By  on May 26, 2006

Celebrities have become beauty's favorite marketing tool — but to sustain the momentum, said a panel of experts, it's critical to realize that celebrities and multiculturalism coexist and are interdependent.

"Something very much is changing in the wind right now," said John Demsey, global president of the Estée Lauder and MAC Cosmetics brands at the Estée Lauder Cos. and a co-host of a panel at the summit. "And the notion of multiculturalism and the role of celebrity has dramatically transformed our business and continues to be sort of the quake or the sound heard around the world," he added.

It's critical to be clear about what multiculturalism actually is, said Stephen Stoute, chief creative officer and founder of Translation Consultation and Brand Imaging, the panel's co-host. Stoute, a music mogul turned branding guru, put together the star-studded Carol's Daughter investment team last year and has been responsible for some of the most high-profile celebrity and consumer campaigns, including Beyoncé Knowles' True Star fragrance deal with Tommy Hilfiger Toiletries.

"Multiculturalism is not about African-American models skinned over an existing general marketing advertisement," said Stoute. "It's not four women of different ethnicities posing together for a photograph as if they are friends. And because we do not have a definition that we can all adhere to as an industry of what multicultural is, we opt for ethnicity and use it as a tactical response to support a particular product. We overlook the larger opportunity of looking at not only how products support multiculturalism, but how the entire industry has been slow to embrace it.

"To be clear, multicultural is not a race or a color of someone's skin," continued Stoute. "It's a landscape that houses a mind-set that young adults and teenagers share, brought on by three primary forces: proximity; the influence of MTV, music videos and entertainment, and the Internet. These combined forces have lent transparency to cultures, access to cultures. And yet we still, as an industry, want to put people in boxes…and demographics and charts and Q ratings, and it neuters us from understanding cultural impact and what affects these consumer groups. The culture of our companies suffer as a result of it."

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