Starting Point: Beauty, Risk and Rugby

As I sat drafting this column in the lobby of a Paris hotel in late September, a 1940s rendition of the U.S. holiday favorite “Jingle Bells” suddenly dashed out of the speakers with the energy of a team of horses. My first thought was the French are really getting a jump on the season, but with green leaves still clinging to the trees, it was clear that something else was going on.

The Christmas carol was just one song on a sound track of popular tunes of the era. Yet it broke through the background noise of street traffic and multilingual hotel conversation to make me tune in, as well as to wonder what was next.

On the “TO DO” lists of brand managers everywhere must surely be an item that says Create something unexpected that cuts through the daily advertising noise like sleigh runners through fresh snow or words to that effect.

“Take risks,” said Nicolas Mirzayantz, group president fragrances at International Flavors & Fragrances, in his keynote address to attendees of the inaugural Fragrance Business 2007 Markets and Strategies Conference, produced by GCI magazine and HBA Global Expo. While he was speaking specifically to the fast-paced, highly competitive fragranced product industry, his words resonate in all corners of the business world. There was talk of risks throughout the presentations at Fragrance Business 2007, from Lily de Stefano of Avon, who spoke about taking a chance on producing Derek Jeter Driven, to Liz Claiborne’s Marcy Fisher, who talked about extending a popular fragrance line with products for pampered pets.

Rochelle Bloom, president of The Fragrance Foundation, spoke at the Fragrance Consumer Symposium, saying one message consumers are receiving from the fragrance industry is “Newness Rules.” In reality, she said, the constant flurry of new product introductions is overwhelming for consumers and many are finding that niche fragrance products are sold in an easier atmosphere with fewer launches. The category can be reinvented by balancing the messages put out to consumers, Bloom said.

I opened this column with seemingly gratuitous mention of my trip to Paris. But I was there on business, to participate on the jury for the Beyond Beauty show’s Beauty Challenger Awards competition. All entries were winners in the category of “level of risk,” which, while not among the official criteria, was surely on the minds of jury members as they held the fruits of someone’s passionate labors in their hands. Look for my complete review of this year’s Beyond Beauty event in the December issue.
So, who knows risk better than a beauty industry entrepreneur? While I was in France, the Rugby World Cup was underway. Now here’s a set of folks who know about danger and taking chances: These guys play a rough and tumble game with little or no padding and no helmets, and that just may be a great analogy for the world-class sport of beauty product marketing. Like rugby, our sport has a lot of fans.

On behalf of the entire GCI magazine team, I hope you enjoy this issue.

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