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PALM BEACH, Fla. — Innovate through empathy. That’s the advice presented by Madonna Badger, founder of Badger and Winters Group, and Jodi Kahn, executive vice president of iVillage Networks, at the recent WWD Beauty CEO Summit held here.

This story first appeared in the June 21, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Badger cited Bare Escentuals as the quintessential example. “Bare Escentuals did not invent mineral makeup — their genius was to create an easy and intuitive way for women to use it,” she said.

She went on to suggest that marketers understand the “thought clouds” women have, where they are constantly reviewing what they have to accomplish, such as buying shampoo, researching a party theme or deciding on natural versus organic.

Citing exhaustive research iVillage has accumulated by listening to and observing women’s digital routines, Kahn said the number of women engaged in social media is “staggering,” with 73 percent using some form every week and 52 percent reading blogs regularly. Women visit iVillage to share, and beauty is a hot topic, with 30 percent of the conversations on iVillage involving beauty. She said 9,000 individual beauty and style brands are mentioned weekly on the boards, and much of the beauty chatter is an offshoot of another conversation.

With that as a background, the duo discussed three important issues: distribution, sustainability and advertising. Kahn noted 81 percent of people research before they buy beauty, and 59 percent prefer a better brand to price in the health and beauty category. Specifically, many spoke of economic hardships and switching brands or shared advice on where to shop for specific needs.

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Badger said shoppers are willing to go to any lengths to get what they want. “We can make her life easier and more enjoyable by providing her with a place where she can get a lot more of her needs met,” she added, citing House of Fraser in the U.K., where women can get manicures and Botox, attend a Weight Watchers meeting and shop in one location.

When it comes to sustainability, iVillage research shows consumers want fewer disposable products and are willing to try environmentally friendly items. However, many of the programs offered by beauty companies are not known by the general public, and both speakers saw an opportunity to tout what the industry is doing.

As far as advertising, there is big spending without always big results. “We have a wonderful opportunity to differentiate and connect with our consumers visually. It is the most powerful sense to leverage and yet so many of us look the same. She uses her eyes to feel our brands in her heart, and so let’s give her something to fall in love with,” concluded Badger.

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