Beauty Game Changers

June 8, 2009

With consumers overwhelmed by recession worries and bored by me-too products, marketers and retailers explain how to bring excitement back to the shopping experience in a special session sponsored by the Fragrance Group International.

Beauty Game Changers

With consumers overwhelmed by recession worries and bored by me-too products, marketers and retailers explain how to bring excitement back to the shopping experience in a special session sponsored by the Fragrance Group International.

Nancy Jeffries

Finding new strategies to enliven the beauty world is a challenge faced by industry players today. On April 30, 2009, beauty experts from the worlds of retail, finance, branding and communications shared their views on the evolving state of the beauty industry at the Fashion Group International’s Beauty Game Changers luncheon and panel presentation at The New York Hilton.

The Game Changers
(l-r): Nicky Kinnaird, Space NK; Pauline Brown, The Carlyle Group; John Demsey, The Estée Lauder Companies; Gina Drosos, P&G; Karen Young, The Young Group; Caroline Pieper-Vogt, Clarins and Jeanine Milillo, Peclers Paris addressed the need for new strategies to revitalize the beauty industry.
The panel, including Gina C. Drosos, president global personal beauty, P&G; Nicky Kinnaird, founder and president, Space NK; John Demsey, group president, Estée Lauder Companies; Pauline Brown, managing director, The Carlyle Group, and moderator Karen Young, chief executive officer, The Young Group, addressed the dynamics of today’s beauty market and the ways in which the latest industry challenges are being met. Aptly titled, Beauty Game Changers, the event addressed the need for innovation and a serious reality check as the need for changing the game is more important than ever.

Caroline Pieper-Vogt, senior vice president, group business development, Clarins Group, and chairperson of the event, emphasized the importance of playing to win in today’s climate, while moderator, Karen Young set the stage with a welcome to attendees.

A trend presentation was offered by Jeanine Milillo, North American managing director, Peclers Paris. She stressed the importance of balancing the rational and emotional sides of the socio-cultural construct that colors consumer behavior. Ms. Melillo noted thatPeclers, which produces trend reports, forecasting and brand analysis, had studied both the rational aspects of consumer behavior, including the tendency toward usefulness, timelessness and practicality, as well as the emotional side, where an object has value if it is chosen with your heart, and ultimately focused on ways in which the ultra-practical and technological sides have combined with aesthetics to offer solutions for today’s women.

“There is a return to simple and essential elegance with excellence rather than quantity,” said Ms. Melillo, adding that “sustainable new ethics, innovative reissue, and trends based on a concept of responsibility,” have pervaded the marketplace. “Ultimately, meeting the challenges of finding the right balance of the rational and emotional is key,” she added.

Panelists Focus on Business

Addressing the ways in which retailers can reach this new consumer, Ms. Kinnaird told the audience that during the last recession Space NK “learned that details like accessories could change a look without breaking the bank. Now it’s about offering little treats that make a difference. If we don’t bring innovation to the stores, mediocrity will bring mediocrity.”

Clearly, Ms. Kinnaird recognized the need to excite and entice in today’s environment.

“Service is also absolutely paramount. We’re battling for a reduced amount of dollars, and bringing theater into the stores to create an emotional bond is essential,” she added.

John Demsey, Nicky Kinnaird, Gina Drosos and Pauline Brown, share converging perspectives on the new beauty paradigm at FGI’s Beauty Game Changer luncheon.
Ms. Drosos noted that with consumer confidence at an all-time low, it is important to play to your strengths.

“We must act boldly and find new ways to bring key strategies to life. In addition, we must take a long range view and keep exciting the consumer with innovation and making sure we are communicating the value of our products,” she stated.

Ms. Drosos noted that P&G is constantly driving costs out of its business and thinking about productivity as it relates to sustainability.

“In cosmetics, we’ve completely redesigned our business and reduced our carbon footprint by 40%,” she noted.

Mr. Demsey said strong brands ultimately end up stronger. “It’s all about the brand and it’s important to know your core business,” he said, citing Lauder’s Perfectionist and Turbo Lash, as well as the success of MAC’s Hello Kitty collection.

“At MAC we’ve learned that when the going gets tough, the tough go cute, or sexy. We need to give a sense of fun or true transformative values to make a difference for the customer. Things are selling differently and reframing their value is important. Quality endures. We also value service and we’re trying hard to find new ways to get people in the stores. If the customer is not where she buys the product, we can’t talk to her. In cosmetics, we’re in the story telling business and it’s about the product and the way we romance that product to make the emotional connection,” noted Mr. Demsey.

Ms. Kinnaird said it was all about the edit.

“Our customer has come to expect collections that are unique. I’m a believer in talking to people and finding that little nugget that works for people. I don’t think any one store offers top-to-toe solutions. My retail consultancy has taken me all over the world and I’ve utilized my inquisitive nature to learn what resonates for people. Beginning at an early age my eyes were open to different lifestyles, customs and culture, which resonated in different parts of the world. I believe that a lot of product selection actually comes from the gut,” said Ms. Kinnaird.

Ms. Drosos said thought leaders are critical in developing unique products, and that collaborations with dermatologists and credentialing products played a role in consumer response.

“Our collaboration with Queen Latifah for Cover Girl has been very successful, and Drew Barrymore, also part of the franchise, has directed her own advertising, which brought a fresh look to the brand.”

Creating Interest

Partnerships, new, fresh looks, and utilizing new media have also come to the fore in creating interest for consumers.

Mr. Demsey noted that social networking media has enabled outreach with new content that has personalized products.

“MAC was the first to tweet at Fashion Week in New York, and the whole concept of content and authority, that is, the community versus traditional editorial is definitely changing the game. We have created content through MAC where we’ve done makeup videos and now it’s the number one brand on You Tube,” said Mr. Demsey. “We have many apostles of the brand who have put themselves out there in a very compelling way. Blogging also has tremendous power and authenticity in today’s environment and we are learning and impressed by what’s going on in this area. It is evolving by the day and we need to stay on top of it,” he added.

Ms. Brown of the Carlyle Group noted that there are numerous criteria for investing in a beauty company, and whether private equity or corporate approach, “a good business is a good business. With beauty, I look for a great brand that stands for something, is on the ascent, and has great appeal. I look for a business that has a long runway ahead and a great management team. When you acquire a company, it’s like your child, whether you like it or not,” she said.

Clearly, successful companies are recognizable to Ms. Brown, who stated, “When I go into a deal I have to ask myself, is this a company I will be proud to own?” she said.

She noted that the Apple Company, with stores that offer an exciting retail concept, combines efficiency with experiential feel to make it a great retailer.

Finally, bringing magic into the retail experience, according to Ms. Kinnaird is very important in touching today’s consumer, while customizing, said Ms. Drosos, lends a special appeal.

Mr. Demsey concluded, “We’ve found that being polarizing, luxe and niche can be very impactful,” citing Tom Ford’s stand alone beauty brand; and “In the urban space, with Sean John, if you can psychographically target the market, you can develop the product specifics you need for the brand.”

Excitement, delight, and a point of difference emerged as dominant themes. Event sponsors, Estée Lauder and P&G Prestige Products, supported the presentation.