NEW YORK — Jane Hertzmark Hudis doesn’t believe in “balance.”
Which is an interesting statement from a woman who appears to excel at balance: Hertzmark Hudis is the group president at Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. — where she oversees eight brands for the multibillion dollar beauty company — and is today receiving an Outstanding Mother Award from the National Mother’s Day Committee.
Instead, she prefers to use the word “integration.”
“I believe in work-life integration to the extent that you’re focused on the moment. When you’re at work you’re focused at work, when you’re home you’re at home — and then you go back to work. It’s not like you have to go back to the office; you’re online and you’re working. And you stay super organized,” Hertzmark Hudis told WWD during an interview last week in her office at Estée Lauder Cos. Inc’s headquarters at the General Motors Building on Fifth Avenue here.
“But at the end of the day I can assure you that when the principal calls and your kid falls down, you’re there — [and] making [your children] understand that they’re your number-one priority. No matter what,” she continued, referring to her two sons, now ages 23 and 25.
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Hertzmark Hudis clarified that when she met now husband Dr. Clifford Hudis in 2001 (at a Breast Cancer Research Foundation dinner and introduced by Evelyn Lauder, no less), he had two children that were five and seven-years-old. And although they happen to be her “stepchildren,” she’s raised them, calling the process the “most rewarding part of my whole life.”
She’s one of four who will receive an award at the National Mother’s Day Committee’s annual Outstanding Mother Awards luncheon today — and the first-ever “stepmom” to be honored.
Joanna Coles, chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, is hosting the ceremony at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan, where other recipients include Kate Oldham, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for beauty, lingerie and swim at Saks Fifth Avenue; Judy Schmeling, president of Cornerstone Brands and chief operating officer of HSN, and Kendra Scott, chief executive officer and founder of Kendra Scott. Proceeds of the luncheon will support Save the Children’s U.S. programs, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children living in poverty.
“They’ve taught me so many things…[and] fulfilled my dream of being a mother. It’s been deeply meaningful and rewarding to me, and in their own way, [they’ve] taught me patience and understanding — a deep understanding of women, of doing it all. I have plenty of mothers who work for me and you get a better understanding of what that entails,” said Hertzmark Hudis, who has worked at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. for 31 years.
Her first role was marketing manager at Prescriptives in the mid-Eighties, where she held positions from regional sales manager for Prescriptives to other senior positions at Prescriptives and Origins. She landed the title of president first at Origins, and eventually became global brand president at Estée Lauder, where she remained in the top spot for six years before becoming group president in January of 2016. Currently, she oversees Estée Lauder, La Mer, Bobbi Brown, Aerin, Darphin, Origins, Aveda and Bumble and bumble brands globally.
Hertzmark Hudis reflected on how radically the company has changed since she came on board when there were just four brands in the privately owned organization. Between “incredible disruption” from consumer and distribution standpoints — largely driven by mobile and speciality retail chains — what’s resulted is a beauty industry that’s more buoyant than ever.
“We’re going from a brand-centric moment to a consumer-centric moment to consumers ruling the world,” she noted. “The whole idea and speed and excitement that goes on in terms of social media, and the fact that you can communicate across the world in seconds is…changing the paradigm…and they way consumers are shopping, behaving and learning.”
She cited digital as one of forces that’s shaped the beauty industry as we know it today, but it’s only one aspect of this new, consumer-centric way of operating.
Once you’ve identified an idea or concept, Hertzmark Hudis explained, it must be leveraged across any touchpoint where a consumer might interact with your brand, inclusive of digital, social media, traditional print and TV media and in store (freestanding, department, speciality retailers or otherwise).
“Connecting the pieces” is paramount to delivering a 360-degree experience to consumers — one where the brand or hero product is wherever she goes, she said.
Another seismic shift that’s occurred in the sector is the emergence of the indie brand — which Hertzmark Hudis said has forced companies like Lauder to “deliver a better game.” It’s pushed legacy organizations to see the world with new and fresh eyes, she explained. And Lauder has even brought some of these newer players into its portfolio, including Becca and Too Faced, both acquired last year.
The Estée Lauder brand, she added, is in a state of modernization, and thanks to a focus on hero products, the Advanced Night Repair and Double Wear franchises, specifically, are seeing double-digit growth in nearly every global market. A successful, sell-out collaboration with Victoria Beckham, which Hertzmark Hudis was instrumental in making happen, kicked off last fall and will soon roll out to the Chinese market.
“It’s the idea of transforming the way we work,” she maintained, pointing out that some of the people she’s inspired by most within the company are the digital-first, Millennial employees. Case in point: a perusal through Hertzmark Hudis’ Instagram account yields a number of photos and selfies with Beckham and Kendall Jenner, who was named the face of the Lauder brand in 2014.
“They have the freshest take…[but] that’s not to say everything in the world is about a Millennial consumer; it’s really not. I’m really careful about that. We have consumers from Millennials to ageless…but there is a Millennial mind-set influencing the industry at large,” she said.
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