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CEW Presents “Mass Appeal of Skincare”

Nancy Jeffries
CEW April 2010

Remi Kent (left), global associate marketing director, Olay, P&G Beauty, and Shannon Petree, divisional vice president and general marketing manager, Walgreens Co. discussed the reasons for the continued growth of mass skin care during one of the most difficult business climates at a recent CEW Women in Beauty Series event.

The popularity of the mass skin care market continues to grow, with new innovations, quality ingredients and accessible merchandising leading the charge. An April Cosmetic Executive Women’s (CEW) Women in Beauty Series presentation at New York City’s Harmonie Club discussed the reasons for the continued growth of mass skin care during one of the most difficult business climates.

“Mass skin care companies are taking the best of innovation, technology and marketing, and creating products that are getting great recognition. And mass retailers are focusing on beauty in a new way to drive store traffic,” said Carlotta Jacobson, president, CEW. The evening’s invited speakers were Remi Kent, global associate marketing director, Olay, P&G Beauty, and Shannon Petree, divisional vice president and general marketing manager, Walgreens Co., who each brought specific perspectives to the discussion.

Now in her 10th year at P&G Beauty, Kent leads the global marketing and development of Olay Professional and Olay Regenerist skin care lines. She joined P&G as an assistant brand manager working on Noxzema, launched Regenerist in 2003, and went on to oversee the Olay franchise as North America brand manager, where she launched Olay Definity. Petree, along with her team, is responsible for all beauty and personal care merchandise for the 7,200 store chain, and also develops programs and curriculum for the 28,000 beauty advisors out in the field. Prior to Walgreens, Petree worked for Walmart, and spent nine years in the buying division for the beauty and personal care area. She is also serves on the CEW Board of Governors.

Market Trends

Antiaging remains one of the most significant trends in skin care. “Women want to be ageless,” said Kent. “Women hope that agelessness will come to fruition, which is what drives this broad trend. Women are now coming into the market younger and are spending on products that they hope will change their destiny.

“Women are demanding efficacy with no compromise. In terms of regional nuances, we’re seeing a down surge in invasive procedures in the Western world. However, in the Eastern world, these procedures are surging, as women see them as a way to open doors for them.” A second trend cited by Kent is the growth in the men’s skin care market, and the third major trend is naturals. She also noted that in the prestige market in the Western world, women are seen trading down.

Shannon Petree noted Walgreens emphasis on customer-centric retailing (CCR), which she said was drawing customers into accessible and friendly health and beauty aisles. “Opening up the aisles and keeping them customer friendly in our 7,200 stores across the country enables us to leverage that number so people can find both their pharmacy and health and beauty needs easily,” said Petree. “Health and wellness are really growing. Having internal health and addressing the external element with beauty products is the complementary positioning at Walgreens. Creating a bridge between health and beauty is key for Walgreens. Our customers are a lot more savvy about ingredients and science, and want both better quality ingredients as well as accessible prices.

“Our job is to do the homework for our customers. A lot of people are going online and doing research, and then they are asking us if we carry formaldehyde-free nail polish, for example. They are educated about the products we sell. We have a virtual customer called ‘Social Stella,’ who is in her 30s, and she is educated about what is new in beauty. We’re also trying to engage the younger group of customers, for example, those 18-year-olds on a budget, with the appropriate products, and we hope she will grow along with us.”

In addition, Petree noted that Walgreens is working with supplier partners to make sure they have the right information and the products in the store. They also have trained beauty advisors who communicate with customers. This is all part of the customer-centric approach.

Differentiating Products

“I’m getting the sense that [consumers] are pushing back to an extent. They are saying, ‘give me a reason to purchase this product,’ so the products they buy are relevant,” said Kent. “Yes, so the products don’t wind up in the beauty graveyard,” quipped Petree, concurring with Kent’s point.

In a world tour undertaken by Kent—during which she traveled through Europe, India and Dubai—she spoke with women in their homes and found that each woman articulated their interest in being beautiful. However, they said they wanted to be the best they could for their age, authentically. To that point, Petree noted that women are willing to pay for something if they believe it will work. “Communicating the quality of your product is key,” said Petree, citing the Olay Pro X advertising currently running on television, in which the product receives scientific support, adding credibility. “Now customers are trusting that Walgreens is making good decisions for them,” said Petree. Kent agreed, “Credibility is primary. We made sure our claims were bold and dimensionalized the results. In addition, prominence on the shelf also makes it work for the customer.” Kent noted that looking across categories is key. “Clearly, we are looking across all categories, and where we saw the clinical trend was in prestige, we took that concept strategy to Olay Pro X,” said Kent.

Petree noted that Walgreens is very happy about the blurring of the lines between prestige and mass. “Our customers are happy to see the lines blurring too, because they want the same ingredients, benefits and delivery,” said Petree. “Walgreens continues to partner with brands that complement their skin and health care strategy. We are open to listening to and learning about new things, and we have to make choices that are based on customer priorities.”

She also noted the new ingestible trend. “I believe this is a trend that can gain critical mass over time.” In addition, men’s skin care is also starting to see some traction, as people are staying single longer, and men are out there experimenting with skin and personal care for themselves, added Petree.

Kent emphasized the public perception of naturals, noting that customers were skeptical when they first came out and were not willing to give up efficacy for nature. “Now, what is good for you, also needs to be good for your beauty, as well,” said Kent. She emphasized that Olay Professional is really the next level of power in product efficacy. “The combination of science and nature is the boilerplate of what customers are seeking today, and when nature comes through, it provides that wow factor that customers seek.”

Both Kent and Petree emphasized the importance of a daily dialogue with customers. “We need to keep her trust going forward. If we make her happy when she comes into the store, that is success, and that keeps her coming into the store,” said Petree. In keeping with the best approach for a satisfying career, Kent returned to authenticity. “Let your authentic self shine through. Always have big, bold ideas, and have smart people around you. Make them feel you care about them and always over deliver,” she said.

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