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14 Key Highlights From Day One of the WWD Beauty Summit

Beauty standards are evolving, and companies are doing more to serve their consumers.

It’s 2019, and the beauty industry is on board with trying to make women feel better about themselves.

Several speakers at the WWD Beauty Summit at the Conrad hotel in New York on Tuesday championed the idea of bringing authenticity into beauty marketing — Ulta Beauty’s latest campaign centers on women shopping there because they already are beautiful, CVS is urging beauty brands to opt out of Photoshop (or disclose it if they don’t), and SK-II found global success through a campaign that championed the individuality of women in China who choose not to be married by the age of 25.

“[We] decided the most beautiful women in the world weren’t beautiful enough to sell our products,” said Norman de Greve, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of CVS Health.

Other key topics at Day One of the two-day event included beauty from the inside out, technology, personalization and diversity.

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“Beauty isn’t about conforming to a manufactured standard — it’s about self-expression,” said de Greve.

He expounded on efforts the retailer has made in the past year to highlight its commitment to this point — most notably, eliminating digitally altered photography from its stores and marketing materials. Moves like this, coupled with the addition of new-to-drugstore brands like Smile Direct Club, seem to be paying off. CVS grew 10 times the industry average with Millennials over 30 last year. Said de Greve, “I call them Millennials with money.”

Always Be Serving

Gretchen Saegh-Fleming, chief marketing officer of L’Oréal USA, began the morning expounding on the evolution of L’Oréal’s “beauty for all” motto.

The company is modernizing the way it interacts with a new generation of core beauty consumers, said Saegh-Fleming, shifting from an “always be selling” to “always be serving” mind-set. Younger consumer generations are focused on inner wellness and beauty experimentation as a means of self-expression. Diversity and inclusivity go beyond expanded shade ranges — they see gender as fluid and age as a nonissue. “Seventy is the new 40,” said Saegh-Fleming.

Diversity, Human Connection, Personalization

Ulta Beauty is taking diversity seriously.

The retailer has created company-wide training for employees, as well as online training that aims to teach about unconscious bias. Ulta partnered with Essence to select six teens to help roll out their own capsule collections, which will be sold in stores.

“Consumers are taking things into their own hands, driving change.…The way beauty has been told to me over my lifetime is not how I want to hear it,” said Dave Kimbell, president and chief merchandising and marketing officer. 

Ulta is also taking the idea of personalization to the next level with two recent acquisitions, and plans to use the technology to help form deeper human bonds.

Retail has evolved, he said, “to a place that’s really about human connections.”

Looking for White Space? Try Gen Z. 

Kirsten Green, the founder of Forerunner Ventures, uses a gut-brain combination to decide her investment picks.

Green has backed companies including Glossier, Dollar Shave Club and Hims, a telemedicine business. Green, in a conversation with Bluemercury founder and chief executive officer Marla Beck, said she sees endless white space for investing — but that “Gen Z is a completely white space, if you want to focus on that customer.”

“Our biggest challenge or opportunity is to invest in something that hasn’t already been done or already been seen,” Green said.

Is Digital Human?

Maybe, if you ask Markus Strobel, president of global skin and personal care at Procter & Gamble, who encountered the question from a Millennial at a meeting.

“It is — or at least it could be,” he said. “At a very, very minimum, it should be. I think this is what the power of digital brand-building is. It’s not necessarily the latest technology. We all have these great technologies at our fingertips…but it’s really what you make out of the technology, and how you use the technology to really create human connections. It’s all about one-to-one relationships with your consumers, eventually. And that’s really going to make the difference.”

Strobel gave as an example two virtual advertising campaigns for P&G’s SK-II brand, which were successful, traveling east to west and west to east geographically.

The secret sauce was, in part, the strategy of thinking local. “But if the insights and the campaign is really human, it can travel all around the world, because humans care about the same things,” he said.

Scent Preferences in the Womb?

Dawn Goldworm, president and chief creative at 12.29, challenged marketers’ age-old premise that each person has her or his individual olfactive preference.

“Your olfactive preferences are formed in the first 10 years of your life,” she said. “They’re based on your culture, your generation and your living environment. So taking the memory of a holiday in Thailand and putting it in a bottle, hoping that it’s going to be successful on shelf? The chance of success is low. But if you understand your target market…you have a very big possibility of having a successful, global fragrance launch.”

