NEW YORK — Of course, a constant flow of creativity and frequent reinvention is a must for success in the beauty industry.
Or is it?
Take a look at The Estée Lauder Cos.’ Clinique, sold in some 130 markets and the leading prestige beauty brand in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. Its potent three-step cleansing system hasn’t changed its point of view in a couple of decades. As Lauder’s chief operating officer William Lauder pointed out, the brand has maintained a consistent image and package. A print ad from 1974 shows a toothbrush in a glass with the heading Twice A Day, next to a photo of the Clinique trio — bar soap, toner and moisturizer — also with the heading Twice a Day. The 2000 version simply moved the toothbrush into the frame with the three cleansing items. Photographer Irving Penn has been the “visual voice of the brand since 1968,” noted Lauder, speaking at the HBA Global show Tuesday as part of a panel of executives that explored the idiosyncrasies of success in the beauty industry.
“You can stick with a key demographic and go with them as their tastes change, or stay on course with a consistent message,” said Lauder, suggesting Clinique has taken the latter route. “We are the antithesis of a fashion brand.” He added, “the consistency is what makes the consumer comfortable.”
Then there are brands that thrive because of their dedication to newness.
Sara Jaqua, who founded Jaqua Girls in 1997 with her two sisters, remarked that her company briefly lost its footing when rapid growth distracted them from creativity. They suddenly faced the dilemma “of maintaining creativity in a corporate environment,” she said. “We hired people who improved our margin and distribution, but when we started creating our products, it was different.” The problem was resolved by setting aside a “creative room,” distinct from where business was discussed.
John Wendt, executive vice president of L’Oréal U.S. corporate and public affairs, said he couldn’t agree more with Jaqua on the importance of keeping creativity alive in the corporate environment. “If the passion isn’t there, your business won’t succeed.” L’Oréal, he said, has adopted a position of diversity in its brand offerings. Each line essentially operates independently. “We have gone from being a French company that sells its products internationally to an international company with worldwide brands,” said Wendt. “One of our driving principles is that there is no one face of beauty.”
While Clinique has maintained a healthy business, the biggest challenge facing the beauty industry, said Lauder, is “continuing to grab attention — from consumers’ mind share and their pocketbook. We are fulfilling wants, not needs.”
Thomas Winarick, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Prestige Cosmetics, which markets the Prestige brand in the mass market, and vies for business with larger deep-pocketed lines like Maybelline and Cover Girl, said “when you live in my world — it is the true world of guerrilla marketing.” He believes the beauty industry is under constant pressure. Other than the computer sector, he remarked, “there is no other industry more reliant on new than this industry.”
He said a smaller line like his, which does not possess an advertising budget in the “tens of millions” comes under scrutiny every summer when planograms are reviewed. To stay in the game, Prestige is not afraid to “embrace change” and tries not to “chase trends but to stay ahead, if not in step with her.”
Makeup artist Vincent Longo, who markets a signature beauty line, said he finds it a struggle to dedicate time to the business side of his line, for it is his work as a makeup artist that provides the inspiration to create it. “Because of my schedule as an artist, my retail commitments need to be very limited,” he said.
“It is the persona that drives the brand,” said Longo, who started out filling bottles and jars in his kitchen for his celebrity clients like Sigourney Weaver. The Vincent Longo New York line, “is not based on marketing analysis.”
The sole retailer on the panel, Lyn Kirby, chief executive officer of Ulta, said consumers come to beauty stores because they are “looking for an indulgent purchase.”
The future of beauty is more about service channels than channels of distribution says Kirby. “She votes with her credit card and the way she votes is the way we need to be going.”