WWD Beauty Summit Highlight: Warmth & Competence

Yesterday, I saw a (self-proclaimed) cold-hearted German economist tear up. It was the highlight of the Women’s Wear Daily Beauty Summit!

Organized by the brilliant Jenny B. Fine, this conference brings 400+ beauty executives together to listen to leaders, explore the state of the industry, and network.  

Markus Strobel, President of Global Skin & Personal Care, Procter & Gamble and said cold-hearted German economist, presented a case study on the turnaround of SKII in China.

Any brand, he explained, needs two complementary aspects to be successful:  

  • Warmth. Meaning “what are your intentions?” This is the humanity of the brand.
  • Competence. Meaning “what is your ability to deliver on your promises.” This is the efficacy of the brand.

SKII, he explained, was all competence and no warmth. Indeed, consumers in China perceived the brand’s intentions as “selling us as much products as possible.” Not what the marketing team was going for…  

The team thus set out to bring emotion back into the brand, to relate to the humanity of the consumer, specifically targeting the “leftover woman,” who in China, is a woman over 27 years old and is not married.

The intention of the brand became to give a voice to this “leftover woman,” to see her, to listen to her, to elevate her. And thus, the Change Destiny video campaign was created. With millions of views on YouTube, in China and around the world, this emotional video changed the trajectory of SKII in the Chinese market.  

Yesterday, as the audience watched this video, many teared up in empathy, including said German economist – who admitted: “this one gets me every time… even after watching it 100 times.”

And thus, we were all reminded that we are human, that we crave emotion. Strobel left us with the following insightful question and marketing challenge: “How do you all find the humanity in your brand?”

On The Power of Permission Slips

I have a confession to make. While I love Brené Brown – I heard her speak at Serious Business a few years ago and have appreciated her messages and her Ted Talks ever since – I do not love her books. I struggled through Daring Greatly last year, and I just finally finished struggling through Rising Strong (which I started reading in January).

Yet I am glad I struggled through it – because one of the concepts she mentions really resonated with me: the idea of “Permission slips,” like the ones I used to have to get as a child to be excused from school or gym class…

Per Brown, “permissions slips” are great not just for children, but for adults as well, and are to be used in both personal and professional situations. Permission slips are a great way to establish trust during a group conversation, or if you are using them for yourself, to understand what might get in your way.

Brown mentions for example writing herself a permission slip some time ago: “I wrote my first permission slip on a Post-It note the morning I met Oprah Winfrey for the first time and taped an episode of Super Soul Sunday. It said, ‘Permission to be excited, have fun and be goofy.’” 

I used this concept in a strategic team meeting yesterday, specifically mentioning the following permissions:

  • Permission to engage with emotion
  • Permission to feel both excited and scared
  • Permission to question everything

These set the tone for our meeting, and many questions began with “I need a permission slip…”.

What will you give yourself (or your loved one, your kids, your team members) permission to do and feel today?

The Power of Words

I love to read, and I love to talk about books. I look forward to weekends (including music festival weekends!) so I can dive in a book and spend two days reading. If you want to speak my love language, send me a book recommendation you think I will enjoy or ask me about a recent book I read. At home, I have bookshelves full of books I loved, and piles of books I am looking forward to reading.

Yesterday, I added a new book on my list of books to read, thanks to the recommendation of Debra Neill Baker of Neill Corporation.

She opened our day-long strategy meeting by reminding us of the power of words, and by sharing three sentences we should all incorporate in our conversations more frequently to build connection and love:

  • “Tell me more”: this helps us listen better. I like to “end” a conversation with “what else?” – yet this verbiage is so much more powerful.
  • “I was wrong”: because “I am sorry” is over-used and not powerful enough. This will be a hard one for me to incorporate in my language…  
  • “I don’t know”: because it is ok not to know. As a colleague added, another nice way of saying that is “I haven’t learned that yet.”  

These phrases came from a book Debra read recently, which I immediately ordered: Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan. This book is about “12 essential phrases that turn the wheel of life.” (I think “No” is on that list and that is certainly a word I need help with!)

Today, I commit to using these three more frequently. And this weekend, I am going to read this book!  

The Podcasts That Make Me Smarter

I started listening to podcasts to make it easier to run on the treadmill, one of my most hated things, yet something necessary if I am going to stay in shape on the road. These days, I listen to them while flying, while driving, and sometimes even while getting ready in the morning.

