Revlon’s Julia Goldin on Reviving an Iconic Brand

The company's global chief marketing officer emphasized that for marketers it’s no longer about a point of difference, “it’s about a point of view.”

Julia Golden

When Julia Goldin arrived at Revlon from Coca-Cola three years ago, she found inspiration for the brand’s future in its past.

This story first appeared in the May 24, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“I dug through everything that Charles Revson did,” Goldin, Revlon’s global chief marketing officer, told attendees. What she found is that Revson, Revlon’s founder, had a provocative point of view that could be applied today to create noise in the beauty industry.

“The beauty industry has been very safe,” said Goldin, “Are we ready to shock? That’s something that iconic brands do and that helps them to endure.”

In the Fifties, Revson got women’s attention with an empowering message of “you can be fabulous, you can be expressive, you can be sexy despite what might be expected from you in your world,” said Goldin. While the days of the Fifties-style housewife are long gone, Goldin said, “The idea of being able to express who you want to be is very relevant.” With Revson’s early vision in mind, Goldin said, the company is bringing “real glamour” back to Revlon.

Her days at Coke — where she worked across Europe and in Japan — taught her about iconic brands and how to keep them relevant.

“Coke was never just about a beverage. Coke is about love,” said Goldin. “It’s about connecting generations and connecting people.”

Iconic brands, in her view, “have an enduring perspective.” She emphasized that for marketers it’s no longer about a point of difference, “it’s about a point of view.” And beauty brands need to be clear about what that is. “If you don’t have a strong perspective of who you are as a brand, that’s when things start falling apart at the seams. Brand point of view sits at the heart of cultural relevance, universal values and consumer relevance,” she said.

Consumers are increasingly part of the conversation about what the brand is. “Today, it’s not about brand loyalty. It’s about brand advocacy,” said Goldin.

To inspire consumers to talk about the brand, particularly in a digital world, Goldin said authenticity and creativity are key. She nodded to the beauty industry’s close link with science — in fact, a high-pigment nail polish called “nail enamel” launched the Revlon business — but reminded that there’s also a need for both a human and artistic touch.

“As we move forward, art will become more important,” she said, citing an example from the beverage industry. While at Coke, Goldin helped kick off the brand’s designer collaborations, which began a decade ago with Matthew Williamson. The aim is provoke conversations, which Revlon aims to do with its the Revlon Expression Experiment, a Facebook app that allows women to try a certain beauty look and post a photo of the result. Revlon kicked off the initiative with a red-lip look and had thousands of responses overnight, said Goldin.

For Revlon, social engagement is more valuable than social networking. Goldin ended with a quote from Revson, who said, “In the factory, we make cosmetics. In the drugstores we sell hope.” Goldin added, “I see us being in the business of hope. And that’s the business of aspiration, consumer connection, consumer relevance, women’s confidence and women feeling great about themselves.”