a premium for that trust, even if they can’t afford it.

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Salon: Along with providing more affordable services, provide a service menu with very clear pricing parameters and add-on’s. Once in the room, don’t offer an add-on without providing the additional cost to the final bill ahead of time. No one likes it and millennials much less. Learn your ingredients well and make sure that when you say whether or not a product contains XYZ ingredient, that this is actually accurate for the entire line(s). Millennials will research everything you tell them and will question you. Besides, transparency transcends space and time.

Millennials feel the pressure to succeed at all costs. As children, they had tight schedules with structured activities (school, sports, arts, socials with friends). This generation has had more hours of homework and less free time than all previous generations. What Baby Boomers and Generation Xers once enjoyed – spontaneous play in the rain, makeshift hero capes with towels and houses on a tree with bed sheets – millennials have not experienced.  They are multitaskers and have a hard time handling free time. They can juggle many responsibilities at once, but they are also easily distracted with social media, not to mention texting. They take on a lot, and then expect others to be flexible with them when there is a scheduling conflict.

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Salon: Flexibility is difficult to provide when we are in the business of scheduled services. However, providing other conveniences and trusted services and products to millennials will prove effective in having them develop brand loyalty toward your business.  Additionally, as professionals, we were trained to serve the Baby Boomer generation who didn’t even imagine what the internet could do. We need to serve millennials differently. Salon services need to be cut shorter and/or allow time for millennials to check their cellphones. Relaxation has another meaning to them. And if this idea makes you cringe, perhaps your marketing campaigns could address the effects of radiation and gravity on the skin.Read these article from Skin Inc: Tech neck, cellphones, and selfies.
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Anal Bleaching and…Love?

Anal bleaching and love: these are two terms that, together, most people would think are a joke. Well, it isn’t. If you are following my blog, you’d know by now that this is my niche service and I have been offering it for years. So, I have a clue or two as to the type of client that will call me requesting this service, and I can even tell you *when* they will call me to schedule an appointment.

The first thing that my non-industry (skincare/wellness) friends or acquaintances ask me when I tell them what I do is “why would anyone do that?”  I give them general answers, but the truth is that most people do it because of love.

We, as humans, have the innate NEED to love and be loved. Love looks differently to different people. The point is that we all seek out love. But what does anal bleaching have to do with love? Well, for most of us, love is expressed through our sexuality. Just like love looks differently to different people, so does sexuality. And when people have sex, there are certain body parts that are exposed in ways that can make a lot of people feel too exposed, vulnerable and self-conscious.

Most clients that come to me for Intimate Skin Bleaching (I prefer to use the term “Intimate Skin Bleaching” because it also includes the vaginal area and other areas the client might consider intimate or private) are women who have recently gotten divorced and are now back in the dating scene. Others have been single and celibate for years, and they’ve decided it’s time to become sexually active again. I’ve had clients who have met their new “lovers” in another country, and after a time having a long distance relationship, they’ve decided to get together and make the encounter “special” by making sure that their intimate parts look they way they think their partners will like. As you can see, these are all cases of people yearning to be accepted and loved.

Another characteristic of Intimate Skin Bleaching clients is the day when they call to schedule an appointment.  In my experience, most calls come in on a holiday; and it’s become sort of an inside joke between my boyfriend and I. Whenever my telephone rings on a holiday (and I don’t recognize the number), my boyfriend says “someone needs anal bleaching.”  And low and behold, he is correct. And let me clarify, although we make light of the situation, we have seriously discussed the possible reasons as to why this may be happening. And we have come up with the theory that perhaps people feel lonely on holidays, and that gives them time to ruminate and focus on what’s “wrong” with them, causing them to go beyond the physical and look further into their most intimate areas. This, dear reader, is not funny at all.

Low self-esteem is definitely the culprit of why people seek out Intimate Skin Bleaching services.  And while women (and some men) deal with self-esteem issues as they relate to their intimate body parts, there are, on the other side, a group of people who vilify those who offer such service or products.  I’ve been “attacked” by some of these people who tell me that I encourage low self-esteem.

I disagree. Firstly, I have come to understand the reasons why people seek me out – they want to be accepted and loved. I’ve learned this from my hundreds of conversations with clients about their lives and what they’re willing to share with me over the phone (voluntarily and without being prompted) as to why they “need” Intimate Skin Bleaching – the “acceptance and love” that we’ve been talking about.  Secondly, I have found out, through trial and error and research, those ingredients that are effective yet safe for the client’s health. Thirdly, because of my training as a Health Educator, I am able to provide proper counseling as to the risks of such treatment, including conversations about self-esteem. And lastly, I am empathetic and project, through my actions, that I do care about their physical as well as their emotional well-being, while also projecting a non-judgmental attitude. These last behaviors are what the client is also looking for as part of that “acceptance/love”: empathy, caring and non-judgment.

There are indeed unethical providers and product manufacturers out there. And yes, there are indeed commercials that perpetuate low self-esteem by exploiting the feelings of the characters through rejection simply because their skin is not “light enough”.  However, in a world full of people who are emotionally affected through these media images and messages, there are other qualified and properly-trained professionals who are able to provide Intimate Skin Bleaching services in a compassionate manner and discuss with clients the importance of self love.