Karyn Khoury

The Estee Lauder Cos. Inc.'s Karyn Khoury told a room full of industry executives at last week's Women in Beauty Series.

The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.’s Karyn Khoury told a room full of industry executives at last week’s Women in Beauty Series at the Cosmetics Executive Women gathering that consumer insight was critical to the fragrance business during tough times.

This story first appeared in the March 13, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We know we are dealing with a consumer who feels besieged and who is feeling very unsure of her future so we have to send signals of value to the consumer — even in the luxury sector,” the senior vice president of corporate fragrance development worldwide for the Estée Lauder Cos. told a group of 400 people gathered at New York’s Harmonie Club, during a discussion with WWD Beauty Biz editor Jenny B. Fine. “Every single aspect of the fragrance experience needs to make her feel fantastic because you are competing with every other consumer category ”

Khoury said the current economic climate presents an opportunity to take brands to new heights, and pointed to Lauder’s launch of Sensuous — the company’s most successful debut since the introduction of Estée Lauder Pleasures in 1995 — as an exception to the self-denial rule during these tightfisted times. “We went far beyond reassuring consumers’ emotional connection and actually did subconscious research to connect Estée Lauder to consumer on a new platform,” said Khoury, who told the audience successful fragrance creation is a mixture of business analysis, science and magic. “The science of consumer insight, trying to get in the customer’s head and predict what she’s going to want and what’s relevant to her is critical.”

The 27-year Lauder veteran, who manages seven brands for the company, advised those in attendance to immerse themselves in their customers’ culture to better serve them. “You have to make them feel that you are coming from the same place because you are dealing with an emotional product,” she said. Citing art and travel as constant sources of inspiration and fresh perspective, Khoury said the current market is ripe for stimulation and surprises.

For those in the audience looking for some final words of wisdom, Khoury had this to say: “Consumers sense falseness, so know who you are, know what’s important to the consumer and answer it in a way that makes sense to you and the brand.”