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20 to Know

By: Brian Budzynski and Jeff Falk
Posted: January 5, 2010, from the January 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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In addition to her responsibilities through The Fragrance Foundation, Bloom serves as an advisory board member of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) master’s degree program, The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, and the Manhattan Theater Club. She also teaches master’s level management at FIT.

Joni Rae Russell, Principal and President, Joni Rae and Associates

Through her role as principal and president of Joni Rae and Associates, a marketing, packaging and creative services firm dedicated to excellence in beauty marketing, Russell has distinguished herself as one of the beauty industry’s foremost marketing, branding and creative authorities. Her commitment to excellence and mastery of industry best practices has yielded award-winning results.

“Joni’s unrivaled marketing savvy is the product of decades of experience at the forefront of beauty industry marketing, branding, product and packaging innovation,” states her “20 to Know” nomination. “Throughout her career, she has time and again combined and exhibited cutting-edge ingenuity, practical and resourceful application, along with unique and imaginative creativity, for some of the industry’s most inspired marketing, branding and packaging initiatives. In fact, Joni’s true gift is her ability to apply left and right brain sensibilities—a rare and valuable attribute in today’s complex business arena. As with most successful visionaries, she truly begins with the end in mind.”

The seeds of Russell’s passion for the beauty industry and acute business acumen, creativity and an ebullient entrepreneurial spirit were sown before college, working alongside her father in the family’s beauty product distribution company. After graduating from the University of Miami with a dual degree in marketing and management, Russell launched her career as director of advertising, sales and education for a full-service beauty distribution company. In 1979, she switched from the client to the agency side when she joined Merchandising Workshop. Five years later, as senior vice president, she set the tone for the agency’s creative group and personally spearheaded new product introductions within 10 divisions of Revlon.

Since 1991, she and her company have successfully launched more than 475 products and redesigned more—developing, directing and executing brand architecture, package development, logo development, sales collateral, POP, displays, advertising, media and public relations.

Karen Khoury, Senior Vice President, The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc.

Throughout the course of her 27-year career in the fragrance industry, Karen Khoury has come to believe that the life of the industry boils down to “the delicate balance of business considerations with passionate creativity.”

Khoury’s tenure in the industry, and the resulting personal and business philosophies she’s developed, is the product of a long line of mentors—from company founder Estée Lauder, who encouraged the development of an “emotional instinct” for fragrance; to Leonard Lauder’s cultivation of Khoury’s focused, multifaceted business engagement; to Evelyn Lauder, who stressed the importance of personal and interpersonal respect. “To appreciate and acknowledge every single individual and contribution to the creative process is more motivating that [one] can imagine,” she said.

Khoury spearheads seven Lauder brands, requiring her to “trade hats,” often several times per day, in order to give each brand its own direct consideration and unique standing. “I’ve adapted several company philosophies into [Lauder’s] fragrance creation process,” she said. “[I] look at our portfolio for strengths, gaps and opportunities. [I] also look at how we measure up to the market as a whole—what’s working and what’s not working. [But] art has [also] always been important to me. The original concept of Pleasures [for example] came from a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.”

Khoury seeks to understand a consumer who is feeling “besieged,” who may, quite understandably given the current economy, have her mind taken up with more prudent concerns—such as mortgage payments, food expenses and career safety. However, Khoury sees this need for mutual understanding as more than a challenge. “[It] is also an opportunity,” she said, “because this consumer needs a break. Every single aspect [of a fragrance] needs to make her feel fantastic and to validate the [purchasing] decision she’s just made.” As an executive, Khoury is careful to never fall out of touch with the trends affecting, or desires and needs of, the average beauty consumer—whether formulating and branding for high-end luxury targets or mass-appeal choices.

Barney Stacher, Strategic Business Development and Management Consultant, Stacher & Stacher ~ Manifest /Co-founder, Green Tea Goods

Manifest—defined as an action that makes clear or evident to the eye and/or understanding. When Barney Stacher, in partnership with his wife, founded their eponymous consultancy, their intent was to make explicit that—while their primary specialty would be business development, strategic planning, and branding and organizational development—their methodology would skew from the run-of-the-mill rhetoric of such servicing.