Michelle Brett started her career as a travel agent before landing in beauty and working for L’Occitane and Living Proof. She worked her way up the ranks until January 2022, when she was appointed CEO of Ren, a buzzy British skin-care brand hoping to make a bigger splash in the U.S. market.
“I had fallen in love with Ren in 2002 in London. Ren has always been a brand that has been differentiated. It’s always had a large niche consumer to serve and such a strong purpose,” Brett said on the latest Glossy Beauty Podcast episode.
As a pioneer of clean skin care since its creation in East London in 2000, Ren has catered to sensitive skin. But as that conversation has become more mainstream, Ren sees itself as a leader in the space. In the last four months, Ren jumped from No. 56 to No. 24 in the U.S. skin-care brand earned media chart, according to Brett.
Ren has made significant strides on the sustainability front: Last year, it met its 2018 zero-waste goal, committing to using recyclable and reusable packaging made out of recycled material. But Brett wants to remind shoppers about how good the product is. “Our job is to show people what sensitive skin is … and how our products can work on sensitive skin, not irritate it, and also deliver benefits,” said Brett.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Centralize brand uniqueness
“My priority when I first became CEO was understanding the brand. As a consumer, I saw [Ren] change from something that was very focused on sensitive skin and clean [initiatives] to something focused on sustainability, because it is a conscious brand. But, it went a little bit too far to that [sustainability] side, where the message became about all of the efforts in packaging and not showcasing the brand’s efficacy. We should ensure that our brand focus is our point of difference, where sustainability is just one part of that. The brand made a pledge to have zero-waste packaging by January 2023. The pledge was made before I got here. And when I arrived, the pledge was complete. And now it’s like, ‘What’s next for the brand, now that we’ve [completed] this pledge?’”
Navigating an economic slowdown
“The cost of everything is more now. I do think there is resiliency, which we’re lucky to have. Our customer is in the more resilient category. Where I think we might have challenges in the near future is that new customer. We’re going after that new customer because our U.S. awareness is quite low. We’ve gained so much traction in the past six months to a year regarding our reach. We are getting a new consumer; the stickiness of that consumer and the recession is where the question remains. For us, we are focusing on our retention. It’s about understanding the customers we have and how many of them we can keep and feel confident about. It is a big unknown.”
“We’re utilizing what we have to take the beauty of our brand and modernize it. Slow, healthy growth is the key for Ren; it is still a small indie brand. Within the portfolio, it’s on the smaller size of the brands in the U.S. market. We have an opportunity to bring a new consumer in. We’re also returning to basics and opening that toolbox, modernizing that toolbox. When I think about the positioning of sensitive skin, what sensitive skin 20 years ago meant was going to buy something or get something from a derm. It wasn’t efficacious, it was just about fixing that irritation. But now, sensitive skin is about a multitude of challenges that we all face. Ultimately, sensitive skin is the minimum litmus test that we should all be doing in skin care to make sure that we’re not irritating the skin and we’re not damaging the skin further. Then from there, we formulate to get real benefits and results.”