Karen Buglisi Weiler’s worst nightmare is MAC’s talent losing belief in the brand.

“When we lose the connection to the people around the world, when they don’t believe as much as we believe, everything changes,” she said, adding, “In the position we’re in now, we have to understand where we are strong and how to do that better. That’s to me the best way to continue to sustain the growth we’ve had in the past.”

As much as shepherding product launches or breaking into new countries, Buglisi Weiler views nurturing the brand’s differentiated culture as critical to her role as MAC’s global brand president. She takes a cue from Leonard Lauder, now chairman emeritus of Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., who impressed upon her after the company acquired MAC that the brand would suffer greatly if its culture deteriorated.

“Leonard Lauder said to [executive group president] John Demsey and myself, ‘You know, you have got to keep MAC, MAC. In fact, if you can make MAC even more MAC, that’s the best thing to do,’” recounted Buglisi Weiler.

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In particular, she emphasized three pillars that distinguish MAC in the beauty marketplace: artistry, diversity and creativity. The brand employs 20,000 makeup artists around the world. To foster those artists’ creativity, MAC issues two challenges to its artists monthly to inspire them to come up with makeup looks that they post on social media with the hashtag #MACArtistChallenge. The follower counts of artists jump upon Instagram reposts of those hashtagged looks by MAC.

MAC’s goal is to ensure the quality of makeup artistry at its stores is high globally. That’s not always an easy feat. Early on in MAC’s venture into India, Buglisi Weiler lamented “the makeup artistry wasn’t there. They weren’t good makeup artists at all and, if we’re basing everything that we do on makeup artistry, this is a problem.”

Seeking a remedy to the lackluster quality in India, MAC implemented a boot camp-style training program designed to enhance the makeup capabilities of artists in countries it enters. To date, MAC has held 18 boot camps in 14 countries, and 2,000 artists have been through them.

Evidence of MAC’s diversity is found in its extensive roster of makeup artists, vast product assortment, multichannel strategy, various store formats and swelling geographic footprint. Buglisi Weiler underscored MAC’s selection contains almost 300 lipstick shades and 350 foundations. In terms of retail, she pointed out the brand senses opportunities for expansion in Europe and the U.S. as well as tier-one and tier-two cities outside the U.S. and Europe.

“The only way you’re going to protect yourself to have sustainable growth is to have diversity of geographies ’cause there’s going to be a moment when you hit a blip in one of those countries, and the only thing that is going to protect you is to have growth coming out of other markets, which is kind of simple to say, but it’s very important,” said Buglisi Weiler.

To maintain sustainable growth, MAC is careful not to overextend itself. Buglisi Weiler stressed the brand sticks to a limited distribution in 2,300 stores, a tiny fraction of the total international doors it could conceivably sell at. The brand is also reviewing the number of collections it releases yearly after hitting 90. “We need to scale back,” said Buglisi Weiler. “It’s not scaling back to none, but it’s scaling back to maybe 70 or 80 to make sure that we are…focusing on what makes the most difference.”

Although the beauty industry is changing at a rapid pace and MAC is changing with it, the original vision cofounders Frank Angelo and Frank Toskan had for the brand is never far from Buglisi Weiler’s mind as she evaluates its many initiatives. “Don’t forget where you came from,” she asserted, continuing, “Then, you leverage and make bigger what you are good at.”

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