By  on September 21, 2007

NEW YORK — David Russell, vice president of sales/cosmetics for Coty Beauty, equates the rollout of Rimmel with using a "rifle" rather than a "shotgun."

Knowing the beauty business was in a precarious position — two major launches had encountered consumer apathy — Russell knew the importance of a controlled rollout where expectations would be met.

"We had very specific distribution and space goals and we didn't expect to be all things to all people. We didn't want to go immediately into 15,000 doors and fail. We wanted it to be viable," he said.

That laser approach to sales and distribution helped Rimmel post yearly sales gains of 52 percent at a time when the market was expanding only 2 percent. With success under its belt, Rimmel is now in more than 16,000 doors with a goal to hit 22,000 this year, Russell said.

Russell is no newcomer to launching a new brand. His experience includes roles at leading firms including Revlon, Clairol and L'Oréal. In fact, he worked on the rollout of L'Oréal in 1978 to the mass market. He explained how Rimmel was the opposite of introducing L'Oréal.

"The L'Oréal brand was birthed in this country and it is exactly the reverse with Rimmel, which has been around since the 1860s and invented mascara," he recalled.

Once Rimmel was established, Coty added Underground, a more edgy complement to Rimmel. The challenges were steep since for many accounts this called for more footage. By truly explaining the positioning and reason for being, Russell was able to convince many retailers of the need for Underground, too.

"What we were trying to do is bring edginess at better prices and a more wearable form to the mainstream," said Russell. Underground was meant to provide a more reasonable choice than Smashbox or Benefit. Another goal was to broaden the audience for Rimmel as well as mass market beauty. On this he is clear: Underground is not a teen brand and, in fact, is being purchased by women of many ages.

Like many seasoned mass market executives, Russell has seen the big get bigger and technology dictate more and more decisions. Still, his goal is to visit all accounts — no matter the size. In fact, he had just returned from a chain with fewer than 100 doors. "So much of the business has become impersonal with just crunching data, but you still have to have human contact," he said. "You can be sure that whether we're meeting with a retailer to talk about a global cosmetic brand like Rimmel or an iconic brand like Airspun, our goal is to build a bigger business for our customer partners."

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