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It Takes A Village

At last month’s Beauty Summit, Madonna Badger, founder of Badger and Winters Group and Jodi Kahn, executive vice president of iVillage Networks, discussed how to stand out in today’s competitive market.

Empathy emerged as a theme, and by that they mean really listening to shoppers. “We have heard a lot over the past couple of days about listening to our consumer in order to drive growth within our industry and we agree,” said Badger. “But in today’s world, where consumers have just about everything they need and so many choices and a lot of superlatives, we must now innovate through empathy. True innovation comes when we listen with our hearts, and it is then that we begin to get a clear picture of how a woman really thinks. And of course it’s not one track but rather multifaceted, multilayered and multitasking.”

The multitasking was illustrated by what the duo called “thought clouds.” Badger explained that a typical woman might be thinking of her kid’s soccer game, that she needs shampoo, that she wants to research party themes for a birthday party, that her five-year plan presentation is coming up and that she has to figure out what is for dinner and still catch “30 Rock.” “And our thought cloud informs how we experience life, communicate, learn, share and inevitably shop.”

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Kahn said iVillage has invested in observing women’s digital routines. The universe of women actively engaged in social media is staggering, with 73 percent of women online using some form of social media every week and 52 percent reading blogs regularly. “This is extremely powerful. With a monthly audience of nearly 34 million, iVillage is the largest content-driven community for women on the Web. Women come to iVillage to connect, share advice, life tools, conversations and even a much-needed distraction, connections that are rich, real and meaningful,” she said. A whopping 30 percent of the chats involve beauty, but are often an offshoot of another topic. Some 9,000 individual beauty and style brands are mentioned per week on the boards.

Kahn elaborated, “And here’s a couple of examples of what they’re really saying. This from a relationship board: ‘Thanks for the advice. I wear all MAC makeup. Sorry to hear about your hubby. How long were you two married?’”

Or from a parenting board: “With my first pregnancy this didn’t happen to me at all but now anything that’s slightly sad, slightly happy, I’m bawling my eyes out. I have to go buy some waterproof mascara.”

The team has unique insight into what women want and they discussed that women shop different channels and that could signal changes in distribution. Instead of seeking advice in stores, they snoop for advice online. More than half of women seek advice on boards before buying.

Here are examples of what is said: “Last year when I quit my job, I was forced to reassess my entire life and dramatically reduce spending in every area. Here are some of the things I found that work for me. I used to be a regular at expensive cosmetics counters. Think Guerlain, Laura Mercier. I completely stopped using foundation and stick to concealer, Estée Lauder and powder, Cover Girl Translucent. I found eye shadows that I love from Clinique and even Wet ‘n’ Wild. My eye shadow, base and mascara are from Two Faced, not dirt cheap but affordable, and the eye shadow base is a true treasure. For eye liner I either use my Wet ‘n’ Wild black-gray shimmery duo, a real steal at $3, or my Stila Smudge Pot in black, which I occasionally also use under some shadow for a dark, smoky look.”

Further delving into comments, it was found that women must shop many different stores to get what they want. “So what is the insight here? She is clearly willing to go to any lengths to get what she wants where she wants it. We can make her life easier and more enjoyable by providing her with a place where she can get a lot more of her needs met, where she can also find the brands that she wants all in one place. So what is the solution? At the House of Fraser in the UK she can have her nails done, attend a Weight Watchers meeting, get a little bit of Botox and her teeth whitened, replenish her Clinique Dramatically Different moisturizing lotion, check out the newest YSL launch, eat lunch, pick up groceries for tonight’s dinner, get her husband a new pair of Levi’s and her son a birthday present all in one visit.”

But where is America’s version of this? Suggestions were made such as if Saks Fifth Avenue curated their favorite mass brands and gave the consumer an experience with these brands that she couldn’t get anywhere else? “Let’s create these experiences to pull her into our department stores. We must become co-creators of the store experience, just as she is a co-creator with our brands.” Badger said.

The ideas are out there; the time is right to look in new directions, the duo concluded.

 

 

People, Places and Things

A few words with Lyn Kirby, chairman of Ulta, as she addresses the CEO Summit and prepares to leave the company she incubated from bland drugstore knockoff to cutting-edge beauty purveyor.

Kirby: When I joined Ulta 10 years ago I told the team that I inherited — and again this was a Midwest team and they were deeply suspicious of a New Yorker and a New Yorker who talked with a funny Australian accent — that we were not in the business of selling lipsticks, we were in the experience business. We were in the business of making women feel good about themselves. And 10 years ago what I said was that we would create an experience for women that was uplifting. It would be educational and entertaining. It would welcome them into a store environment that was aspirational, comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. Our experience would be so extraordinary that she would never see shopping with us as a chore, instead it would be her escape, it would be her candy store and it would be time for herself.

The fragrance industry needs to shift a paradigm, albeit a different paradigm to the distribution paradigm. I believe that the fragrance industry can introduce the same number of fragrances and make more money if we shift one simple paradigm, if we realize the competition is not sitting in this room. On some level we will of course always continue to compete with each other, but there is also an opportunity to come together as a industry and take a bigger pie. We heard a lot of talk about making a bigger pie for fragrance instead of slicing it up into smaller and smaller pieces.


What’s in Store

Unilever Advertising Innovation with Apple:Unilever will be the consumer goods-presenting advertiser on the new iAD platform unveiled by Steve Jobs at Apple’s Worldwide Developers conference in California. The announcement follows hard on the heels of the return of virtually all of Unilever’s top marketers from a visit to a host of major new media owners and developers on the West Coast of the U.S. last month.

Less Is More: Shoppers are now bloody-minded, said Wendy Liebmann, founder of WSL Strategic Retail. Many have changed where they shop and how — first through necessity; now through choice. They have gone from regretting what they couldn’t afford to accepting what they can. Less is more now, and it’s OK,” she said.

 

 

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