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It was standing room only at New York’s Harmonie Club for the Cosmetic Executive Women’s Women in Beauty Series event, called The Building of a Brand: A Conversation with Bobbi Brown and Maureen Case, which took place June 23.
Brown, founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, and Case, president of specialty brands for the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., are also close friends, having worked together for more than a decade. Brown and Case spoke to the crowd about the experiences and challenges they’ve faced in the industry and the importance of authenticity.
“It’s about telling people the truth,” said Brown. “Bobbi Brown is about makeup that looks good on your skin — nudes and color-correct cosmetics. Nudes don’t mean flushed out, they mean makeup that makes you look like yourself, but better.”
Bobbi Brown Cosmetics began as a collection of 10 brown-based lipsticks with white undertones sold at Bergdorf Goodman. Now the multimillion-dollar brand, which is almost 20 years old, is available at more than 850 stores in more than 50 countries.
“I never had a vision of having a company,” said Brown. “I just wanted to make really great products.”
Dissatisfied with many of the cosmetics she used while working as a makeup artist, Brown was moved to create a line based on the concept that all women want to look like themselves — but better.
“The brand has pretty much stayed true to my vision,” said Brown. “My vision is that all women are beautiful and, with makeup, they can be even more beautiful.”
Case, who also oversees the La Mer and Jo Malone businesses globally, talked about using nontraditional approaches to increase brand awareness.
“The digital age has provided a venue and format,” said Case, referencing Bobbi Brown’s Pretty Powerful campaign, a collection of before-and-after images and online video showcasing Bobbi Brown makeovers on women.
“It generated a lot of space in the digital media world,” Case said of the initiative, designed to empower women and celebrate diversity.
“Sometimes with makeovers, [other brands] want to make the women look so different, but they don’t really look better,” said Brown. “A Bobbi makeover is really subtle.”
Brown also spoke of some of the challenges she has faced while navigating the beauty industry, recalling a moment in her career when she “realized everything looked taupe” at the counter. To increase the visual appeal, Brown added “funky, cool colors” to her cosmetics lineup, eventually realizing that they did not suit the DNA of the brand.
“It was off-brand. It didn’t look like the Bobbi Brown face,” said Brown, who added the experience taught her to stay close to her initial message. “There are so many things out there we can’t compete with — this is who we are,” she said.
When speaking about the future of the Bobbi Brown brand, Case said expanding the skin care offerings is key, as is increasing an online and global presence. Brown said she will remain focused on developing the products that simplify beauty routines and allow women to look their best.
When asked what advice they’d give to young entrepreneurs looking to follow in their footsteps, Case replied: “Don’t let your imagination have boundaries.”
Brown’s advice? “Be targeted but open.”