Glossy 50 2019: Beauty’s Innovators

This year, the fashion and beauty industries were turned on their heads. The physical landscape shifted as pop-ups and retail platforms replaced longstanding stores, marketing strategies were transformed as brands shifted focus to channels resonating with young audiences, and company values were reassessed to put transparency, inclusivity and sustainably at the center. At the same time, age-old conglomerates brought young, digitally native brands into their folds and businesses across categories hopped on the CBD bandwagon.

In our third annual Glossy 50 list, rolling out all week, we’re honoring the industry insiders responsible for driving these important changes. Below is the second batch of honorees, all chosen for their impact on beauty.

Estée Laundry, Social media watchdog

Over the past year, the anonymous Instagram account Estée Laundry has taken the beauty world by storm. An anonymous collective, the account has been both a source of truth in the industry and an advocate for taking accountability, calling out brands for a lack of diversity, copying, inauthenticity and problematic behavior. In under two years the account has swelled to more than 100,000 followers, as of October 2019, and fostered a fervent community — the account receives up to 500 direct messages a day, according to to those behind it.

In the past year, Estée Laundry began online campaigns called #shopmystash, meant to encourage fans to reduce their beauty consumption, and #saynotobullying, which prompted more than 300 beauty industry employees to share their stories about bullying.

“Brands, influencers and retailers have become more mindful about the way they present themselves because of watchdog accounts like ours,” said Estée Laundry. “Even though brands and retailers don’t immediately respond to criticism, we do often see change in their approach to future campaigns and products.” –Emma Sandler

Tarang Amin, CEO, E.l.f. Cosmetics

In 2018 — just two years after going public — E.l.f. Cosmetics reported in its fourth-quarter earnings that net sales had dipped by 4% year-over-year, to $78.6 million. The following February, the color cosmetics brand announced it would be closing all 22 of its standalone stores. Though industry insiders were skeptical of E.l.f.’s future, CEO Tarang Amin made it clear that the brand may have been down, but it wasn’t out.

In a swift industry comeback story, 16-year-old E.l.f. is now considered the lone winner among competitors like Covergirl and Rimmel, given the slowdown in mass makeup. In its latest earnings statement, in November, E.l.f. Reported $67.6 million in revenue for the second quarter, up 6% year-over-year.

“Reinvigorating growth in a category that has been suffering and softening has been a huge accomplishment for us,” said Amin.

Though some of E.l.f.’s moves have seemed out-of-the-box — especially shutting down its owned stores and increasing its product prices in response to rising tariffs — they’re in keeping with the brand’s focused and nimble plan, said Amin. That’s also included investing in updated merchandising displays and product packaging to stand out in big retailers like Walmart and Ulta Beauty.

“Maintaining focus has to include making tough decisions,” said Amin. “So we closed our stores. And when we saw makeup trends we didn’t like for our brand, we set up our strategic imperatives, and we didn’t spread ourselves too thin. Elevating digital and making the best of beauty accessible are top of mind.”

To further find resonance with E.l.f.’s 18- to 24-year-old customer, Amin underscored social. Unpaid partnerships with mega-influencers like Jeffree Star helped bring E.l.f. Cosmetics back into the beauty conversation in 2019, as did the company’s first campaign on TikTok, which kicked off in early October. Dubbed the #EyesLipsFace campaign, E.l.f. created an original song to tie the marketing initiative back to the platform’s music roots. Reese Witherspoon and beauty influencer James Charles participated in the challenge unprompted. In less than one month, the campaign saw nearly 3 billion views.

“If you are not continually experimenting and trying new things in beauty, you’ll be left behind and get lost,” said Amin.

Moving forward, Amin said expanding the brand’s physical footprint will also be a priority.

“We have a long way to go,” he said. “That extends to what we can do in Walmart, and international is an even bigger ambition. But discipline is how we are going to approach all of it.”

Q&A with Monica Arnaudo, SVP of Merchandising, Ulta Beauty

In the last year, Monica Arnaudo has made major shifts to Ulta’s merchandising assortment with the debut of Sparked, its incubator for emerging brands; newly established wellness sections in stores; and a refocus on the masstige category within color cosmetics. The goal? To be in line with what Ulta’s young shopper wants, at every turn.

How has Ulta approached newness over the last year?

The best example is how we looked at mass cosmetics. When you think about our competitors in mass, they have so many stores, and while we also have a lot of stores, we are smaller, so we made sure to create an assortment that you can only get at Ulta. Morphe, Colourpop, Juvia’s Place, Revolution Beauty and Florence by Mills are all exclusive to us, and they now they make up a huge percentage of our sales. We’ve expanded them all into more stores or with more space. They speak to the trends of the moment and the way we’re giving our customers what they want, when they want it.

