The Grayson Report

Slogging Through Blogs

By Bob and Suzanne Grayson, The Grayson Report | January 5, 2010

After listening to Nadine Jolie, one of the original beauty bloggers, at a recent Beauty Industry West luncheon, we started to reevaluate our initial value impressions of blogging.If you Google beauty blogs, and go though a few listings you’ll see what we mean.One of the listings relays the Top 50 Beauty Blogs. We can save you some time, here’s the list, as given:

Some of the names show a lot of creativity, along with good targeting, but many are just cutsie. A favorite is Blogdorf Goodman, and it’s a nice site. Remember, these are the Top 50.No way of knowing if another 50 or 50,000 are lurking in cyberspace. What is truly remarkable is that we were unable to find a single blogger who was trained at Estée Lauder, Revlon, Arden, Avon or any other beauty company. Most are cosmetic junkies—that’s how they refer to themselves—and a good number come out of the media as “journalists.” Come to think of it, if these bloggers can train more beauty junkies, ultimately it may be a good thing for business.

When you see hundreds of new beauty brands at the many trade shows, no doubt you ask, “Where are these brands sold, I don’t see them anywhere?”

Quite a few brands will list Whole Foods (but not necessarily all stores), if they have the right natural/organic credentials. But for the most part, the internet has become the channel of necessity for distribution for virtually all of these fledgling brands, and bloggers are their vital channel messengers.

Bloggers are a boon to small companies fighting (and often losing the battle) to stay alive, until they are acceptable at the next distribution step; i.e., Sephora, Ulta, etc. or become the target of a buyout. A free sample seems to be price of entry to the blogger and it may produce some kind words and a link to your website. Rarely do you see a serious analysis of products about mainsteam cosmetic companies. There are few on Lauder, Cover Girl, Avon, except on their own blogs. We did catch a few comments about MAC, but that was it.

It turns out that 99% of the products in the beauty blogs you’ve never heard of, nor are they even available where you shop, but some of them present very imaginative/entrepreneurial ideas that are unedited by traditional cost-driven management seeking the safety of either technology (in any of its forms), knockoffs, or one-offs. In the 60s and 70s, Europe provided a source of inspiration. Then came Japan. Then trade shows, with the star CosmoProf Bologna, and its competitive offspring. Finally, there is Whole Foods.

By the time you see a new brand on QVC, you’ll have to run very fast to catch up. Come to think of it, when was the last big brand created via traditional retail? The only one that comes quickly to mind is Strivectin. Traditional distribution? Yes. But, orthodox? No.So, while professionals may make fun of these blogs, they do offer a cornucopia of fresh ideas–sort of like taking a trip through Macy’s in 2015.You don’t want to miss them.

Welcome Back HR…Again!

There was a time, back in the 1960s and 1970s, when the cosmetic business was a dogfight between Helena, Elizabeth, Estée, and Charles. Then the M&A guys (no women yet) took over. Arden went to Eli Lily; Rubinstein went to Colgate; and Revlon imploded when Charles died. Only Lauder has remained in the family; i.e., core beauty management.

Demi Moore is the spokeperson for HR’s Wanted
What Lily and Colgate quickly found out—to their collective dismay—is that they didn’t know a thing about the cosmetic business, and that beauty business methodology (quick, gut, competitive and not necessarily long-term marketing strategies), didn’t mesh with their research and big company miasma.

Rubinstein, however, remains close to our hearts. More than 30 years ago, we developed the first computerized POS display to assist consumers with correct color selection. It rolled out neatly, grabbing a lot of counter space and buzz. But, then came a reality check. Here’s the lesson learned. As the then-president of Helena Rubinstein put it, when asked how much money Colgate was prepared to put into advertising and promotion, he replied, “You don’t understand.Colgate bought HR to take money out, not to put money in.”

A few years later HR was gone in the U.S. and ultimately picked up by L’Oréal in 1989, which tried to resuscitate it in the U.S. in 1999 as a prestige brand, as in Europe, linked to a spa strategy. No go! Formerly the HR name was strong in both mass and prestige distribution, although with different products/lines. The dual-channel strategy was a workable marketing and sales concept, also enjoyed by Revlon and Max Factor, in the glory days when brands were the channel captains because mass volume paid for the brand’s product advertising, which also drove traffic to department stores. What a concept!

And now HR is back for the new decade with a new fragrance, Wanted, featuring Demi Moore as the celebrity spokesperson. We do wish them well—but do you think that deep pockets will be enough for a brand with no base (counter) business, and in among the designer heavyweights? It must have great juice and great continuing buzz for this to fly off the counters, and then maintain its strength to support a total brand reentry to this market. (See the above on bloggers for a possible strategy.)

As an aside, it seems like a challenging re-entry strategy to start with fragrance, probably the most difficult category from which to transfer to skin care, which is surely were they would want to be. But they know that.So the thinking must be that Demi will bring new users to the brand by cutting across all competitive skin care and color companies, and thereby pave the way.We’ll all see, won’t we?

Let’s Redesign Our %@*&%$# Website

Sound familiar?Sure.At the last “redesign” meeting, we heard: “We need bigger product shots,” from the same product manager who insisted that the packaging needed to be redone; “We’ve got some great new tech that’ll make the site bounce,” from the IT guy; “You have to be on the cutting edge,” from the web designer; “More information,” from customer service. We heard everything except clear objectives and strategies.

A recent webcast via the American Marketing Association and Seth Rosenblatt (Autonomy Interwoven), listed the Seven Sins of Website Design.They are:

PRIDE: Talking only about yourself/your company; putting the CEO’s picture on your home page.

GREED: Asking customers for so much information to register that they decide it isn’t worth their time.

ENVY: Wanting every gadget and feature your competitors have on their sites.

WRATH: Making outrageous statements about your company or products.

LUST: Emphasizing flashy content over substance.

GLUTTONY: Stuffing too much content on toa page.

SLOTH: Being lazy in how you test customer reaction and usage of your site.

With these sins in mind, you can start on the objectives and strategies.

A word about 2010.This will be the decade of ............ You fill in the blank based on your optimistic/pessimistic/nature. We’ll opt for optimistic, as crisis spells opportunity. Here’s to a great year for all.
About the Authors
Suzanne and Bob Grayson are respected, professional marketers, having spent their careers with the leading companies in the beauty industry before starting their successful consulting business in the early 1970s. Their consulting clients have included Avon, Bristol-Myers, Estée Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Revlon and Cover Girl, among others. They reside in San Juan Capistrano, CA and maintain an office in New York City. For more information, they can be reached at or