Photo Credit: FGI.org
On a sunny day in May, a bevy of beauty industry experts, influencers, bloggers and creative directors assembled in the Grand Ballroom of the New York Hilton to hear an informative Fashion Group International panel of six offer up their unique perspectives on what’s hot now and in the future and why.
Karen Young, President of The Young Group opened the luncheon event by introducing Jessica Matlin, Beauty Director of Harper’s Bazaar and co-founder of the podcast Fat Mascara. “Everything is niche today,” said Jessica. “Brands with a clear point of view that bring something no one else has said before are in demand. They feel authentic and relatable.” She added that if your brand doesn’t have an A list celebrity today, it can have an ethos. “Consumers want to be part of a cult, a tribe, and align themselves with the brand,” she said, pointing out that today dropping a new lipstick is big news, which we only saw in fashion before. “Products become cult fetish items or ‘must haves’. You see it on social and run to get it before it sells out.”
Moderator Zahida Subramanian, Partner MINY Division of J. Walter Thompson, introduced the formidable panelists; Marla Beck, co-founder and CEO of Blue Mercury, Inc, now part of the Macy’s Inc. family, Gerard Camme, President of Atelier Cologne, owned by L’Oreal, Anne Carullo, Senior Vice President Global Product Development, Estee Lauder, Tom Ford and GLAMGLOW, and David Chung, Founder & CEO of the uber popular natural brand Farmacy.
According to Marla Beck, to become a cult favorite you need longevity. “Among the brands that have longevity, that are loved and shared for a long time, are Skinceuticals C+E Serum, La Mer, and Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray.” She noted that Blue Mercury’s average customer is age 40, and that “customers want advice and they’re getting their information from so many sources, not just bloggers or influencers. Influencers tend to reach a younger audience. They want to know how they can find a great product, and how do they use it. We need to know which customer segment is getting their information from which piece of the pie. Our teams are beauty experts who face the customer,” she said.
Her advice for beauty innovators, “Find a niche and expand your point of view about a specific category and gain credibility in a certain area of expertise. It’s easy to do great work if it comes from inside and you cut the noise from outside.”
Gerard Camme described the unique experience his team has created in their Atelier boutiques. “Every brand today has a reason to tell a story. In our boutiques, there is an experience that our client is demanding today. It comes to life in every detail to experience the brand first hand from the start to walking out with a beautiful bag to take home. Our customers could easily buy online and push a button to have it delivered but they choose to come in.”
His advice is simply, “If you have an idea for a brand, do it with your heart. If you feel strongly about it, it’s going to work.”
Anne Carullo described her experience launching Tom Ford Beauty, which took the beauty world by storm. “The Tom Ford brand was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. I had the opportunity to work with someone who is so well renowned and sought after all over the world. His mission was to be the first luxury brand of the 21st century, which was a phenomenally tall order. When we began the beauty project it was extraordinarily meaningful in terms of what we wanted to launch. He was so involved and looked at the category with a different eye. The first launch was a curated collection of 12 shades of lip color, so he started just with lipstick. He is someone who had a vision for something very specific, and he refrained from doing everything all at once. You can continue to create your following by staying true to who you are, stretching the envelope a little, but never going outside that world that you created.”
What is a cult product? According to Carullo, “When you look at the spectacular cult products that started small, like Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair, it had its following and goes on and on through people who are true advocates.”
She added these wise words, “Think about the position of the product. If you are developing a cult product, you might want to go after a fringe category that is underserved, like the eye category. Pick the categories that may have pain points. Pick products that are intuitive to use, and are not too complicated. Lastly, stick with great people who can just get it done.”
Serial entrepreneur David Kung started his own company at age 24. His formula for success was just to go out and do it. “Sometimes when you know too much, you may be afraid to cross that bridge. If you have some incredible ideas and there is a demand in the market, don’t think too much, just go for it! The key is to find an entrepreneurial team that can execute and get the stuff done. I’m a true believer in having that energy and thinking constantly about what you love to do.”
He also commented on the importance of ingredients in developing brands. “Ingredient is the key factor. At Farmacy, we are constantly coming up with new extracts and new ideas. But it is down to talent of the chemist who can create that beautiful texture,” said Kung.
On the topic of what’s next, Beck explained Blue Mercury’s raison d’etre, “It’s all about how to maintain our DNA, how our customer is using products in their day to day real life. We are serving the woman who just wants to be confident.”
Subramanian concluded the program by asking the panelists, ‘As you look to the future what keeps you up at night?’ According to Carullo, “What keeps me up at night is social media because it keeps changing.”
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