NEW YORK — The beauty consumer is getting loads of input when it comes to picking products.
Getting an advertising pitch from a manufacturer is just one of many influences weighing in on consumers today, from celebrities and makeup artists to dermatologists and plastic surgeons.
Fashion Group International sponsored a presentation Monday, moderated by Elle Group director Carol A. Smith, at the Waldorf-Astoria, exploring just how much leverage these outside factors have with consumers.
Apparently, a lot.
Cynthia Cohen, president of Strategic Mindshare, said people are starting to view their bodies like cars in that “they want to order what they want.” Those looking for areas where jobs are proliferating, she said, should think “image consultant.”
Cohen said beauty consumers are being heavily influenced by “the celebrity referral,” that is, hearing that a celebrity uses a certain product. This is somewhat understandable, she said “because there is so little time and so many products [to choose from].” Advertising today is needed to drive a product’s image, but to get it in the hands of the consumer, product placement is key. To do that, Cohen predicts more strategic partnerships will emerge linking retailers, manufacturers and media.
Rochelle Udell, executive vice president, chief creative officer, Revlon, who showed a video of Revlon models since the 1940s, said in order for a celebrity model to influence buying, the consumer needs to develop a relationship with the celebrity. A consumer has to relate to the model, “‘I want to feel the way she feels or look the way she looks,’” said Udell. “We pick them to identify with qualities of the brand.”
But things have changed with the explosion of around-the-clock media, noted Udell. “Celebrities are no longer static.” Tiers have formed among celebrities with stars, reality celebrities and even everyday celebrities rising from the news, for both good and bad reasons. Examples include murder suspect Scott Peterson and war hero Jessica Lynch.
Medical professionals are increasingly playing an influential role in beauty, noted Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields of Rodan & Fields Inc., now a division of The Estée Lauder Cos.
Cosmetic surgery is now available to anyone, any time, they said, and the media is playing a big influence. More doctors are moving into the field because patients are demanding those services and putting a premium on their importance. A colleague, they noted, had been stiffed on a bill after saving a patient in a medical crisis and was horrified to hear that the same patient had made good on a $20,000 bill for cosmetic surgery three months earlier.
The duo, while supportive of antiaging procedures in many cases, feel it is time to put the “brakes on the antiaging movement. It is going wild.”
Meanwhile, makeup artist Sonia Kashuk frequently finds herself put in a delicate position. “I am always asked first, ‘Who are your celebrity clients?’” It’s difficult to respond, said Kashuk, for “maybe they don’t want to have it known.” Also, she noted, “It’s odd for me to have their fame become part of my fame.”
Kashuk said she has found herself under new influence to buy products. During a recent trip to her dermatologist some skin care products were recommended. Kashuk, naturally, asked for the prescription. But there was none, they were just sold exclusively through the doctor’s office. “Because of the authority, I had to buy these products,” said Kashuk. The irony, she noted, is that she had spent several years creating her own line of skin care products that she stands behind. “I think I have fabulous products.”
In another arena, Kashuk finds she needs the media’s influence to help drive interest in her signature product line at Target. “Where I sell, I don’t have testers and I don’t have a sales force,” she said. Furthermore, she added, “I sell in a heavily competitive market with $100 million advertising campaigns. I have nothing close to that.”
At Federated Department Stores, Thia Breen, senior vice president, cosmetics, said makeup artist brands and cosmeceuticals lines have added new categories to the beauty floor. And appearances by makeup artists, such as Bobbi Brown on “The Today Show,” do influence the consumer.
Author and syndicated columnist Bernice Kanner said that media messages can influence a product image. For instance, she said, “Pantene is not shampoo, it is an antidote to dull hair.”
— Laura Klepacki