First impressions from the WWD Beauty CEO Summit

Last night was the opening night of the WWD Beauty CEO Summit, an event that takes place at the Breakers in Palm Beach every other year. For the last four years, I have wanted to go. I kept thinking “when I grow up, this is the conference I want to attend.” While I am not yet all grown up (and neither is my brand), I decided it was time to see for myself what this is all about (thanks Dad for the early birthday present!). And if the rest of the Summit lives up to last night, this trip will have been well worth it.

First stop, of course, a blowout (with Chardonnay and my computer of course). Unthinkable to attend such an event with my usual low-maintenance hair!

Second stop, my room – with a view! Upon walking in, I immediately decide that even if the entire Summit is cancelled right this second, the trip will have been well worth it. I am already planning my next visit to the Breakers…

Third stop, opening cocktail reception and dinner. And here, the fun really starts. From finally meeting Jill Beraud, CEO of Living Proof and realizing how many people we know in common, to running into Cassandra Lappe, beauty buyer for Zappos (who, we realized then, had had her hair blown out right next to me earlier that afternoon), I realized once again what a small industry this is, and how fabulous the people in it are.

The keynote speaker during dinner was Frederic Roze of L’Oreal USA – but at my table, the keynoters were really the founders of GlamGlow, Shannon and Glenn Dellimore. I could not stop listening to them tell their amazing story. The fabulous and glitzy couple met on,  never meant to start a beauty company, created a product for their friend Keanu Reeves, and the rest, as they say, is history. Launched in 2010 with a single product (a mask at that!), they will end this year with $200-$250 million in sales (from 4 SKUs!). They are in 84 countries, and in all in the “leading retailer, in all their doors” and are looking to the spa, travel, and cruise ship markets to expand. Five years from now, they project being a $1B+ brand, and present in many categories beyond skin care (think hair, fashion, lifestyle…).  Like a groupie, I asked question after question, but stopped just shy of asking if I could take a picture with them…

And now, on to Day 2!

My favorite Estee Lauder quotes

On this day 10 years ago, an industry icon, a woman I would have loved to meet, passed away. I think about Estee Lauder (the woman, the business, the brand(s)) often, but even more today. In many ways, she is to me the personification of the American dream – creating a multi-billion dollar beauty empire with her family. She changed the lives of millions of women, and her products continue to do so today.

Over the years, I have saved article clippings about her, and have read and re-read her autobiography. Here are some of the lessons, quotes, and “Lauderisms” I love the most.

On hard work

“I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by  working for it.”

“I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.”

“It’s one thing becoming successful, but it’s hard to stay that way. Who helped me? I helped myself. I have done every job in the company.”

On selling beauty products

“If you put the product into the customer’s hands, it will speak for itself  if it’s something of quality.”

“Whether you are the chairperson of the board or want to charm him, you need beauty and femininity as well as wisdom and strength.”

“If you don’t sell, it’s not the product  that’s wrong, it’s you.”

“Touch a face. Touch a hand. Say, ‘This is for you, this is what I want you to wear.’”

“To sell a cream, you sold a dream in the early days.”

On business strategies

“Keep an eye on the competition: … but this doesn’t mean copying them.”

“Trust your instincts: my first reaction is almost invariably the right one.”

“Learn to say no: … executives much learn to say no to inferior products and ideas; no to those who seem to be making a mistake.”

“Write things down: your mother probably told you this. She’s right.”

“Hire the best people: you can be the direct of the company but you can’t be there to direct all the time.”

“Train the best sales force.”

“Give credit where credit is due: simply said, if you want loyalty and best effort, you must be thoughtful.”

And perhaps my favorite of all time: “Act tough: what other call tough, I call persistent.”

The wisdom of Arianna Huffington

Yesterday, during the first few hours of Cosmoprof Las Vegas and PBA Beauty Week, I brushed elbows with Pamela Anderson (BayWatch is actually one of the few TV shows I watched during high school, so this was a big deal), and attended the City of Hope gala, which was MCd by Mario Lopez (while I never watched Saved by the Bell, I did have a crush on him at some point during my teenage years). Yesterday, I thought, was a special day. This morning, however, put yesterday to shame. This morning, I had the opportunity to see and listen to Arianna Huffington. If given the chance to dine with the person of my choice, she would be the one (ahead of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, or Brad Pitt). This morning, she was absolutely amazing. I am in awe of her. This morning, she made me want to write for her even more, and even better.

