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On Oct. 27, 2011, Cosmetic Executive Women) (CEW) welcomed the Clinique team triumvirate to the Women in Beauty Series at New York’s Harmonie Club. The presentation, introduced by Jill Scalamandre, chairwoman, CEW, and CMO, Chrysallis, featured guest panelists: Lynne Greene, global brand president of Clinique, Origins and Ojon, The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc.; Agnes Landau, senior vice president of global marketing, Clinique; and Janet Pardo, senior vice president of product development worldwide, Clinique.
Scalamandre introduced Diane Newman, executive vice president and group publisher, Shape, who set the stage for the remainder of the evening, reviewing the Clinique journey from its groundbreaking debut in 1968 as the first dermatological skin care brand.
History and Heritage Distinguish A Brand
Moderator, Jenny Fine, BeautyInc, began the discussion asking about the team dynamics that the three guests bring to the Clinique team.
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“Many people knew the history of the Clinique brand, which has always been the focal point," said Greene. "Like the brand, which generates great trust from the consumer, this team trusts one another. We share accountability.”
This is a team that discusses, argues, communicates and acts, according to Greene.
Alluding to a famous quote by Napoleon, Greene said, “The people who have said 'yes' to me have served me the least,” and hers is a team that constantly communicates with each other. Pardo added, “ Because we all communicate so well, the boundaries melt away.”
Fine asked how the team communicates the brand vision down and was met with a response by Greene dispelling the notion. “We don’t cascade down. The learning takes place with healthy discussion and everyone understands what the brand is,” she said.
“The learning happens among everyone,” said Landau. “When you’re cascading you’re just telling someone something. We discuss things with everyone.”
In response to a passage cited in the Harvard Business Review alluding to mutual accountability as a key to success in business, Greene agreed, with Landau taking up the thread. “We celebrate the small wins and the big ones,” she added.
While Greene acknowledged that sometimes brand heritage and brand equity become a bit muddled, there are several key elements that continue to distinguish the brand, including the fact that the brand has dermatological roots and it is allergy tested.
The challenge with the contemporary Clinique is maintaining its skin diagnostic character while modernizing the brand and retaining its heritage. Greene described how the brand, which began as a skin care brand, has moved into both makeup and fragrance. “Skin care and makeup are important parts of the dialogue,” she said, noting that Landau made dermatological foundations in her makeup, which support the brand’s heritage, and Pardo brought in the idea of Chubby Sticks with color and benefit.
“Chubby Sticks are bringing a wink and a smile into Clinique’s color products,” said Pardo. Clinique’s Chubby Sticks are moisturizing lip balms in a range of colors that contain mango and shea butters, and offer both color and moisture. The format and name support the healthy positioning of Clinique, and according to Landau, “The color, whatever color we bring to the brand, has to be healthy and warm. We talk about a wink and a smile with our Chubby Sticks, and also believe our fragrance brings that message as well.”
“We believe that sustainable success takes a long time to develop," said Landau. "We were having a conversation thinking everyone was aligned, but [found] it’s a process, and we’ve brought everybody into that alignment. Once you get there, you know it’s the result of a difficult road.”
“Today’s peacock is tomorrow’s feather duster,” said Greene, implying that you’ve got to be aware of the risks you’re taking and make sure you maintain the alignment to ensure the development of the right products. Pardo concurred, “You need to know there are risks and expenses in product development until you achieve what you want.”
Greene provided some background for the research that goes into the development of a skin care product, citing Pardo’s conversations with experts in the field. “Janet talked with the dermatologists and found that the lack of a product that could equal hydroquinone was of interest. She wanted to find out what would fill an existing white space, and the idea of reducing hyperpigmentation was introduced,” said Greene, who related her first hand discovery in Italy of the need for a pigmentation reducing solution. “It is critical to recognize a need,” Greene said.
“It’s all about creating that product that a woman doesn’t think she needs today but will recognize it when offered,” said Pardo.
“You’re always going after that white space innovation, and you have to keep innovating in all areas of the business, including communication and development,” added Landau.
When asked about what we don’t know we need today, Greene highlighted the service proposition: “The service proposition really fascinates us. We have a new counter in Bloomingdale’s called ‘Service As You Like It,’ and we have color-coded message bracelets for our consumers, which indicate whether a consumer is looking, wants to be left alone or is ready to buy. That’s an interesting way to create excitement and leave the consumer in charge.”
Landau highlighted the speed of digital communication. “What is fascinating about digital is how quickly you can hear from the consumer about how a product is doing. This is now a dialogue,” she said. While Pardo noted the importance of first hand communication: “For me, innovation through observation is key, talking to doctors, gaining patient insights. That’s fascinating to me. Instinct also plays a strong role. Knowing your brand instantly is crucial. I know when something is a Clinique idea and when it’s not.”
Local to Global Relevance
Sixty percent of Clinique’s business is done outside the U.S., which led to the subject of globalization. “We think of ourselves as cultural anthropologists,” said Landau, citing Greene’s firsthand experience with the need for hyperpigmentation solutions in Italy and relating it to an experience she had while traveling in Asia. Landau had encountered concerns about acne in Shanghai, where issues surrounding clean skin are prevalent, and some consumers think acne is a rite of passage that will pass. She maintained that developing locally relevant products for the global consumer is key and, in the Shanghai example, the new offerings in a specific area are opening up opportunities to develop products that will fill a need for consumers in that entire region. Pardo cited Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector as an example of a product for a specific need in a specific region that has gone global, and Landau noted Age Defense BB Cream—a merger of makeup and treatment that offers concealing coverage of dark spots and pores, optics to blur lines and wrinkles, and offers antioxidants and UVA/UVB protection—created in South Korea. “We created BB Cream [to be] a great product [for a region], and it’s doing well in the U.S. and Europe. Success goes around the world,” she said.
Greene alluded to another innovation currently in development, saying, “We’re working on something now for a region and want to bridge something from a serum.”
Takeaways From The Team
Parting words from the Clinique team included a tribute by Lynne Greene to Steve Jobs, who said, “If I ask myself if I am doing what I want to do every day and if, for too many days, the answer is no, than I know I have to be doing something different.” Clearly, according to Greene, “Our message is we love what we do.”
Landau took the message to another level, saying, “It’s not only about what you’re doing. It’s about a vision and showing you a way to be inspired. That’s what Lynne Greene did for us.”
“Lynne is constantly pushing us so our dreams can become reality,” added Pardo. Additional information about CEW’s Women in Beauty Series, as well as membership and organization initiatives, may be found at: .
Sponsors of the event included Shape, Givaudan, Mark, 24/Seven, Haute Look, BeautyInc, Script to Screen, Nordstrom, Kaplow, Consultancy Media and LifeMinute.tv.