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CEW Series Talks Fragrance Collaborations

The talk focused on building a successful and sustainable fragrance business.

In a struggling fragrance market, Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, global brand president of Estée Lauder Aramis and designer fragrances division, knows how to stay ahead of the curve.

One example of a scent with staying power is DKNY’s Be Delicious, which moves one unit every eight minutes. To replicate that success, Gabai-Pinsky explained that the first time a consumer buys a fragrance it’s because they’re interested in the story. The second, third and fourth time they buy a fragrance it’s about the juice. “We have this mantra of ‘recruit, retain, revive’,” said Gabai-Pinsky.

That was one of the driving points at the Cosmetic Executive Women discussion session on Wednesday at The Harmonie Club. The talk, moderated by WWD Beauty Inc. editor Jenny B. Fine, focused on building a successful and sustainable fragrance business. It was part of CEW’s Women & Men in Beauty Series “Creative Collaborations in Beauty.”

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Faced with 1,100 fragrance launches a year, Gabai-Pinsky has reshaped what fragrance looks like at Estée Lauder with a mission to go after the category in a big and aggressive way.

“On one end you need to improve your growth margin because it’s essential in a category driven by advertising,” said Gabai-Pinsky. “After that, how do you execute in the marketplace? You have to drive the resources that you have by picking your priorities, by brand and by region.”

With recent additions to Estée Lauder’s fragrance portfolio such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Marni and Tory Burch, Fine asked what she looks for when adding a new brand.

“Strategically, you look at your current situation,” said Gabai-Pinsky. “You’re looking for properties that are not going to cannibalize each other and are going to help you win in certain segments of the category or in certain regions of the category. We look at the level of sales and the awareness of the brand today, but that’s not always sufficient. Sometimes a brand can be very small, but has a very high growth rate. Then, we look at the consumer we’re talking to and the regions of strength for that brand.”

When catering to each individual brand, Gabai-Pinsky said she feels it’s important to respect its identity. “We’re not here to transform their equity,” she said.

To that end, Fine asked Gabai-Pinsky what needs to be done to reinvigorate the fragrance category. 

“From a business standpoint, [the fragrance market] is actually losing 25 percent of its basic business every year,” she said. “If you want to grow you have to bring more than 25 percent of sales and innovation. That’s the reality of this business.”

Touching on analysis, Gabai-Pinsky spoke about how she uses analytic tools versus going with her gut.
“You need both,” she said. “This is a business about creativity and you can never stifle creativity. So you need to accept the level of risk that comes with creativity and sometimes your gut is a good thing. We use quantitative research, but we never use it as a decision tool. The information and vision and the way we want to go are informed by equity, the comprehension of our consumer and local tastes that exist around the world.”

To end the discussion, Fine asked the fragrance executive what drives her. “I’m not driven by power, I’m not driven by money. What drives my team is the passion for the craft,” she said. “If we can contribute to adding a little element of beauty and creativity to the people that we touch, then maybe we’ve done something right.”