Eras of Beauty: Part Three

Posted June 8, 2013 by Katherine Toll in Building Your Brand

In part one of Eras of Beauty, we looked at the evolution of the beauty industry beginning in the Victorian era and ending in the 1930’s. Part two of the series took us from the 1940’s through the ‘70s.

So, it seems fitting to wrap up our Eras of Beauty series with an industry icon’s perspective on the current and future state of the beauty business:

On May 21, Leonard Lauder gave the Women Wear Daily’s (WWD) Beauty Summit keynote address. He spoke to the next generation of beauty leaders as he reflected on his last 40 years and offered them counsel on how to lead the industry into the upcoming 40 years.

He urged the audience to listen to their customer. Pete Born of WWD reported that early in his career Lauder learned an important lesson that,

 …came from a meeting with a Neiman Marcus buyer, who told the young Lauder that whenever the store sampled his Youth Dew Bath Oil, almost all the customers returned to buy. Lauder took what money was available and made 50,000 Youth Dew samples. Soon the fragrance was generating 80 percent of the fledgling company’s sales. The lesson Mr. Lauder learned was: Listen to your customer. Sometimes they know more than you know.

While the theme of Lauder’s message focused on change, he shared his six business laws that span generations:

Beware of the law of unintended consequences. Sometimes what you think is a great idea may not be a great idea.

Quality of product always wins; never cut the quality of product. He quoted the late U.S. senator Arlen Specter as saying, “You’re never too far ahead to lose.”

Never think you can fool the consumer. The bloggers will always catch you.

Overdistribution will get you into trouble all the time.

You’re only as good as the people in your company want you to be.

The wealth of a company is its people.

During the Q/A session, Katie Beauchamp, co founder  of Birchbox, asked Lauder his advice for a young beauty company to which he replied,

Start small; become important to one customer. Once you become important to one, you can have a second, a third and a fourth. If you think you can become important to 100 people in 100 different cities, it will never work. If you go into Central Park and see those big, beautiful oak trees, some of them 150 years old, they all started from acorns. Be an acorn and you’ll grow into a great oak.”

Lauder’s advice makes sense for any young company — never, ever underestimate the power of one.

Author’s Note: I realize the irony of closing this series with a man’s perspective on the beauty industry, however Mr. Lauder is one CGN’s ‘men who get it.’ After all, he was raised by a working mother who (in 1945) paved the way for generations of business women to follow.


About the Author

Katherine Toll

Katherine (Kathi) Toll possesses more than 20 years of management and consulting experience within the retail and beauty industry. Her industry experience combined with her special brand of irreverence fuels her mission to find the ‘must-have’ beauty products for Career Girls of all ages. She aspires to remind women the airbrushed perfection of the beauty industry must be tempered with a healthy dose of humor. Kathi holds a general management certification from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, along with an undergraduate degree from Northwestern’s School of Communications.