Part 2 ♦ Analyzing Marketing Opportunities 29
CRITICAL THINKING CASE
Mary Kay Inc. Taps into a Changing Demographic
Founded in 1963 by Mary Kay Ash and her son, Richard, Mary Kay Inc. is a company that has long believed in the
power of women. Dedicated to making life more beautiful for women, the company was founded on the Golden Rule of
“praising people to success” and on the principle of placing faith first, family second, and career third. Before her death
in 2001, Mary Kay Ash received numerous awards that exemplified her personal beliefs, which were embedded as the
heart and soul of the company.
Beauty and Personal Care Products and Direct Selling
While the economic situation is such that consumers are scaling back on spending for high-end nonessential items, many
beauty and personal care products are considered necessities. At the same time, beauty and personal care products do not
have country boundaries—such products are universal. According to one report, beauty and personal care products are a
cornerstone of the direct selling industry and, likewise, direct selling is good for the beauty and personal care products
industry. By 2009, direct sellers were capturing more than $10 billion in annual sales of beauty and personal care
Direct selling is a method of distributing products directly to the consumer via person-to-person selling or party plan
selling and away from permanent retail locations. According to the Direct Selling Association, there are an estimated
15.1 million people involved in direct selling in the United States, with more than 66 million people engaged worldwide.
Interestingly, more than 80 percent of direct sellers in the United States are women. The predominance of women in the
direct selling marketplace has proven especially important for direct sellers like Mary Kay Inc.
Mary Kay Inc.
Mary Kay Inc. develops and manufactures beauty and personal care products for both women and men. The company
spends millions of dollars and conducts more than 300,000 product tests to ensure that Mary Kay products meet the
highest standards of quality, safety, and performance. With products ranging from skin care to makeup to spa and body
to fragrances, the company sells its products through its direct sales force of more than two million independent beauty
consultants in countries such as Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, El Salvador,
Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, New Zealand,
Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine, the
United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay. The company’s worldwide wholesale sales topped $2.5 billion in
With women as its primary target market, Mary Kay has stayed abreast of changing buyer behavior. For example, the
company knows that the younger generation expects to touch and experiment with products, so the company offers
products, shades, packaging, and forms that both enable and encourage the potential user to try something new. Although
there are geographic differences among preferences (e.g., Asian women focus on skin care, while Latin American and
some European women are more interested in color cosmetics and fragrances), the company has found that, worldwide,
women are more similar than dissimilar in their preferences.
While the company has been successful product-wise with the younger demographic, Mary Kay Inc. has been
particularly astute at tapping into this changing demographic with respect to its independent sales consultants. The
average age of the Mary Kay consultant is now 36 years old, and the company’s fastest growing segment of consultants
is in the 24- to 35-year-old age group. Representing the future of the company, Mary Kay Inc. can provide these women
with the opportunity to meet any goal they are willing to work toward—whether it is additional income or financial
Yet, the company recognizes that other direct-selling companies want to harness the power and dynamic of this age
group. These young leaders are known for wanting increased flexibility, unlimited earning power, and the freedom to
experiment in their work lives. There is a vast market opportunity for Mary Kay Inc. in the millennial generation, and the
company wants to take advantage of that opportunity to usher in a new era of direct selling of Mary Kay products.
Sources: www.marykay.com; Lauri Dodd, “Youthful [R]evolution,” Direct Selling News, December 2010, 10–21;
Michael Rice, Ivy Carter, and Rebecca Larson, “Beauty Everlasting,” Direct Selling News, October 2010,
www.directsellingnews .com/index.php/site/entries_archive_display/beauty_everlasting (Accessed February 9, 2011);
Barbara Seale, “Younger every Day,” Direct Selling News, October 2010, 24–33.