Most Popular in:
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.
page 2 of 4“Basically, what we’ve done with Physicians Formula is to look at makeup as a problem solution category, as opposed to just a fashion category,” Jackel explains of the brand’s positioning. “We repositioned the brand in 1997 around a more ethical, problem solution-driven positioning, but we brought on top of it innovation, including many first-to-market concepts.”
That idea of innovation is the major focus at Physicians Formula, and as such, Jackel finds it vital to ingrain the same principles into the company’s employees. “I really wanted to infuse that passion for innovation and first-to-market ideas throughout the organization,” she says. “We have an integrated, cross-functional new product development process instead of an isolated new product development department. Up front, I wanted to make sure that our entire marketing team was involved in new product development. A product manager should not just take care of promotions in a given category. I didn’t want a fragmented organization, but rather functions orientated around innovation, including marketing, R&D, procurement, sales and operations. For instance, by involving sales personnel, who are in contact with the retailers every day, we see things in a different light. And of course in the manufacturing plant, same thing—you could have a great idea coming from a comment made from somebody who works on the machine and sees how suddenly that nozzle could also do something new. I think it is such an asset to have people throughout different departments, with their different expertise, be able to contribute.”
To maintain this level of innovation in its employees, Jackel has also instituted a unique interview and hiring process to fill open positions at Physicians Formula. After going through an initial round of interviews, Jackel narrows it down to candidates who then have to give a presentation on a new product to the Physicians Formula team. Once the team determines a final candidate, the decision to hire that person must be unanimous among the team members who that person will be working with. “That makes the person feel that, ‘Everyone wants me here,’ and they are able to start working with that kind of trust and relationship already established,” Jackel says. “It also shows those employees what kind of skills this person has and how they will be utilized to contribute to the team and the company.”
Though Jackel admits this hiring process has caused her moments of frustration in the past, it has led to much longevity and loyalty among the company’s approximately 200 employees. “Everyone feels a commitment to their team and their products,” she says. “I feel like we are a hybrid of a family culture and an entrepreneurial one. It creates an atmosphere of safety, where people can dare to take risks. They have a feeling of safety, which allows them to be more creative, as opposed to becoming more complacent.”
In the development and debut of the brand’s 40–45 new products each year, Jackel always starts in brainstorming sessions, sketching out ideas, taking notes and focusing on larger global macro trends. In these sessions, which take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, Jackel and her team come up with and tweak products that speak directly to consumers, and among some of Physicians Formula’s prominent innovations are a major elevation of the bronzer segment; one of the first mineral makeup lines and certified organic makeup lines available through food, drug and mass stores; and a new mood-boosting collection directed at brightening consumers’ lives following the recession.
Making It In the Marketplace