This morning, she spoke about the necessity of taking care of our “human capital.” What resonated most with me was her message about sleep, and the ability to disconnect. One of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to develop a better morning routine (my current morning routine involves looking at my emails on my phone about ½ second after my phone alarm goes off, before even being fully awake). Last year, I did not succeed at this resolution. Today, Arianna inspired me to try again.

As a self-proclaimed “sleep evangelist,” she has made her bedroom a technology-free room. When she asked how many of us in the audience slept with our phones next to our bed, most of us raised our hands. I certainly do, sometimes even my phone in my bed. She has made it a habit to give alarm clocks as gifts. I do have an alarm clock, purchased early last year when I made that morning routine resolution – I have yet to learn how to use it.

She also discussed the need to give yourself at least 5 minutes in the morning to “re-enter the world,” before reaching for our various devices and reading the news or emails. This coming from the leader of a 24/7 online news and content company…

She spoke of our need to be constantly connected as “an addiction.” She spoke of the need to unplug and recharge. She spoke of the importance of being able to wonder at life, to notice its beauty. Wondering and noticing are hard to do when constantly connected to a device. How often do I text or check emails while walking, instead of looking around me and noticing the beauty of the sky, of my surroundings? Without even noticing the people around me…

On Tuesday, when I get home, I will charge my phone in a room other than the bedroom, and spend 5 minutes on Wednesday morning thinking about what I am grateful for, and what my goals are for that day. Thank you Arianna. And thank you for signing my copy of On Becoming Fearless!

Washington Spa Alliance celebrates

While people may not think of DC as the Capital of Spa, and while indeed it probably is not (no matter how I try to argue the case!), last night was a great reminder of the spa and wellness forces in our greater area. We had our Washington Spa Alliance annual in-person board meeting yesterday during the day, followed by a member get-together at my new favorite place, The Capella DC.

Among the attendees of both meetings were represented such wellness entrepreneurs as one of the founders of the International Spa Association; the senior VP of spa operations and retail development of Red Door Spas; the spa manager of Salamander Resort and Spa, which is due to open in Middleburg in August; the president of Relax & Rejuvenate (a company based in Charlottesville that offers in-room treatment programs to hotels that do not have spas, including The Capella DC); a representative from WTS, based in Rockville, a company that manages many of the spas that you have probably been to, and more.

While we might not be the spa capital of the country, there certainly are some exciting developments happening in spa and wellness in this city… today and for the couple of years to come (Trump DC anyone?). It’s a great time to be in the spa and wellness industry in DC!

The secret recipe to MoroccanOil's success?

I am fascinated, some might say obsessed, by new-ish beauty brands who make it big quick. Brands that come to mind include Living Proof, Kate Somerville, and MoroccanOil. I think about these brands all the time. How did they do it? What is their secret ingredient; the secret sauce? What can I learn from them? What are they doing that I am not doing? I wish there were Harvard case studies on all of these brands.

Today, at Premiere Orlando, I spent so much time at the MoroccanOil booth I think I got as close to a case study as I can. The hair industry is still somewhat foreign to me, but even as a lay consumer in the world of shampoos, colors (I know not to say dyes anymore), extensions, and tools, I can tell MoroccanOil is IT. I walked the entire floor of the show, and nowhere else did I feel the energy, excitement, and yes, happiness, than I did at their booth. And I went back three times. To try, and try, and try some more to understand their magical formula to success.

Here are my initial observations.

  1. The booth space dedicated to hair demonstrations was almost nil. Two salon chairs at two  corners, hardly the focus, with demonstrations of blow-drys and curling. This was in complete contrast to most of the other booths that featured elaborate stages with extensive seating, multiple models on stage in various stages of dress, and multiple stylists in various stages of creation.
  2. The women representing the brand were classy and fully clothed. Again, this being a hair show, female anatomy was both prominent and visible, as one of my male friends put it, all “tits and tans.” By contrast, the women at the MoroccanOil booth were dressed in conservative skirt suits, still of course sporting the stiletto heels that are an industry standard (in muted colors, and no platforms). Elevating the look of the industry, if you ask me.
  3. Don’t think however that this conservatively dressed salesforce means that the brand lacks sex appeal. The music was loudest in that booth, while sexy hair and runway models walked the catwalk in skimpy outfits on two huge TV screens. It is a hair show, after all.
  4. Then there is the omnipresent MoroccanOil bag. At each corner of the booth a smiling woman is handing one to anyone who passes by, no need to stop by the booth or seem interested in the product. If you want a bag, you can have a bag. And a nice bag it is, containing some product literature and the two hero products that made this brand, MoroccanOil Treatment and MoroccanOil Treatment Light. Leaving the show tonight, 3 out of 4 people were carrying this bag.

