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The Pursuit of Wow
By: Abby Penning
Posted: May 3, 2011, from the May 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.
Ingrid Jackel, CEO and chairwoman of Physicians Formula.
- Able to survive in an “industry of giants,” Physicians Formula CEO Ingrid Jackel guides the company to be a leader in innovation, aiming to create new categories and segments in the marketplace.
- Jackel leverages her competitors’ advertising dollars to her advantage, making sure Physicians Formula has first-of-its-kind products on the market, and then capitalizing on the attention drawn to the segment when competitors follow.
- Drawing customers in with unique concepts that make people look twice at new products while walking down an aisle is something Jackel dubs the “pursuit of wow” strategy.
When Ingrid Jackel was a teenager in Toulouse, France, her parents allowed her to wear very little makeup. “Just black eye liner on the inner rim of the lower lash—and a bit of butter from the fridge dabbed onto my lips for gloss. And that was just for very, very special occasions,” Jackel laughs.
Now the CEO and chairwoman of Physicians Formula, Jackel has come a long way from her minimal makeup days, but she has retained a dedicated connection to finding innovative ways to solve beauty problems. Jackel began her journey to CEO working for Pierre Fabre, a French company that owned Physicians Formula from 1990 to 2003. “I was initially sent to the U.S. by the French corporation because I had done my MBA here and I had done my thesis for them,” she explains. After working for the company’s Elancyl line, Jackel soon found a home with Physicians Formula. “I quickly fell in love with it,” she says, and she rose through the ranks, joining as the director of marketing and growing to become the CEO in 2006. Pierre Fabre had sold Physicians Formula to the private equity firm Summit Partners in 2003, and then Physicians Formula itself went public in late 2006, with Jackel ringing the bell when the stock became available for public offering through NASDAQ.
Beyond her history with the company, however, Jackel has always felt a resonance with the brand’s roots. “This company was created in Los Angeles in 1937 by an allergist—a doctor—from the back of his practice on Wilshire Boulevard,” she explains. “He started to mix ingredients and create skin care and makeup products for his patients who had allergies, but mostly for his wife, because she had lupus, which is a really serious skin condition.”
That physician Frank Crandall was among the first to put SPF into makeup, Jackel explains. “If you think back to 1937—at the time, no one even knew they shouldn’t expose themselves to the sun, so that was really pioneering on his part. And that’s what we try to keep alive today. That’s how we make a name for ourselves in this industry of giants.”
Emphasis on Innovation