What is your approach to finding brand talent and then taking a big bet?

As a team, we are always evaluating our assortment and taking a critical look at where we have white space. When we do meet a brand founder that is hitting on what we are thinking or seeing, it gives us even more confidence to move and have success. Juvia’s Place is a great example. We knew we were missing a highly pigmented color brand for darker skin tones, and when we met the founder, Chichi Eburu, we saw we could build around that concept with her. Tracee Ellis Ross with Pattern Beauty is doing the same with hair. She herself has been so rooted in her own hair journey and finding great products for every kind of texture.

How is Ulta able to provide both exclusivity and accessibility to its customers?

Beauty brands want to be available to a broad customer base. We have over 1,200 stores and we are in every state; we afford brands a national spotlight and help them slowly and carefully build that presence.

Q&A with Simona Cattaneo, Coty Inc., CMO of Luxury

Simona Cattaneo, CMO of luxury at Coty, was in charge of the marketing and development of one of the biggest beauty launches of the year: Gucci Beauty. Following its relaunch in May, Gucci Beauty sold 1 million lipsticks in its first two months, and it’s expecting double-digit growth in 2020.

What did Coty want to bring to the Gucci Beauty relaunch?

What Gucci is doing with fashion, Coty wanted to mirror with beauty. What [creative director] Alessandro Michele has is a strong point of view, and it is very inclusive and authentic. And we also wanted to mirror what was typical of indie brands by launching our social pages first.

Do you think beauty can help tell a fashion brand’s story?

Because of its accessible price point, beauty has always been a customer’s initial entry point into a luxury brand. Even on Instagram, makeup is still a form of armor and of confidence. In this respect, beauty brings to life a fashion brand’s image.

What are the plans for Gucci Beauty in 2020?

In the last year, we have been launching major products for Gucci, but now it’s not just about launching products, but about nurturing them. We started with lip, and we will also launch eyes and face. We are testing and developing different ideas to make the digital experience more appealing for the customer. 

Q&A with Neika Colbourne, Director of experiential, Ipsy

In charge of all of Ipsy’s live events, Neika Colbourne has been tasked with building on the company’s flagship event, Ipsy Gen Beauty, including expanding it into new territories. In 2019, she led the launch of Destination: Ipsy Mobile, which brought a traveling event series to Austin, Chicago and Miami, as well as the launch of Ipsy Live in New York City in October, which attracted 3,000 attendees and over 30 brands. Ipsy currently has over 3.5 million subscribers for its subscription box. The company hosted a total of 12 events in five markets in 2019, an increase from its five events in 2018.

Do you see a correlation between the increase in social media and tech with the number of offline events in beauty?

When beauty festivals were first introduced, the goal was to create an interactive event where attendees could enjoy themselves, learn about brands, and leave with beauty products and education around using them. Now, a main focus of events is the search for the perfect photo moment, specifically for social media. Once the ice is broken with the silly photo taken in the bathtub, the brands can more easily interact with and relate to the attendee, making for a more organic environment and overall experience.

How does Ipsy use events to bridge gaps between offline and online shopping?

Ipsy events give attendees the chance to experience Ipsy IRL, whether it’s the manifestation of our monthly glam bag theme as a part of a photo op or an activation based on an Ipsy collaboration. We always strive to provide our attendees with an insider’s view of their online experience. We bridge the gap by incorporating online activities into real life, including with a Build Your Own Glam Bag station and our Ipsy Merch station.

What’s the role of experiences in beauty?

Beauty has gone beyond the day-to-day experience of applying makeup and in-store demos. Over time, it has grown to be not only about an individual experience, but also about being part of a community. Events have become an integral part of the beauty experience, as well as an arena for discovery, self-expression and bonding.

Corinne Fugier-Garrel, Packaging conception development director, L’Occitane en Provence

According to Corinne Fugier-Garrel, L’Occitane en Provence’s packaging concept development director, the future of sustainability is through refillable packaging. She and her team are directing the beauty company toward this goal, and thus far have implemented refillable stations in three European stores. In 2020, L’Occitane is expected to expand this offering to 50 stores globally.

“Soon, we will see refillable stations everywhere,” said Fugier-Garrel.

On average, the beauty industry produces over 120 billion packaging units per year with most of it unrecyclable, according to the U.K. environmentalist group Zero Waste Week. Between 2010 and 2016, L’Occitane Group reduced its carbon footprint by 14%, and currently, 30% of L’Occitane en Provence plastic bottles feature recycled plastic. The beauty company plans to achieve 100% recycled bottles by 2025.