With these initial observations, I had to go back and look, learn, some more. I spoke to three representatives, all who were perfectly nice and knew the product, and never even looked down at my badge to see where I was from, or asked me about my business. (There is nothing I hate more than being treated one way or another based on my badge). So here is what I learned by speaking to their brand ambassadors:

  1. The product is not discounted at the show. All individual products are sold at the same price as you would get them any other day.
  2. The show specials are the kits that they offer, 10 total. Three of these kits are travel kits, the other are beautiful product assortments in various vanity bags. These are only available at shows.
  3. They change these kits once a year, i.e. the kits will be the same for every 2013 show MoroccanOil participates in, changing in January 2014.
  4. Wholesale prices are 50% of recommended retail prices.
  5. The top sellers are their MoroccanOil Treatment products (the original and the Light). [This confirms what my board tells me during every board meeting: figure out your hero product and build your brand on that one product.]

I was so intrigued I had to do some online research. Here is what I found, and did not find.

  1. The story starts with Chilean-born Carmen Tal, who had a disastrous hair treatment at a salon in Tel Aviv. Somehow that disastrous hair treatment led to an argan oil treatment, which so convinced her of the benefits of this ingredient she bought (with her now ex-husband) a small Israeli company that imported argan oil from Morocco. Wanting to bring this product to the US, she started with her hero product, MoroccanOil Treatment, and grew the brand from there.
  2. She started her brand about six years ago.
  3. In our seemingly ingredient-obsessed industry, the full ingredient listing is not listed on the official company website or in the brand’s beautiful product brochure.
  4. The ingredients are, however, listed on the products included in the goodie bag. The original MoroccanOil Treatment ingredients are (as listed on the label): Cyclomethincone. Dimethicone. Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil (Argan oil). Fragrance (Parfum). Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Extract. Buthylphenyl Methylpropional. Benzyl Benzoate. Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone. CI 26100 (D&C Red no. 17). CI 47000 (D&C Yellow no. 11). I have never had an issue with synthetic ingredients in personal care products (as I like to remind some of my own clients, most modern-day medications are synthetic, and aren’t we glad they exist; or, poison ivy is natural, but does that mean you want it in your moisturizer?). Nonetheless, it still amazes me that the core of this product formula is silicone derivatives. Nothing new or natural there…
  5. As of this post, MoroccanOil has 6,127 followers on Twitter, 76,643 fans on Facebook, and a Klout score of 61 (Klout scores measure one’s overall online influence). [In comparison, Aveda has 48,756 followers on Twitter, 899,073 Facebook fans, and a Klout score of 81.]

What is the secret to MoroccanOil’s success? I still don’t know. And I will continue to obsess over it.

Wisdom from WWD's Beauty Summit

Back in the office after a day and a half of WWD Beauty Summit, my head is so full of information, ideas, and inspiration that I can barely think straight. My mother’s advice when that happens is to write things down: lists, to-dos, key learnings. Putting things on paper, she always told me, will clarify your thinking. So that’s what I am doing… for myself, and also partly for you who might not have been able to attend.

While it is impossible for me to say who was my favorite speaker (well, of course, other than Leonard Lauder who was the keynote speaker of the dinner), it is easy for me to share the one liners that resonated the most with me…


On Digital

“The digital world is like the air we breathe; we only notice it when it is not here.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“It’s pretty damned crowded on that Google highway.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“The beauty industry is not leading the way in digital innovation.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“Today is not about brand loyalty, but about brand advocacy.” Julia Goldin, Revlon

“Digital should never be an afterthought, a project… digital is the way we live.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“We can’t let digitization sanitize the essence of beauty.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“Never think you can fool the customer; the bloggers with get you!” Leonard Lauder, Estee Lauder

“No brand is going to survive if it does not have a digital component to it.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“It’s very last century to think of digital media as isolated from the rest of your marketing strategy.” Gina Boswell, Unilever


On Bricks and Mortar

“The internet is not going to kill retail.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“Every great city needs its iconic department store.” Corinne Jacques, Rive Gauche

“In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.” Charles Revson, as quote by Julia Goldin, Revlon

“I go to other people’s stores to find out what pisses me off and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“JC Penney needs a little therapy.” Norma Kamali

“We need retailers in the US to believe here is a 3rd way, somewhere between department stores and mass.” Aliza Jabes, Nuxe

