Seeing with New Eyes

It’s been quite a time the past few months. I feel the reassessment that this industry, like so many others, undertook throughout the past two years is finally bearing its fruit. The upward swing of financials is the clear measurable, but I think the palpable confidence in how to move forward and the excitement of new opportunities, both of which I’ve seen and heard at events I’ve attended this year, are what will propel the industry as a whole in 2011 and beyond. The nail-biting about the coming shifts in markets, shifting consumer behaviors and the shift to a new paradigm in media is gone. The shift is past tense—it’s shifted. And now we can embrace these changes. We do so with caution but not with fear.

GCI, too, has reassessed. It hasn’t always been easy, and to be honest, it’s the less enviable traits that made reassessment difficult—a touch of arrogance and a dash of pretense, for example, can blind one to areas of improvement. Our reassessment began in earnest with the redevelopment of the editorial calendar and a critical look at what we publish and why, as well as where. We also realized that this is a process that is never complete, and we are asking ourselves how we can become a better part of your conversations.

You may have already noticed a change to the cover scheme of GCI—in both presentation and purpose. A cross-brand team at Allured Business Media, our parent company, took on the task of developing a cover concept/strategy and identified ways to present GCI as an “entire experience.” The original intent was to introduce a new look with the first issue of 2011, but because of the groundwork our designers made during their breakout creative meeting, we were able to unveil our fresh face in November 2010 as executed by designer Hon Bannapradist. Steve Jones, the designer of GCI’s sister publication Skin Inc. magazine, took on the design challenge for this issue.

Additionally in 2011, GCI is going to a nine-issue plus directory calendar. With the natural ebb and flow of the industry, January and August are no longer single-month issues, so we combined January/February and July/August, and now the directory is officially the October issue. I’m happy to say the publication is very healthy, and these changes better align us with industry needs.

On the Road

Concepts such as “engagement,” “connections” and “collaboration” remained touchstones of conversation during my recent travels. At the HBA Global Expo, I moderated “Walmart and the Consumer,” which was paneled by Alisa Marie Beyer, founder and creative director, The Benchmarking Company; Lauren Kahn, senior brand manager, Hard Candy; and Carmen Bauza, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of beauty, Walmart.

I first heard Beyer present the results of The Benchmarking Company’s survey on Women & Walmart: Seeing Through the Eyes of the Beauty and Personal Care Consumer in early 2010; and according to the research, convenience, price, value and authenticity are the rule of the day—and fall directly in Walmart’s wheelhouse. “Whether your brand is at Walmart or not, what is happening there and how consumers are spending their time and dollars inside the store is vital to the entire beauty and personal care industry,” Beyer had said upon the report’s release. “It’s easy to become out of touch with the real beauty consumer. It’s important that we get back to her.”

Bauza, credited as the woman who is transforming Walmart’s approach to beauty, called consumers’ behavior in the beauty aisle “engaging the experience,” emphasizing that serving a consumer base goes beyond simply putting products on a shelf. And part of the strategy behind bringing brands such as Hard Candy, which is now exclusive to Walmart, to its shelves involves analysis of how products truly engage consumers.

In HBA’s “Insights from the Top: Looking Ahead to Innovation and Growth Challenges” panel, Kevin Gallagher, president, Croda Inc., spoke about making deep connections with consumers. “When we see that product that seems specifically made for us,” he said, “that’s when we reach for our credit card or cash. [Consumers] are looking for that special connection,” he said.

“It’s delivering on the promise,” Ed Shirley, vice chair of global beauty and grooming, P&G, told the CEW Newsmaker Forum audience in September. “It’s looking at the consumer holistically. [In marketing], it’s about putting the product in front of the consumer in a meaningful way. Creating a higher order benefit; make the connection. If you have a big idea and a compelling way to connect that with consumers, you’ll create the sales.”

Looking for and nurturing these connections, and the changing media channels in which these connections are made, does have its implications for product development, launches and overall brand/product strategies.

“Innovation is the life blood. It’s a huge driver,” said Shirley. “But you can move too quickly, focused on launch followed by launch, choking shelves and confusing consumers. The launch-and-leave strategy has become launch-and-leverage. And with social media, we actually launch products months before they actually hit the shelves.”

Does this mean we are in a new age of nurturing? Nurturing brands, consumer relationships and how we engage? “[The rise of derm brands in the past decade] was a crossroads for Clinique,” said Lynne Greene, president, Clinique, at the Marc Rosen-moderated “Looking Back to See the Future” at Luxe Pack Monaco. “In a blast of dermatological brands, choice [for consumers] was at a crossroads. We looked at Clinique’s foundation and at how it is relevant today—and capitalized on that. By solidifying our past, we have been able to revolutionize our future,” said Greene.

At “The Art of Clarity” reception (a celebration during Luxe Pack Monaco of a unique partnership between Marc Rosen Associates, Eastman Chemical Company and six packaging manufacturers, which will be covered in detail in the next issue), Rosen spoke about the efforts and outcome of this specific partnership and the nature of collaboration, and I feel it applies to this nurturing concept.

“It’s seeing with new eyes,” he said. “It leads to innovation and opens up possibilities.”

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