By  on March 9, 2007

In his keynote address at CTFA, William Lauder, president and chief executive officer of the Estée Lauder Cos., made it clear that while the consumer is the boss, the industry has to help shape her experience.

"We as marketers must always be aspirational, leading the consumer in a way that she wants to go," said Lauder. That isn't always easy in the U.S. retail market, where beauty adviser turnover is upward of 60 percent yearly due to the low prestige of the role. "We have to make sure that we have an attractive offering to beauty advisers," he said, noting, "The beauty adviser is the one who is representing your product." This is particularly true in fragrance, he said: "Fragrance is 100 percent emotion."

The Internet has changed the way women shop for beauty products — and not just in the most obvious way, said Lauder. "Sure, women buy products via the Internet. But they are also signing on to do research on products before they head to the store. We can't go to one side completely, retail or Internet. But we need to interest consumers enough on both sides to make them want to buy our products."

Lauder said he saw the hierarchy as the consumer at the top, followed by beauty advisers, publicity teams, marketing executives, scientists and then the company's chief executive officer — at the bottom.

Lauder noted that emerging markets, such as China, Russia, Brazil and India, were poised to contribute greater dollar amounts to the beauty pie, and companies needed to find ways to speak to consumers in these countries. "These cultures will have a greater influence in the future," said Lauder. "Brazil's retail is more developed, so we'll see opportunities in the next five years. India's window of opportunity will come over the next 10 to 15 years."

During a spirited Q&A session following his speech, Lauder made it clear that no matter the product, his company believed strongly in the importance of service in shopping.

"If we commodotize this business, we will distract the consumer and make it all about price," said Lauder. "For those of us who sell aspirational brands, there are high expectations. This is a very experiential business, and we have to excite the consumer."Before leaving the stage, Lauder also praised CTFA for its sharpened focus on industry issues.

"For far too many years, we in industry leadership had adopted a strategy I call 'lay by the side of the road and play possum,'" said Lauder. "Consumers and legislators around the world have put an end to that. CTFA's new approach to be more proactive, responsive and open to fresh ideas is truly the only way forward."

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