“It’s about pulling the news through the noise,” said Elaine D’Farley, beauty director of Self Magazine, quoting Liz Heron, the first social media editor of The Wall Street Journal. Focusing on the changes in consumer behavior, D’Farley discussed her magazine’s exploration of social media. She was joined in the discussion by Laura McEwen, vice president and publisher of Self. The magazine had sponsored the recent panel discussion, titled “Changing Lanes,” which was organized by the Fashion Group International panel.

The panel, moderated by Karen Young, chief executive officer of The Young Group, featured Laurie Black, general merchandise manager and executive vice president of cosmetics at Nordstrom Inc.; Mike Indursky, president of Bliss; Peter Lichtenthal, president of Bumble and bumble, and Jill Scalamandre, chief marketing officer of Chrysallis. All four addressed the transformation in consumer behavior and talked about how they’ve adjusted their brands.

Young began by asking the panelists to share the changes they’ve initiated at their companies. “Strengthen the core of your brand and make sure it speaks with one voice,” said Indursky. “From a p.r. standpoint, if you want to learn about the smoky-eye look, more people look to what a 13-year-old says on YouTube than a woman who has been writing about this for 13 years, so don’t lose control of your communication.”

Scalamandre focused on knowing your customers, how they are similar to those who purchase competitive brands and how they are different. “We looked at it in terms of awareness, engagement, conversion and loyalty,” said Scalamandre. “Find out what makes your customer tick and zero in on what makes her focused. For StriVectin we did a segmentation study and focused on the self-made woman. We advertised in Time magazine and because the reader was directed to call a 1-800 number, we were able to measure how many people called in.”

Lichtenthal explained that Bb began as a salon brand, and from that foundation the company has held the same values for 30-plus years. “We remain true to those values when we’re changing lanes and transforming our business,” said Lichtenthal. Bb sells its products to salons 96 percent of the time. But in 2008, it had to look at the market in terms of the consumer and break precedent. Bb distributed courtesy cards to clients of Sephora Inc. to use at a network salon and receive a free consultation and blow-dry. “The key was to make a bold move and go where no hair care company had gone before,” said Lichtenthal. 

Meanwhile, from a retailer point of view, Black focused on what drives the customer, and discussed Nordstrom’s customer-centric product-service strategies. “At Nordstrom, we’re focused on customer-centric product-service strategies and, let me just say, that has changed in the past couple of years,” said Black. “First of all, our customer has been changing just as fast as everyone has been talking about. The thing about our customer is that she’s changing all the time. We have an inverted-pyramid structure where the customer is at the top, sales people are next and management is at the bottom. For years, we relied on listening to our salespeople, how do they think we can do more business, how do they think we can serve the customer better. And I’ll tell you, the last couple of years our salespeople maybe haven’t kept up with how fast our customer is changing. Some of the things, actually a lot of the things our customers are telling us, our salespeople don’t want to do. We don’t really have to change how we do our business, we have to sell our salespeople on it.”

Young addressed the multiple distribution levels that Bumble and bumble contributes to and asked how they manage each one. “We’ve done a lot of research on what users and nonusers think of us,” said Lichtenthal. Scalamandre explained that in terms of StriVectin, each individual channel has its own role. “For us, QVC is really an educational and awareness-building channel,” said Scalamandre. 

“It’s not enough to be navigators through change,” said Lichtenthal. “Be ahead of the curve, take risks and win in each individual channel. You can’t just go half way.”

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