Jamie Kern Lima, Robert DeBaker and Susanne Langmuir

When it comes to sustaining makeup’s accelerating growth, today’s consumer is more intensely vocal then ever before, and brands have no choice but to comply with their desires that when expressed on social media, often take on a demanding tone.

This was the sentiment Robert DeBaker stressed to the beauty industry crowd at Wednesday night’s CEW panel, held early in the evening at the Union League Club.

Recalling the Nov. 6 episode of “60 Minutes” featuring Republican pollster Frank Luntz, DeBaker compared what’s going on in the minds of beauty consumers to the current political mood. “What [Lutz] said was with social media and the way things are today, we have gone from ‘I want to be heard,’ which is part of the way we are on social media, to, ‘You’re going to listen to me.’ It’s a totally different approach, and it’s especially true with politics. But if you think about the conversations we have with our consumers…they expect to be heard,” said DeBaker. “What we have recognized as a team is the part of social media that’s important is the listening piece. It’s not just the posting piece and the talking piece. It’s the listening piece and responding. It’s active listening. I’d like to think the way we’re talking on social media as a brand — we have to be better listeners as marketers because we’ve all learned as consumers to be really good talkers.”

DeBaker noted that Becca Cosmetics practices “active listening” on social media by identifying consistent trends in customer feedback, and taking immediate action when multiple customers express dissatisfaction on the same issue. He cited a kerfuffle with a foundation shade, where customers and influencers on social media called Becca out for not releasing a certain foundation in the fairest shade. “We picked it up early…we immediately went back and we said, “We screwed up, and we heard you. And we’re going to have a shade for you in three months, because we heard you,’” said DeBaker. “Be real about it, tell them you screwed up and that you’re going to fix it and then overdeliver when you bring it to market. It’s that reaction that shows that you’re listening — otherwise I think social media is just going to become another way of us talking to, not talking with.”

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DeBaker and panelists Jamie Kern Lima, cofounder and chief executive officer of It Cosmetics; and Susanne Langmuir, founder of Bite Beauty, agreed that while listening to social media and trends is of significant importance, hopping on a trend bandwagon can dilute a brand’s worth in the eyes of customers. Speaking to accelerating industry trends such as naturals and makeup hybrids, Lima warned against doing anything that will appear “inauthentic.”

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