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Clinique Tweaks, Not Overhauls, Strategy in Changing Beauty Times

Global brand president and Estée Lauder granddaughter Jane Lauder details how the skin-care and makeup brand is adjusting amongst an influx of indie brands.

Clinique may not be in with Millennials, but the brand certainly has its fingers crossed for Gen Z.

“The Millennials, they don’t really care much for quality, but when you start to hear more about Gen Z, they’re different,” said Clinique global brand president Jane Lauder at a CEW event at the Harmonie Club in New York on Thursday evening. “They’re more like Gen X because they’re more interested in quality.”

Lauder gave a broad look into Clinique’s effort to play in a changing beauty landscape, detailing her thoughts on retail channels, social media influencers and China, and sharing that Happy has made it back into the top 10 fragrances.

Clinique has struggled recently as consumers’ ever-increasing appetites for makeup have caused skin-care sales to slow down. In the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.’s latest fiscal quarter, Clinique’s numbers were hurt by a poorly timed gift with purchase program, executives said, as well as lower skin-care sales, specifically in the Asia-Pacific region.

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In an era filled with YouTube makeup tutorials and an influx of indie beauty brands, Clinique is sticking to its skin-care roots while shifting some strategies in order to adapt to the market.

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Clinique Tweaks, Not Overhauls, Strategy in Changing Beauty Times
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“The world is changing around us,” Lauder said. “How do you change fast enough to keep up without changing things that you don’t want to change?…It’s a very tough balance.”

One of the things the brand is doing differently is its advertising strategy, which now includes more “snackable content,” Lauder said. The brand is also starting to use its more than 20,000 consultants as ambassadors, which Lauder termed Cloggers (a Clinique/blogger word combination) as part of an effort to get into the influencer game as a skin-care-focused brand.

“What people love to watch is transformation,” Lauder noted of the makeup tutorial trend, adding she likes to watch them, too. “I’m never going to do it, but I love to watch it — it’s like cooking shows.” She also shared a yet-to-be released tutorial of her own skin-care routine.

Clinique is also working to adapt to each of its markets. In China, for example, the business hired a male actor to sell its products, a common practice for the region. “We found Doctor C, who plays a doctor on TV so it seemed…like it was a stretch, but it was a stretch I could live with,” Lauder said.

She also noted that while the barrier to entry in beauty is very low, the “barrier to quality and expertise is still pretty high.” While indies are all the rage now, she noted that other brand trends have come and gone.

“Ten years to 15 years ago, it was the doctor brands,” Lauder said. “And they were all coming and we were terrified and they were taking all the space. But people come and go — we’re kind of in it for the long run….You can’t be naïve, like, ‘oh we’re going to be fine,’ but you’ve got to do what you think is right and really speak about what makes you special.”

And for Clinique, Lauder said, that thing is dependability.

“Clinique is dependable, but dependable is not always the cutest girl in class,” Lauder said. “But when the pipes break, you realize you want dependable.”s

“We want to be who we are,” she added. “We’re not going to be the sexiest, newest, shiniest thing — we’re going to be Clinique, which is pretty great and cool.”