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Strategy, Passion and Experience: CEW Hosts Estée Lauder's Veronique Gabai-Pinsky

By: Nancy Jeffries
Posted: October 25, 2013
Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, global brand president of The Estée Lauder Companies’ Aramis and Designer Fragrances division, left, with Carlotta Jacobson, president of CEW

Veronique Gabai-Pinsky, global brand president of The Estée Lauder Companies’ Aramis and Designer Fragrances division, left, with Carlotta Jacobson, president of CEW

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Regarding Fabrizio Freda, Gabai-Pinsky noted his brilliance as a businessman. “Freda was not an expert in fragrance when he joined the company, and we had a very good conversation,” she explained. “He is brilliant. He looks at the consumer first, [and] is unbelievably savvy when it comes to business and whether it will be profitable. I look at the brand fit. In the end, we come from two different perspectives to create the perfect fit. From the product development end, we go to the craft of the fragrances, the craft of the category. We try to share with him the beauty of the craft, and he showed us the beauty of turning craft into successful business."

Innovation and Execution

Regarding Michael Kors and Tory Burch, Gabai-Pinsky noted that they were “doing great,” adding, “We feel that we have captured the identity of those designers with products that bring their essence to the market.” She described the products as “fabulous, innovative and gorgeous,” noting the effort it takes to bring the products full circle. “We’ve taken a lot of time to execute with patience and diligence to launch the best products for Kors and Tory Burch. There is legitimacy for these brands to be in fragrance and color cosmetics. For Kors, it’s a wardrobe of looks—sporty, glam, sexy—but it’s great to add lip color and shine on the body. That would make a great statement for Kors,” she said. “When you have a story to tell, you need the ability to tell it, which Macy’s has helped us with for the Kors story."

“For Tory, she was very inspired by her parents and originally inspired by her mother’s vanity table and its essential beauty pieces. This is part of her story,” said Gabai-Pinsky.

Growing the fragrance category is clearly a passion for Gabai-Pinsky, who provided a glimpse of what the category numbers have looked like in recent years. “The trend has been for the category to grow about 1%...not very exciting. But, then you have to double click. It’s actually losing 25% of its business every year, so you have to grow with your solid brands and grow above the market. Or, you double click and look at each market, for example Brazil, which is very strong, and then you have to bring fabulous innovation to the market. You might say that the market doesn’t need another red lipstick, but if you bring the most fabulous red lipstick, or fragrance, to the market, and make them as solid as possible to grow year by year, you will have a success. DKNY’s Be Delicious is an example. The first time you buy, you’re interested in the story and the bottle, and then, the juice. With Be Delicious, we did a story that touches people across cultures—that is Adam and Eve, and finding the man of your life. This story is very emotionally driven, and the juice is fabulous,” she said.

“We have a mantra in the business—that is 'recruit, retain and revive'—so we keep advertising levels consistent and keep pulsing product delivery forms that keep the consumer involved. We build a conversation with our consumer through digital platforms, for example people in Russia are talking with people in Mexico about the brands,” she noted.

Partnerships and Retailers

“Honestly, I want partnerships. What can we build to make a brand bigger than life? What will be a win-win for both parties? It’s a treadmill, so once you fall, you hit yourself very hard. So, with retailers, it really needs to be about sustaining. The same answer applies to suppliers,” Gabai-Pinsky explained, and she also related this to working with advertisers. “A former boss of mine in Paris said to me about advertising agencies, ‘There’s not a bad advertising agency. There’s only a bad brief.' So you need to be very clear about what you want and what they can give you so you can achieve it together,” she said.

In going with a quantitative analysis or a gut decision, Gabai-Pinsky gave her point of view. “This is a business about creativity, so you need to accept the level of risk that goes with creativity, and sometimes you need to validate with quantitative research. We use it as a fine tuning of the way we want to go, which is informed by our instinct and our gut,” she explained.

In response to a question about what drives her, as a veteran of this industry, Gabai-Pinsky did not hesitate. “I am passionate. Loving what you do is what makes you get up in the morning. I’m not driven by power or money, nor is it what drives my team. It’s a passion for creativity, for a fragrance that can add beauty to your world, give you confidence, and add an element of beauty and creativity to the lives we touch. It makes me happy to walk down the street and recognize a fragrance that we have created being worn by someone. If I can touch someone with that beauty, I’m happy,” she said.

The evening’s event was sponsored by Shape, Givaudan, 24 Seven Inc., HauteLook, eXperticity, Beauty Inc, WWD, Kaplow Communications, and Digital Therapy. CEW’s Women & Men in Beauty Series events feature leaders in the industry who offer insights into trending beauty topics and provide inspiration for professional growth.