In the 17 years since Marla Malcolm Beck and her husband founded Bluemercury, she has seen her share of innovators and revolutionaries. Now, she has the mind-set of a guide.
“I want to see if I can help inspire you and guide you on your journey to create revolutionary products, services and experiences,” she said. “But the journey will not be an easy one.
“Simple ideas alone will not change the future; we need big ideas,” said Beck, the retail chain’s chief executive officer.
“Innovation drives excitement, energy and engagement on the part of the consumer. One out of every five products we sell each day are new products that didn’t exist a year ago; 50 percent of the products we sell were created within the last two years. Innovation is the lifeblood of our industry.”
“But innovation for innovation’s sake is a waste; product proliferation is at a fever pitch. The majority of the products we launch don’t resonate with the consumer — 18 percent of all new products we launched last year took 80 percent of our new product revenue.
“The number-one goal of innovation is to create a must have, a big idea, an annuity [stockkeeping unit] or service.”
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Beck then gave some pointers: You know you have an annuity sku if customers use words like “addicted” and if you can’t keep it in stock. “It’s a high-velocity product,” she said. “To have a sustainable brand, you must have at least one hero.”
She warned that if marketers are not aiming to land a must-have product, then “you are not reaching high enough.”
“So how do I find the next big idea,” she asked. “Find a problem to solve that makes your customer’s life better,” she rhetorically answered, citing Rent the Runway’s service as an example.
“Be an anthropologist; go out into the field and see how the customer behaves,” she said, noting how her best source of information is on the selling floor. Customer dissatisfaction with certain aspects of natural and doctor brands, led her to create M 61, a vegan paraben-free cosmeceutical.
It all starts with looking and asking questions. “Regaining our curiosity and opening our mind is the key to successful innovation,” she said, adding that average four-year-old asks 437 questions per day.
Bluemercury has been offering spa services, but the staff had made an unusual discovery. “[The customer] wants services out on a store floor, where there is activity and action, not in a quiet room,” Malcolm Beck observed. “It’s one thing to know the statistics on your customer, it’s another to see them in their store habits. We learn by talking to and watching them.”
That set up the next point. “Be an explorer: go outside the beauty industry, go outside your comfort zone,” she advised, while quoting a study that Richard Weiss had done on lucky people. They have traits that tend to make them luckier. “Instead of going through life on autopilot, they pay attention to what’s happening around them and are willing to try things outside of their usual experience.” Beck concluded, “to find a big idea you mush search in other fields.”
She mentioned making a trek to a new business competition at Harvard University, where mind-expanding ideas bubble up, and she primed the pump by outlining a number of sales trends, ranging from travel items to “instant results-oriented skin care” to ‘hair, hair, hair and more hair” and “mascara, mascara, mascara and more mascara.”
“I now unfortunately predict the death of foundation in a jar,” she said, noting that the name foundation came from the department where women bought girdles (“We buy Spanx.”). And instead of jar foundation, women are reaching for CC and BB creams and tinted moisturizers.
She also tossed out some thoughts for the next big ideas, starting with an app and tech-based skin care diagnostic tool, combined with personalized and customized 3 D-printed skin care, then moving on to a method for achieving round-the-clock perfect hair, and another product for creating a perfect complexion at every age. “Can we create perfect skin,” Beck asked. She also called for more development to meet an “exploding trend for more vegan, natural and chemical-free beauty products. How do we get more chemicals out of the beauty industry,” she asked. At the same time, Beck asserted, “We need more serious science behind the skin-care industry.” One suggestion: a better SPF product. “Can’t we create an SPF pill to protect her from the sun?
“We are entering new territory together,” she continued. “The pace of change in the beauty industry is faster than ever before and it’s accelerating at warp speed. Generation Z, the future beauty consumers, have fingers that move faster than the speed of light.”
“So go out there; be a hero, be an anthropologist, be an explorer: hunt, gather, assess, analyze, curate, love, create. The beauty industry can transform people’s lives, but we have to continue to transform the beauty industry. People are happiest when they make a meaningful contribution. What will your meaningful contribution be?”