NEW YORK — It’s not enough today to simply develop a product that performs.

The key is to make and keep an emotional connection with the consumer. That was the consensus of a five-member panel of cosmetics industry executives at the HBA Health and Beauty America convention held at Jacob K. Javits Center this week.

Speaking at the “Industry Movers and Shakers: The People Who Make Things Happen” session on Wednesday, representatives from a range of beauty companies — from established brands like Almay and Dove to entrepreneurial companies like Smashbox and Lotta Luv — have one thing in common. They increasingly try to engage women in a dialog with the brand.

Peter Waxman, Dove brand director for North America, said, “Our approach is different. Dove is about speaking with women, not to them.”

The Unilever brand has gone full force into beauty this year with the introduction of a Dove hair care line in January, followed by its first facial skin care collection in June. The company has leveraged Dove’s appeal as a mild, moisturizing brand for “every woman.” Dove even used its moisturizing vantage point for a new deodorant launch last year.

The Dove Essential Nutrients face line provides vitamins and nutrients to help skin achieve “facial glow.” Waxman said that “hair care and face care are critical steps” in becoming a full-fledged beauty brand. And he noted while there is nothing in the works now, a color line could be conceivable for the future.

He said Dove’s extensions made sense, “because there is a track record of products that deliver on promises” and there is also a broad awareness of the brand. “One in three [U.S.] households contain a Dove item today.”

He said women are challenging companies to “talk to us in a way that doesn’t change us, but enhances us.” That’s the direction Dove takes. “Why,” questioned Waxman, “does the industry talk to women like they are broken and need to be fixed?” Dove comes in with a “message of healthy and wholesome.”

In 1969, Dove introduced commercials for the Dove cleansing bar using real women in testimonials “and that is how we make our ads today,” said Waxman. Dove, he added, “stands for beauty without artifice.” Sales, now at $2.2 billion globally, he said, are growing from 15 to 18 percent a year.Karen Quimby, vice president of product development at Smashbox Cosmetics, said the brand evolved out of a multiuse creative studio owned and operated by Dean and Davis Factor, grandsons of the cosmetics icon, Max Factor. Containing four photography studios, a music studio and even a gourmet catering facility, the center is a hub for Hollywood actresses, models and musicians. With constant requirements for touch-ups, a makeup line was developed in 1996. The line launched so rapidly it suffered growing pains and had to regroup. Today, it is a $50 million brand and growing, said Quimby. “Smashbox is not just a brand, it is a lifestyle.”

It was through QVC that Smashbox found its legs. “They stood by us through the hard times,” noted Quimby. While it was a difficult choice to go to a home shopping network, by doing the shows, Smashbox was able to foster relationships with shoppers and they can fully experience the influences that go into the creation of the brand. The appearances have become the bread and butter of Smashbox sales and also serve to spike sales at its retail partners like Henri Bendel and Nordstrom.

“We see a huge flood at the retail level for four days after each show,” said Quimby.

Sergio Barbi, franchise manager for O Boticário, a Brazilian company with some 2,300 stores in eight countries, keeps a dialog with its customers in numerous ways. “The relationship starts in the store,” he said, where shoppers are encouraged to ask questions and discuss products. There is a vast loyalty program “that enables us to know the customer in greater depth.”

A fragrance, Carpe Diem (Seize the Day), reflects much of what the company stands for — to live life to its fullest. “We encourage people to feel good, and to help people feel increasingly better about themselves.”

The company, which has a heritage in nature preservation, has a program for children to teach them to “love and respect nature and the environment,” said Barbi.

The $450 million business continues to grow and is just starting construction on its fourth manufacturing plant (see related story, page 13).

Kevin Kells, vice president of marketing for Almay, said, “With so much uncertainty out there,” he is witnessing a “flight to quality” among consumers. Brands that offer a strong message are in a position to reap the benefits, he said.Cosmetics, he noted, presents a great challenge because the category is “about constant change.” Part of Almay’s strategy is to dig deeper into the psyche of shoppers. “When someone unlocks some insight into what consumers really want, that company will open a new way to speak to the consumer.”

“At Almay, we are on a journey. We started speaking to a lot of consumers and learned a lot of things. There is a rational, intellectual attachment [to Almay] as a hypoallergenic brand. But there could be more of an emotional attachment.” That is where the brand’s marketing efforts are being focused now.

Earlier this year, Almay launched the Bright Eyes collections, including mascara, eyeliner and eye shadows. “People were saying, ‘My life is tiring,’” said Kells. The collection is designed to easily put together an eye look that will give the wearer a lift or pick-me-up. “We are attempting to do more of that in the future.”

Kells said at Almay, marketers are being encouraged to “look deeper and broader.” To do that better, “we are going to change some systems internally,” he said.

“We want to build Almay into a higher space. We were a very rational brand in a very emotional business. We want to swim with the stream a little bit.”

Almay’s sales have started to pick up again, after falling off during the past three years. According to Information Resources Inc., retail sales were $148.2 million, excluding Wal-Mart, for the year ended Aug. 10, up 2.5 percent.

Speaking to a younger crowd, Steph Fogelson, president of Lotta Luv, has been heading up an enterprise that has taken candy licenses and turned them into scented and flavored lip glosses and bath and body products.

It all started with a phone call from a friend about the opportunity to link with Bubble Yum Bubble Gum. Fogelson’s wife happens to run a candy store in their hometown, so it seemed like a natural move.

Today, the collection includes Hershey, Jelly Belly, Nestlé and Tootsie Roll items, as well as Cinnabon, Hostess Twinkies and Dairy Queen. Sources said Lotta Luv could have retail sales of $40 million by yearend.With distribution in Claire’s, Wal-Mart, several drugstores and Dylan’s Candy Bar stores, Lotta Luv is growing by tying in to powerful brands with which consumers already have a relationship.

In addition to being fun, said Fogelson, “our brands are also comfort brands.”

Fogelson hopes the brands become more meaningful to consumers through some upcoming TV exposure. Lotta Luv will be doing a 30-minute show with QVC on a yet-to-be-determined date. And Food Network has filmed a segment on the company for its “Unwrapped” show with host Marc Summers. It will air on Nov. 3 at 9 p.m.

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