FRANK TALK ABOUT LEADERSHIP AND CREATIVITY IN A 1965 INTERVIEW.
Byline: Barry Drucker, August 1965
He is tough, feared and respected…he is admired and hated.
He had been called a dictator, but will listen to ideas.
When it comes to Revlon Inc., Charles Revson doesn’t bend.
“Only one man can run a business. Everyone can say what he likes, but when it comes to the decision there has to be only one boss.”
“Leadership is the hardest cloak to wear. When you cut through all the icing, success is based on how consistent you are. Sure, you are good today, but there are always the tomorrows. It is 30-some-odd-years now for Revlon, and we are still strong and virile. I think this is a pretty good batting average.”
It is not only a pretty good batting average, but the scorecard is as green with dollar signs as the eye makeup that helped fill it.
Revlon, under the sharp-eyed tutelage of Charles Revson has painted, colored, sprayed, brushed, curled and creamed its way from an original $300 investment to a $195 million volume in 1964.
The company has progressed and diversified to such a degree that when Mr. Revson starts to buy stock in any other firm, directors think of only one thing: acquisition. In 1964, Revlon acquired Belvedere Products Inc. (beauty salon fixtures), Rico International Ltd. (manufactures of artificial flowers), Belmont Laboratories Co. (a proprietary drug firm) and in 1965, the American Corp. (producer of plastic components for computers, which will now also be used for Revlon’s packaging.)
Other Revlon subsidiaries are the Professional Products division, The Realistic Co. (supplying a complete line of products and fixtures for beauty salons), Knomark (Esquire) Inc. (shoe polish and coloring), Zunino-Altman Inc. (artificial flowers), Evan-Picone (women’s sportswear) and Royal Lynne Ltd. (manufacturer of silk dresses and robes.)
Revlon International has 19 wholly owned corporations abroad and 14 licensed manufacturers that service 83 overseas markets.
Net sales increased from $50,769,530 in 1955, when the firm first went public, to last years $195,118,039.
Recently, the company rid itself of one major back eye pancake makeup couldn’t hide. The controlling 320,270 shares of Schick Electric Inc. were sold for approximately $4 million. The maker of electric shavers and household appliances just would not respond to the magic Revlon touch.
“Creativity,” contends Charles Revson, “is one of the most important reasons for our success.”
Some say color is responsible for Revlon’s rapid rise. Others point to the development of a cream nail polish (a nail polish that was opaque) early in the life of the company as the first major thrust forward…the combination of nail polish and matching lipstick, say others.
Yet each claim comes back to Mr. Revson’s reason for success: creativity. For each was a major breakthrough for its time.
Discussing another creative surge: “The brush-on technique was probably the most important development in the cosmetic world in the last 10 years. It has become part of our times — quick and easy — just what the women of today are looking for.”
What are some of the ideas that drive a man like Charles Revson directly at success?
On advertising: “Create ads that someone wants to look at. Create a situation that will instill a powerful desire in the reader. (We have been changing our ads. The models are younger, more desirable and more vibrant.) Above everything else, each and every ad must express the same character of quality we have imposed upon ourselves.
“Direct the copy at one woman — the gal you expect wants the product. After all, every product must have thousands of people interested in it. Talk to her. Very rarely use a lot of copy. You do not have to get the entire story in just one ad — build for the entire impact.”
And the impact has been built at a cost for advertising, publicity, display and promotion of $16 million this year.
On retailing: “Merchants should try to create a mood in the cosmetic departments just as they do for the better dresses…a heavier carpet, a change of lighting. It provides a different feeling and sets the mood to buy, especially since cosmetics are personal and intimate. Buying cosmetics is different from purchasing other main-floor items.
“Merchants should make a serious effort to capitalize on the advertising cosmetic manufacturers do to create an important brand name. Dramatize the name in stores, display it better, take advantage of all the money spent.”
On fashion: “Years ago, friends would come running to me each season with fabric swatches. ‘These are the new colors,’ they would say. ‘Hurry up and make lipsticks to go with them.’ Well, it always turned out that navy and black, sometimes with a touch of white, were the important colors.
“We are not that interested in a particular fashion, but rather a general trend. Today, for example, the direction is towards youth. What’s the difference where the belt is or how short a skirt is — it still remains the trend is toward youth. The degree of casualness with which women dress is also very important. The ease of use and speed with which makeup may be applied are all wrapped in the same coat and suit made by a ready-to-wear manufacturer.
“In our ads, we feature fashions that have interest centered at the necklines because most of our ads show only the top of the body. Some of the clothes in our ads turn out to be very successful. We had a dress made for us by Bill Blass. When the ads began to appear, we received so many calls asking where the the dress could be bought that Blass had to put it in his line. It eventually became one of his bestsellers.
“But getting back to fashion. Everything is centered on youth. Designers are making young things, the world wants to be young. A cosmetic firm has to express that young look.”
On expansion: “We will be expanding and growing within the cosmetic and fragrance field — first. Further diversification will most probably come in the drug field. This, of course, does not mean we would not consider some other areas if we felt it was right us.”
Men’s cosmetics: “The time is now. We are introducing a new line this fall called Pub. It will be a men’s cologne and after-shave lotion for a start. Later, probably soap and talcum powder. We are also repacking our That Man line.
“I have no doubts there will be a complete men’s cosmetic boutique in department stores before long. It all revolves around the country’s passion for being and looking young. Men today are more clothes conscious. They keep trim and fit. A man wants to keep himself desirable. He is starting to think about creams and lotions, coloring his hair to keep himself young looking — there’s the world again, young. First the fragrances will become a success, then cosmetics.”
“I am sure some day the men’s fragrance business will equal that of women’s. We will see an explosion of companies into this area this year and next, each attempting to grab off a big chunk of this coming bonanza. Unfortunately, many are doomed to failure.”
The industry: “The economy has helped make the cosmetic business. There is a lot of money around. People are free to spend. What was once considered a luxury has now become a necessity. A woman at one time bought a hat to cheer herself up — today she buys a lipstick.”
On the look: “I abhor the over-make-up look. The greasy look is just awful. Often, women think they are making themselves look just dewy — actually, they only succeed in making themselves appear greasy. I am a firm believer in elegance. Elegance doesn’t mean old. A 16-year-old girl can have elegance. One can look elegant in almost anything. It means grace, bearing, a well-dressed and made-up woman.”
On Revlon: “When I first went into business, I felt if the business made a $100,000 a year, I would be rich and content. When Revlon made the $1 million mark, I looked for five. Now, I truthfully cannot even imagine how big we might become.
“Stores themselves don’t know how far they can expand. The world’s population is rapidly growing; new markets and products provide unlimited opportunity. The men’s cosmetic and fragrance markets alone should give a huge thrust to the business.
“I definitely feel there will be far more Revlon — more and more and more.”
“Merchants should try to create a mood in the cosmetic departments just as they do for the better dresses…a heavier carpet, a change of lighting. It provides a different feeling and sets the mood to buy, especially since cosmetics are personal and intimate. Buying cosmetics is different from purchasing other main-floor items. merchants should make a serious effort to capitalize on the advertising cosmetic manufacturers do to create an important brand name.”