Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Yin and Yang of the Beauty Business

On Thursday, April 20, I attended a highly informative beauty event hosted by Fashion Group International and sponsored by The Elle Group, Estee Lauder, and International Flavors & Fragrances: a networking reception and luncheon held at the New York Hilton, called, ‘Beauty’s New Balance- Science and Nature’. The examination and discussion of the “ever-changing world of beauty”, the “yin and yang” of the business (in this case, the yin signifies the natural, organic, and holistic side, and the yang signifies the high tech, scientific approach), and the ongoing relationship between dermatologists and the cosmetic industry was pondered and brought to life by the highly qualified, recognizable group of experts that took to the stage after the wonderful meal was served.

Moderated by Carol A. Smith, Senior Vice President, Elle Group Publishing Director, the panel included Joseph Gubernick, Chief Marketing Officer, Estee Lauder Companies, Inc.; Howard Kreitzman, Vice President, Cosmetics & Fragrance, Bloomingdale’s; Betsy Schmatz, EVP Creative & Technical Innovations, Beauty Avenues- Div. Limited Brands; Lauren Thaman, Global Director, P&G Beauty Science, Procter & Gamble; and Stephane Wilmet, General Manager, SkinCeuticals, L’Oreal USA.

After a quick trend overview (Elle Magazine’s Global Beauty Report, “What Women Really Want”), Carol made a few brief comments and observations, noting that from her experience, “women want it all and are willing to pay for it”, “they shop everywhere”, and “the consumer who buys hi tech wants immediate results while those who buy organic products want to feel as if they’re taking care of themselves”. She also jokingly likened walking the aisles of the cosmetic department in Bloomingdales to being in a hospital, thanks to all the dermatologist- based skin care lines. She then introduced the panel and asked questions of each.

What were some highlights and best quotes?

Joseph Gubernick: “We all want to live long enough to LIVE LONG ENOUGH, and look and feel good at the same time”.

“There are a lot of cheaters out there- people calling something organic when it isn’t organic…therefore I just don’t like the word”. “There is nothing more high tech than nature, it’s the ultimate Einstein.”

(On the trends towards dermatologists launching their own skin care lines) “The media has created this ‘expert’ panel of doctors. It began as a marketing tool which was supported by the media but then doctors discovered there was a business in this, and that they could sell products in their offices and in stores. They learned that they could be ‘product people’. But doctors are no more expert than we are, in fact, they’re LESS expert. We are teaching the doctors the business.”

Betsey Schmatz: “There was a major change in what consumer’s want after 9/11”

Howard Kreitzman: “Consumers are highly knowledgeable and educated and driven by a culture of demonstrable results.”

“I believe that everything we sell at Bloomingdales works!”

“There are two important factors which contribute to making that sale at retail: 1- the demand created by the marketing agency, 2- the person behind the counter who interacts with the customer (the personal touch).”

Lauren Thaman: (regarding skin care) “There is a “coming together of natural products and spirituality- a desire for realness” (which is mirrored by the popularity and influx of all the reality TV shows), a desire for simplicity and to simplify, and a trend towards the homegrown and for natural products that are high tech”.

“In the future, we can look for changes in consumer habits which reflect the realization that not all natural things are good for you.”


Stephane Wilmet: “Every 7 seconds someone turns 50… 50 is the new 30!”.

“As a society, we are embracing technology; we’re selling solutions to people.”

“Dermatology is not a science, it’s an art. The expertise is not in ONE dermatologist but in dermatology.”

Oh, and I almost forgot the best part: the generous goody bag which awaited each guest at the table. It was filled with enough beauty products (anti aging skin lotions, hair conditioners, body creams, etc. from Estee Lauder, Olay, Clairol, SkinCeuticals, and Bigelow Apothecaries, to take me through the summer and hope

Marilyn Kirschner

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