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Inspiration is All Around

By: Karen A. Newman
Posted: December 10, 2008, from the December 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

Gail Boye

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If the “gut test” doesn’t sound procedural enough for you, don’t be alarmed. What comes next—the process for product development at Mark—is extremely formal. When Boye takes an idea forward, she already knows which suppliers will be able to contribute to a successful product. She has a handle on supplier core competencies and knows who will be best suited for the project. She works with R&D for formulation projects and takes her packaging ideas to the engineers. She finds the same things that inspired the product idea can be helpful in its execution, which is what motivated her to share the origin of the Flip for It idea—taking flip phones and BlackBerry’s with her to inspire the engineers. She recalls an earlier project at Bobbi Brown to create a long-wear gel eyeliner. For inspiration, she sent the lab some shoe polish. Boye makes it sound easy, but she herself was inspired by some pretty amazing product development experts.

Always Beauty

Boye knew, from the minute she arrived in New York City 20 years ago, that she wanted to work in the beauty industry, although she did not immediately focus on product development. “In school, you hear a lot about marketing, sales and finance, but not so much about product development,” says Boye, whose degree is in psychology. “I think it may be because it’s so technical or you need a specific skill set to succeed.” As luck would have it, she was soon introduced to Jennifer Balbier, who she says taught her everything about product development, right out of college.

Balbier currently is senior vice president, global product development at M.A.C Cosmetics. In a CEW Insider interview in August 2007, Balbier said, “When I started working in the beauty business, marketing and product development were all rolled up in one.” Her first jobs were at Coty and Max Factor, and she ran her own consulting firm, The Pink Jungle, helping entrepreneurs develop and launch beauty products. She told the CEW audience that inspiration was only part of the equation. “Inspiration can come from anywhere,” said Balbier. “You just have to know when you’ve found it.”

Through observing Balbier at work, Boye learned that she had to be creative but also had to have a business head. “Product development really is a left brain/right brain exercise,” she says. “Creativity, analytics, science—it all has to be top of mind each time when creating a product.”

She also counts among her mentors Jean Hoehn Zimmerman, a former executive vice president at Chanel, Inc., and makeup artists-turned-cosmetics entrepreneurs Bobbi Brown and Laura Geller. Zimmerman, says Boye, firmly understood the value and importance of product. Brown continues to inspire her: “She is a true creative visionary.”