EVIAN, France — What’s the magic formula for today’s beauty brands tomorrow?
That was the topic of discussion for the panel led by Heidi Manheimer, president of U.S. operations at Shiseido Cosmetics (America) Ltd. Other participants included Christina Bornstein, cofounder and creative president of Tony & Tina Vibrational Remedies; Ed Burstell, vice president and general manager of Henri Bendel; John Demsey, president of MAC Cosmetics; Jane Anne Ford, co-creator and chief executive officer of Benefit Cosmetics, and Jean Hoehn Zimmerman, executive vice president of marketing and sales at Chanel Beauté and Fragrance.
“Our challenge is to anticipate the ever-more-educated consumer,” said Manheimer. “How do we market to the generation after X, Y and even Z?”
Manheimer noted that in the Nineties, consumers responded to products from makeup artists. In order to get a piece of that action, more established brands kicked off an acquisition frenzy, snapping up hip, young brands with a strong creative streak.
“I think we saw a lot of new acquisitions because we’ve heard the word ‘newness’ and the world ‘innovation,’ and you know the bigger companies are trying to answer that [need],” said Bornstein.
On top of feeding large corporations’ appetite for edginess, small manufacturers were also signing on with the bigger players to help fuel their own growth.
“There’s only so far you can go on your own,” said Bornstein. And she should know. Bornstein and her two fellow founders of Tony & Tina recently inked a partnership deal with Wella AG to help expand their business, particularly into skin care.
“I think that for most of these [acquired] companies, their chance to be innovative is even stronger because they’ll have the infrastructure, technology, R&D and some of the backing of bigger companies just to take their ideas, take that creativity and bring it to market in a quicker fashion,” said Manheimer.
After all, innovation and creativity are key for brands of tomorrow, agreed the panelists. But above all, newness is what lures customers to counter.
“You have to build a loyal customer base and that’s based on loyalty products within each brand,” explained Bendel’s Burstell, who added: “But I think that the American consumer right now is trained to get a fix [of newness].”
“When you’re in the shade business, you live and die based on newness,” said MAC’s Demsey. “The customer expects newness, and managing a line that has over 900 [stockkeeping units], which does six color stories a year, is interesting. It’s a promotion in its own right.”
At Chanel, at least one-third of the brand’s volume is generated by new products annually, said Hoehn Zimmerman. “I think it’s too much,” she said. “Everybody in the company thinks it’s too much.”
The panelists agreed. Yet they said newness doesn’t necessarily have to be defined as new products.
“You can take a set, take existing products, put a concept behind it and sell that,” suggested Bornstein. “You don’t have to dilute your real newness.”
Zimmerman was of the same mind, noting that one of Chanel’s most successful U.S. promotions was a presentation of the top-10 lipstick shades of the past 20 years.
Another way to infuse newness without flooding the market with new products is to market global products locally, said Manheimer.
Benefit’s Ford added another take on the business: “It’s about a game, about a sense of humor and about having so much fun,” she said, adding that sales assistants are an increasingly important vehicle for communicating brand vision and driving home sales.
Because, she said, addressing the panelists and attendees, “we’re merchants at heart; it’s in our blood. We like the four-letter word — it’s called ‘sell’ — and we’re not afraid of it.”