Marc Menesguen, president of L'Oréal's luxury products division and vice president of L'Oréal SA, asked the charged question, "What could be the driving forces that will fuel the growth of the prestige beauty market in the years to come?
"Well, of course as you can imagine I don't have a crystal ball," he quipped, adding — much more seriously — that the industry is at a "turning point. In the last couple of years, we have seen the erosion of the traditional levers of growth. The large number of launches and the escalation of traditional promotions with endless gift-with-purchase have saturated our distributors' shelves and counters. And I also believe they have saturated the minds of our consumers."
Menesguen said that as president of Lancôme a decade ago, he realized that prestige consumers expected more than excellent products and exciting brands. Rather, the keys to making a strong luxurious brand are "innovation, proximity and modernity."
"These three words became my guidelines during all my years at Lancôme, and I believe that they are still relevant as all our brands must integrate the best of today's technology, build a strong relationship with our customers and, of course, be in line with the spirit today," he said. "Now, is it enough for our customers in 2006 and beyond?"
Menesguen discussed today's paradox of, on the one hand, brands' globalization, and, on the other, consumers' increasing desire to have a point of difference.
To drive business growth, he believes there are three main axes: sheer innovation, service and dreams.
Innovation-wise, he said that consumers "are looking for new experiences, and they expect new and different points of views on beauty."
An example, said Menesguen, is Shu Uemura, the L'Oréal-owned Japanese cosmetics brand that now ranks among the top five in all the U.S. stores it is sold and is growing at more than 70 percent stateside. As a brand, Shu Uemura had to go back to its roots and take a cue from the original philosophy of Shu Uemura himself — "Beautiful makeup starts with beautiful skin." Menesguen called it "a subtle combination of art, science and nature, which epitomizes the heart of Japanese culture."
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"