That’s how her company 12.29, which has worked on brand fragrances for Nike Inc. and Valentino, was born. “I thought there’s a greater possibility here,” continued Goldworm. “It could be used for brand communication identity. We use the visceral language of scent to transform brand-building. We use scent as a pillar of brand identity to create memorable and identifiable communication between brands and consumers.”

Beauty for Your Belly

Beauty begins in the belly — at least according to The Beauty Chef founder Carla Oates. Oates, a former beauty editor in Australia, discovered that lacto-fermented foods were a cure-all for her and her children’s skin issues — she now sells her powders and potions in retailers such as Sephora and Bloomingdale’s and TVSN in Australia, where Oates’ powerful before-and-after photos have helped propel the brand to a top seller.

Oates’ approach extends to food — she promotes her lacto-fermented-food-rich diet in a book of recipes called The Beauty Chef. “It’s a real solution to skin problems, not just a Band-Aid,” said Oates.

Modern-Day Revlon

This “may be the most exciting time this industry has ever seen,” said Debbie Perelman, chief executive officer of Revlon Inc., who highlighted Revlon’s modernization efforts, including the company’s “clean” foundation formula — which she said was a mass-market first.

“We must transform beauty — we must be focused on doing that, not only once, but constantly in order to engage the consumers here and now,” Perelman said.

She noted that Revlon is focused on “beauty with a conscience,” and that means making clean products and focusing on sustainability.

CBD, but Vetted

At a time when CBD is all the rage and projected to ultimately be a $20 billion industry, but consumers — and perhaps the industry as well — are confused as to its exact benefits, Standard Dose founder and chief executive officer Anthony Saniger is working to change that.

His e-commerce platform and brick-and-mortar storefront that opened in New York last week are home to a thoroughly vetted crop of CBD products. The CBD products Saniger sell go through a four-step vetting process, including independent third-party testing for each batch of CBD products that enter the store. “It’s important to constantly be testing,” said Saniger. “If we’re slopping together a product and promising something to the consumer, we’re doing a disservice to the industry.

17 Sponges Per Minute

Rea Ann Silva has come a long way from her days airbrushing the stars of the TV show “Girlfriends.” Silva, chief executive officer and founder of Beautyblender, has built a successful family-run business that now sells 17 of its makeup sponges per minute. “We pride ourselves on producing products you never knew you needed,” she said.

Facebook’s Fix for Online Shopping

Technology is helping brands reach consumers more smoothly, as outlined by Karin Tracy, Facebook’s head of industry, fashion, retail and luxury.

According to Facebook research, it takes an average of 22 clicks for a person to reach a product online. That translates to “22 reasons for her to walk away from you,” said Tracy, and a $213 billion loss in potential U.S. revenue. Facebook is helping companies solve these points of friction by rolling out features such as Instagram Checkout.

Science-Based Skin Care

Dr. Barbara Sturm spoke about how her background as an orthopedic surgeon and scientist led her to launch her eponymous anti-inflammation skin-care line.

“I don’t follow rules or trends,” she said, adding that her products are rooted in ingredient science. The future of beauty is education and awareness, she continued, saying “The consumer is super educated. They want to have the truth, see studies. It’s a whole new era of the skin-care world.”

Green Beauty, Too Soon

When Romain Gaillard, chief executive officer and founder of The Detox Market opened his first clean-beauty shop in Venice, Calif., no one came. He built the whole thing with used shipping crates he bought for $1.50 each, with a total budget of $4,000. It got press attention, but “no one was coming,” he said.

So, he opened more stores, and built out community spaces, including a yoga studio in the Toronto outpost. “The stores were not good. They were not a good idea he said,” Gaillard said.

He started in 2010. Turns out, he was too early. His “hippie chic” parents were into the idea of green beauty, but it hadn’t yet spread to the masses. But now, for five years, the Detox Market has doubled in size annually.

He likened green beauty to consumers’ swap to healthy food, saying that “whatever moves there is not going to come back.”

Digital 3.0

Wayne Liu, senior vice president and general manager of Perfect Corp., said the future of beauty tech is what his company calls “Beauty 3.0.”

“It’s AI plus AR,” he explained. “We have so much data on our [YouCam Makeup] app, we work with more than 200 brands and retail partners globally. We use this data to make sure our customers get the best products. We proactively personalize the beauty experience.”

Perfect Corp.’s stated vision of the near future includes on-demand beauty shopping experiences that are created to meet specific consumer needs, wants and desires anytime, anywhere.