“Be a destination, not an obligation or an inspiration.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“When you grow too fast, you lose your soul.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie


On Age and Beauty

“This baby will live to be 120.” Gordon Farquhar, Alliance Boots

“Most people see the ideal age as 31.” Linda Wells, Allure

“I am 47 and I still think in my brain that I am somewhere between 28 and 36.” Brooke Shields

“I have to choose my ass or my face… when I am heavier, I look younger.” Brooke Shields

“I have clearly chosen my face over my ass.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“A facelift without treating skin is like reupholstering a sofa with dirty fabric.” Tina Alster,  MD, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery

“We all believe that we look younger than we are.” Linda Wells, Allure

“Men want to look like they are old enough to have the job they have, so they don’t come to me asking to look a decade younger.” Tina Alster, MD, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery

“How do you look your best at 75 when you are trying to find your 3rd life partner?” Gordon Farquhar, Alliance Boots

“Put older women on the pages of your magazines.”  Tina Alster, MD, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery


On the Beauty Consumer

“We could be in danger of having a bored beauty consumer.” Ed Burstell, Liberty London

“American women want instant gratification and quick fixes.” Mathilde Thomas, Caudalie

“American women do not understand the subtleties of French packaging.” Mathilde Thomas, Caudalie

“One in two households has a Suave product in their households.” Gina Boswell, Uniliver

“When it comes to how she looks, the biggest pressure is the pressure she puts on herself.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“We see firsthand everyday how hard women are on themselves; there is a lot of crying in the fitting room!” Claire Chambers, Journelle

“Only 4% of adult women think they are beautiful, which is deplorable.” Gina Boswell, Univelever

“People identify with people, not ingredients.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“Listen to your customers; sometimes they know more than you do.” Leonard Lauder, Estee Lauder


On Trends

“What is new and unique today is likely to be irrelevant tomorrow.” Ded Henretta, P&G

“The beauty business is on the verge of new prosperity.” Peter Born, WWD

“I find the idea that the era of single digit growth in the luxury beauty market has arrived unacceptable; I am quite convinced that the luxury beauty segment can continue to sustain double digit growth.” Carol Hamilton, L’Oreal

“Treating the body from top to bottom is the next step.” Ed Burstell, Liberty London

“The holistic approach is the next big thing.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“Skin care is by far the largest category in China, but men’s grooming has great potential.” Hua Fang, Shanghai Jahwa United

“About our spas: no big news here today, we have not yet found the recipe to making them profitable.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie

“Today’s world is VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“Red is still the highest selling lipstick color.” Julia Goldin, Revlon

“Focusing on cities will be the unique way to achieve growth.” Nathalie Remy, McKinsey

“We sell one Huile Prodigieuse every 6 seconds worldwide.” Aliza Jabes

“It’s about launching less products and opening fewer doors.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie


On Emotions

“There is an emotional deficit in the world that we as brands can fill.” Wende Zomnir, Urban Decay

“Beauty is personal and emotional, and will always be that way.” Marla Malcolm Beck, Bluemercury

“Inspiration can come from anywhere, as long as you have your eyes open.” Julia Goldin, Revlon

“I like to get really emotional on the data.” Wende Zomnir, Urban decay

“Better be lucky than smart.” Michael Kaplan, Fashion to Figures Stores

“There isn’t a woman in the world who can’t be taken down by a bad hair day.” Norma Kamali

“Happiness is like eyelashes; it is so close to your eyes, sometimes you can’t see it.” Francis Kurkdjian


About the French (from the French!)

“The French consumer is more reasonable.” Aliza Jabes

“We have to stop thinking like typical negative French people.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie

“Paris is the most beautiful city on Earth, but in wealth it is #4, whereas New York is #2.” Nathalie Remy, McKinsey

“I became obsessed with pleasure of use, with texture, with fragrance.” Aliza Jabes, Nuxe


More Words of Wisdom from Leonard Lauder

“A business without a vision isn’t a business, it’s just a pastime. You have to have a vision.”

“When a person with money meets a person with experience, pretty soon the person with experience has money and the person with money has experience.”

“Accountants and lawyers make good accountants and lawyers. Period. Make your own decisions.”

“You’re never too far ahead to lose or too far behind to win.” (quoting Arla Specter)

“Over-distribution will get you every time. We never let distribution run ahead of demand.”

“Start small and become important to one customer. Then 2. If you think you can be important to 100 customers in 100 cities, it will never work. Be an acorn and you will grow into a great oak.”