Here are some of my favorites. Please share yours!

The Knowledge Project by Shane Parrish.

This is the first ever podcast I listened to. The Angel Philosopher episode with Naval Ravikant is still one of my favorites ever, I have now listened to it twice.

Living It by Kelly DiNardo and Amy Pearce-Hayden.

This is a new podcast, started by my friend Kelly, a project that came out of her book Living the Sutras. I love the theme of “living life on purpose” and particularly enjoyed this week’s episode with Michelle Gielan.

How I Built This with Guy Raz by NPR.

These are interviews of entrepreneurs and how they built their business. I got turned on to this podcast because of an episode featuring Marcia Kilgore and her story about Bliss – and have been addicted ever since. The episode with the two founders of SoulCycle is also amazing.

Freakonomics Radio by Stephen Dubner.

This podcast definitely takes me out of my comfort zone and introduces me to topics I don’t typically think about. One of my favorite episodes is How to Catch World Cup Fever, from this past summer.

And here are some podcasts I downloaded but have yet to listen to…

Best of Both Worlds by Laura Vanderkam and Sarah Hart-Unger. I got turned on to this one after reading Laura’s book Off the Clock, which I loved.

The Business of Fashion. This is one of my favorite daily newsletters (I wrote about these here). I just need more hours in the day.

What are your favorite podcasts? And when do you listen to them?

My Rendition of Vanity Fair’s ‘My Stuff’

Clothes

Beauty products

Living & inspiration

“Elegance is an attitude.” RIP Karl Lagerfeld.

Today (tomorrow, by the time you read this), I am sad. I never had the pleasure of meeting Karl Lagerfeld. I never had the privilege of working with him. I never had the good fortune of spending time with him. And yet, today I am mourning his passing, and I know I am not alone.

Scrolling through Instagram and the news, I am reminded of everything I associate with his larger than life persona. Luxury. Democracy. European style. Irreverence. “Unf***ablewith-ness.” Handsomeness. Ponytails. Sunglasses. Cats. Black and white.

One day, I promised myself, I would own a Chanel jacket that he designed. When I was “a proper successful adult.” I’m still working on that.

Before then, I would go to H&M to purchase one of his limited-edition designs. I got there too late, too many times, everything was always sold out. I loved how mad he got with H&M for not releasing enough of these designs: “They did not make the clothes in sufficient quantities. I find it embarrassing that H&M let down so many people… I don’t think that is very kind … It is snobbery created by anti-snobbery.” 

One day, I wished to be so cool I would wear big black sunglasses even when it was grey or dark outside, because they would protect me. The only Chanel item I own is a pair of big black sunglasses – I will wear them tomorrow even though snow is coming to DC.

Today, along with so many, I am reminded of his wisdom which have been ever-present in my head – for so many years.  

On everything:

“If you are cheap, nothing helps.”

On self-awareness:

“I am very much down to earth. Just not this earth.”

“I take myself with me everywhere.”

On self-care:

“Don’t sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice too much there’s nothing else you can give, and nobody will care for you.” 

On work:

“I’m a working-class person, working with class.”

“I get inspired when I’m working, it’s my engine.” 

“It’s up to you to make every day as perfect as possible – it’s a question of will and discipline.” 

“Why should I stop working? If I do, I’ll die, and it’ll all be finished.”

“My thing is to work more than the others to show them how useless they are.”

“Don’t look to the approval of others for your mental stability.” 

On change:

Change is the healthiest way to survive.”

“I like to reinvent myself. It’s part of my job.”

On books:

“Books are a hard-bound drug with no danger of an overdose. I am the happy victim of books.” 

On age:

“Youthfulness is about how you live, not when you were born.” 

On beauty:

“Beauty with character ages better than perfection.” 

“Vanity is the healthiest thing in life.”

 On fashion:

“One is never over-dressed or underdressed with a Little Black Dress.” 

“Sunglasses are like eyeshadow: They make everything look younger and pretty.”

“Trendy is the last stage before tacky.” 

“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life, so you bought some sweatpants.” 

And just for fun because these make me giggle in the most politically incorrect way:

“Yes, some people say to me ‘You’re too skinny,’ but never a skinny person says that to me.”

“Having adult children makes you look 100 years old. I don’t want that.”

“Anyone who is not at least trilingual is a hick.” (Note to self: I’m a hick.)

RIP Karl Lagerfeld.