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Coty’s Pane Embraces the Complexities of the Beauty Business

Coty launched a campaign #ProjectPDA to tackle the stigma of applying makeup in public head-on.

Coty Inc. is a whole new company, according to Camillo Pane, the chief executive officer who recently shepherded the integration of 41 brands acquired from Procter & Gamble.

“We like to say this isn’t your Coty; this isn’t your P&G. We’ve taken the best of both worlds,” he said, adding the new entity is open to ideas from the outside.

It isn’t just rhetoric, Coty is putting actions behind the words. A perfect case in point is the speed and the message reflecting the new culture illustrated by a just released campaign created by Droga5. Pulled together in a swift three weeks, the project tackles the stigma of applying makeup in public.

“Makeup is truly freedom of self-expression so I was surprised and shocked to hear about subway signs asking people not to apply makeup in public,” Pane said. Cover Girl plunked women in the middle of Manhattan streets equipped with mirrors and encouraged them to apply their beauty products in a campaign called #ProjectPDA — public displays of application.

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Continuing to challenge conventional wisdom part of Pane’s playbook as Coty looks to restore luster to the acquired P&G brands while expanding sales in its own portfolio.

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Pane said social media and distribution channel shifts are disrupting the business.  “The consumer tells us what they want, where they want it, how they want it — I call it consumer power in action.”

The pace of innovation is also escalating. Compounding that is the emergence of entrepreneurs who Pane concurred have changed the industry. “I personally think it is a good thing, so thank you to all the entrepreneurs who keep us on our toes.”

In fact, he’s prompting Coty executives to duplicate the spirit associated with fledgling brands. “I tell people to think like a start-up, to keep disrupting the industry rather than be disrupted.” As part of that push he also tells his team to think of a new venture in regard to whether they would do it if they were spending their own money. “If not, then think twice before making that decision on behalf of the company.”

The time for change is coming to big companies as the beauty industry becomes more complex. “Our instinct is to dislike complexity,” he acknowledged. “But in reality, I think it is here to stay. Complexity in the beauty industry is the new normal and either we embrace it and make it part of how we do business or we’re never going to be around to experience the beautiful growth of this industry.”

Beauty is more than selling products, it is about an intimate connection. “Don’t get me wrong, I love selling product. But it is about a deep connection to the consumer that motivates me every day,” Pane added.

Pane admitted Coty has big challenges as it digests brands, some of which admittedly weren’t as healthy as they once were. “We are starting a new adventure and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in the last eight months. It is a hell of a start,” he said.