NEW YORK — Beauty companies are working hard to gain the trust of their consumers on all touchpoints, from product formulations to sustainable practices and brand message.
A number of speakers at the WWD Beauty Summit at New York’s Conrad hotel on Wednesday emphasized how this is paramount today.
“There’s a huge crisis of trust in the world,” said Eggleston Bracey, chief operating officer and executive vice president beauty and personal care at Unilever, North America. “And [in] that crisis of trust, people are skeptical about what goes in their products, they’re skeptical of government, they’re skeptical everywhere. There are a lot of good reasons to be skeptical. So they’re looking for brands and companies that they can trust, and sustainability is an important part of that.”
“Trust is core to what everyone in this room does,” added Nick Molnar, chief executive officer and cofounder of Australian buy-now, pay-later provider Afterpay, addressing the hundreds of executives in the audience. “It’s been fascinating to watch…how Millennials really resonate with trust.”
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Following are some other key takeaways from the second day of the summit.
Lead By Example
Cindy Crawford, supermodel and businesswoman behind the Meaningful Beauty brand, owned by Guthy-Renker, said: “You lead by example. I just try to be the daughter my parents raised and not stress too much about [whether I’m] fulfilling my obligations.”
She and pal Christy Turlington were recently discussing why it’s important for them to still do photo shoots. “We want to show women who are 53, and I think Christy just turned 50, that there’s still beauty in that,” said Crawford, adding she’d recently done some “tasteful nudes” for their mutual friend Russell James’ book.
“I remember some snarky person on Instagram — there seem to be a lot of those — posted something like, ‘Ah, why are you still doing those at your age?’ And I was like, is there an age where being nude isn’t beautiful? It’s just a different kind of beauty,” continued Crawford, who said it’s important for women to treat themselves as kindly as they speak to their friends. “That is part of the reason I still do shoots.”
Curiosity Is a Must
For Jane Hertzmark Hudis, succeeding in beauty means having a global perspective. The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. group president said she is constantly on social media, researching trends — not just in beauty, but in art, design and architecture all over the world. “It takes an amazing curiosity and passion for this business,” she said, speaking of what it takes to succeed in beauty today. “We all have to be globalists and understand what’s happening in China, Japan, Paris, Korea, Florida. We have to know what’s happening all over because trends come from everywhere.”
Beauty Can Be Virtuous
After years and millions spent working to make hair products with a human keratin complex, Melisse Shaban had finally found a name — Virtue. But, it turned out, Ben Carson, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, owned the Virtue patent, Shaban said. When she called to inquire about the patent, Shaban found out it was coming up in a few months, and when that happened, she pounced.
That was just one strategic moment of many for Shaban, who is using a technology that was originally created to help heal wounded soldiers for Virtue Labs, her company that has licensed the ingredient for hair, skin and nails.
“We’re trying to figure out how to marry that [ingredient origin story] with being a grossly commercial brand trying to sell a lot of stuff,” Shaban said.
Ingestible Beauty Isn’t a Passing Fad
Are beauty supplements here to stay? Hum Nutrition cofounders Walter Faulstroh and Christopher Coleridge addressed a question that often comes up when talking about ingestible beauty. “The big question [when we launched] was this idea of ingestible beauty [being] nothing new — we’ve seen many companies try to build around this idea and not take off,” said Faulstroh.
The company identified three pain points for consumers in buying vitamins — lack of trust, education and engagement — and are working toward eliminating them through clinical trials and independent studies, bright packaging that stands out on the shelf and a detailed web site that offers customers access to a holistic nutritionist.
Most Millennials Eschew Credit Cards
“Millennials are different to any previous generation, and it’s really interesting,” said Afterpay ceo Nick Molnar. “What a lot of people don’t speak about is that two out of three people in the U.S. aged 18 to 30 actually do not own a credit card. They all use debit cards. And why is that important? It’s important because Millennials are spending money differently. And by 2025 they’re going to own half of all disposable income in the workforce — actually in America and largely in the world.”
Sustainability Is Now a Mainstay
Sustainability is more than a hot topic in the beauty industry; it’s the basis on which some brands are founded. Marcella Cacci, ceo and founder of One Ocean Beauty; Esi Eggleston Bracey, chief operating officer and executive vice president of beauty and personal care at Unilever North America, and Brook Harvey-Taylor, president and founder of Pacifica Beauty, spoke about the rise of sustainability in beauty and how this topic is at the core of each of their brands.
“Brands don’t have the luxury not to embrace this and take a position and stand for these important changes that need to be made,” said Harvey-Taylor.
Everyone Has a Story
Beauty Bakerie founder Cashmere Nicole Cirillo expounded on Tuesday’s summit theme of authenticity by sharing her own story of building a brand from scratch while scraping by as a single mother on government assistance — while dealing with the effects of breast cancer, no less.
“This story is important because it is my story — everyone in here has a story and that is what customers want to hear,” said Cirillo. “They’re not going to listen to us if we are [speaking] in certain terms, and supporting brands that align with their values — not brands where they don’t know what is behind the wall.”
Biotechnology Is the Original Green Science
“Our definition of biotechnology is really that it gives us the opportunity for her to have it all,” said Rose Fernandez, ceo of skin-care company Algenist. “Biotechnology is the original green science. It is inherently clean, it is sustainable, it allows for us to formulate very precisely with what we want to replicate from nature and also with the highest level of efficacy.”