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Building a Brand with Bobbi Brown

By Nancy Jeffries, Correspondent | June 25, 2010

Find out how '10 little lipsticks' became a billion-dollar brand.

Bobbi Brown has a mantra, that is “Women want to look and feel like themselves, only prettier and more confident.” This was the consistent message that held the attention of a sold out audience at the latest installment of the Women in Beauty series, presented by Cosmetic Executive Women, a non-profit professional organization with more than 3,600 executives in the beauty, cosmetics, fragrance and related industries.

Bobbi Brown, founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, Inc., and Maureen Case, president of specialty brands, the Estée Lauder Companies, Inc., were the featured presenters on June 23, 2010, at New York’s Harmonie Club, and gave the attendees an up close and personal look at the philosophy of a brand that had its genesis 20 years ago, with the creation by Bobbi Brown's “10 little lipsticks.” Maureen Case, who has worked with The Estée Lauder Companies for 20 years, eleven of them with Bobbi Brown, noted that, “The brand has stayed pretty much true to its vision.” Bobbi Brown said the message is, “That all women are beautiful and with the right products they can be even more beautiful.”

When Case began working with Bobbi Brown, it was right after 9-11, and they had this idea that color correct cosmetics, that is color options, not taupes and browns, would make women look better.
Left to right, Jill Scalamandre, CEW Chairwoman, Carlotta Jacobson, President, CEW, Bobbi Brown, Founder, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, and Maureen Case, President of Specialty Brands, The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc., at CEW’s Women in Beauty series.
Brown agreed, “It’s important to have our makeup artists at counter to guide women, and Maureen Case, as president of Bobbi Brown, brought the “Be true to who you are message to women,” ultimately selling beauty and confidence. “I think there’s a Bobbi face and it takes a few easy steps and the right products,” said Brown.

Case concurred, “I’ve always felt that Bobbi had the reputation around the world, and the brand is now the number one cosmetic brand in Hong Kong. Any of you who know Bobbi, know that what you do for the inside is as important as what you do for the outside, and we want women to trust us and feel at home with us,” said Case.

"I try to make things simple and organized, although I’m not that organized, really. I did my first beauty book after serendipitously meeting a book agent on the beach,” noted Brown, whose next book, Bobbi Brown Beauty Rules, published by Chronicle Books, will launch in September 2010, and feature makeovers, makeup tips, and a celebration of natural beauty.

Brown asserts the need for the basics, saying, “You basically need your eye liner, concealer, hair color, and subtle makeup that makes you look pretty.” Case affirmed, saying, “Our process is really about those touches that make women look beautiful.”

Natural and Authentic Beauty

Confidence, naturalness and authenticity were recurring themes in the discussion, and a video installation, part of the brand’s Pretty Powerful campaign, illustrated the makeup philosophy behind the brand, revealing the subtle, yet effective differences that the right makeup can achieve. The campaign video explores the look of no makeup and the effects of the right makeup to make you look better. Brown says, “There are no trends anymore. It’s about women wanting to look like themselves, but better.

According to Case, giving women choices is what Bobbi Brown is all about.

“It’s important to keep track of your customers and keep them connected to the brand. Service and artistry are key and the future is in products that are multi-tasking, like skin care products with efficacy,” noted Case.

Internationally, the brand has a global presence, with more than 800 stores, in over 55 countries, and features a full line of Bobbi Brown cosmetics, including color cosmetics, fragrance, skin care, tools and accessories. Just 35% of the business is based in the U.S.

“Our business in China is really successful and Bobbi has always been curious, so when the Asian makeup artists come in, there is a process taking place, where there is a sharing of learning and developing techniques,” said Case.

For those starting out in the business, Brown said, “It’s hard work. It’s not a me-too business, you need something different when creating a new brand.”

Left to right, Carlotta Jacobson, President, CEW, with Bobbi Brown, Founder, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics Inc., and Maureen Case, President, Specialty Brands, The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc., who shared insight into Building a Brand.
Case emphasized the importance of looking at the white space and seeing what you can bring to it, adding, “Don’t let your imagination have boundaries. Successful entrepreneurs have to be a little bit crazy. Who would have thought that 10 little lipsticks would become a multi-million, soon to become a multi-billion dollar business?”

Brown noted the requirements of various international markets, saying, “In the Asian market it’s about clarity,” and Brown created an eraser that goes on the spots and covers them, and women don’t have to wear much makeup; or she sometimes changes or updates formulas. The process of creating her gel eyeliner came about when she was preparing for a photo shoot, and didn’t have eyeliner available. She lined her eyes with waterproof mascara, applied with a Q-tip, and found that it had not washed off the next morning. This ultimately formed the basis of the waterproof gel eyeliner that she had formulated.Brown emphasizes the importance of having simple, common sense solutions about makeup.

“Everybody wants the same thing all over the world. We all want to look good. I don’t really segment, but I listen to my artists in each market to see what the people really want,” she said.

Cosmetic Executive Women, whose mission is to advance the professional growth and leadership development of women in the beauty industry through career development programs, networking opportunities, access to industry leaders, and recognition of achievement, recently announced that effective June 17, 2010, the Board of Governors initiated an effort to increase male membership in the organization. The decision supports the goals of CEW’s Task Force for Advancing Women and Business. Additional information about this initiative, as well as the CEW Foundation, Cancer and Careers, CEW Beauty Achiever Awards, and more, please log on to:

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