In addition, Fugier-Garrel is working to reduce the brand’s use of single-use and virgin plastic. In 2019, L’Occitane signed an agreement with Loop Industries to recycle all PET plastic, and it partnered with Plastic Odyssey to raise awareness around sustainability. Fugier-Garrel plans replace plastic cellophane with a compostable version and eliminate plastic spatulas from cream products by 2021.

Christina Hennington, SVP and GMM over beauty, essentials, beauty, hardlines and services, Target

In the winner-takes-all battle for beauty, Sephora and Ulta often dominate the conversation — but, increasingly, Target has become worthy contender.

This is even more true with the retailer’s introduction of the Target Clean program, which offers beauty options that exclude parabens, fragrance and other potentially harmful ingredients, and forays into private-label grooming and beauty offerings with men’s brand Goodfellow & Co and tween brand More Than Magic. Leading these merchandising launches within beauty and CPG is Christina Hennington, Target svp and gmm over beauty, essentials, beauty, hardlines and services.

“The merchant team has been hustling and finding the new, interesting direct-to-consumer brands that resonate with guests,” she said. “It’s been a multi-faceted approach of build, partner and grow.”

This strategy is resonating: Target’s beauty and essentials segment accounted for nearly $18 million in sales in 2018, which was 24% of total company sales. Beauty and essentials is a larger sector than Target’s buzzy apparel and accessories segment and its food and beverage category.

Target has built 40 private-label brands in recent history, and seven of those brands are $1 billion-plus brands, including Goodfellow & Co.

“Goodfellow was an opportunity for us to really update our investment and aesthetic for men in apparel, and there was such strong resonance with that brand that we took that and created a lifestyle,” said Hennington. “For grooming, we started with body care, face care and beard care, and then we introduced a razor in the back half of the year.”

This playbook of what Hennington calls “halo-ing” a lifestyle across the entire store also has been key for More Than Magic, which offers beauty, personal care, stationary, apparel and electronics.

“Our opportunity to bring joy to our guests is really evident with More Than Magic,” said Hennington. “It’s fun, it’s approachable and the price points are super competitive.”

Also this year, Target’s retail accelerator program, dubbed Target Takeoff, expanded to include wellness and beauty supplements, ensuring the retailer will continue to foster relationships with brands in these growing categories. Hennington also said this program is working to tap into key movements like sustainability and clean beauty.

“At Target, our [strategy] has always been about striking when it is most relevant so that we are right there with our guest,” said Hennington. “Right now, we have a lot of wind in our sails, and we are excited about that momentum.”

Peter Horvath, CEO, Green Growth Brands

When Peter Horvath, CEO of Green Growth Brands, began observing the cannabis landscape in October 2018, he found less than a dozen topical CBD products. In his opinion, none of them offered the quality or efficacy that the beauty and CPG industries are known for.

Within four months, Green Growth Brands debuted its first beauty offshoot, Seventh Sense. Today that brand has 95 products that are sold in its 200-plus U.S. mall locations. Beyond the five other companies within its portfolio, including a dispensary arm called The Source and a THC brand dubbed Camp, Green Growth Brands also developed the private-label line Mood for American Eagle Outfitters stores. Horvath’s focus? Mass appeal, as the cannabis customer is no longer a niche shopper.

“Over time, in the CBD landscape, customer segments and new product will be revealed, as will better ways to do business. But for now, it’s all new,” he said. “We think we are in the best position to reach the masses, and that’s the formula that’s needed for market disruption and market creation.”

Soyoung Kang, CMO, Eos Products

When Soyoung Kang joined Eos Products from Bath & Body Works in 2018, she was tasked with a total reboot of the lip-care brand’s identity, including updating its creative assets and fine-tuning its product release pipeline. Under the project, called “Make It Awesome,” she established the brand’s Flavor Lab platform to position the company as a flavor innovator, launched a micro-batch program offering new lip balms throughout the year, created the brand’s first TikTok campaign which has registered over 4 billion views, and redesigned the merchandising assortment for wholesale partners. The overall relaunch has driven double-digit growth in Eos’ sales through retail partners.

“When I first joined, I asked myself four questions: ‘Is this the right team? Are we in the right places? Do we have the right product? And are we telling the right story?’” Kang said.

In 2020, Kang plans to push Eos into other categories, including hand cream, and to find the brand’s voice within sustainability and social corporate responsibility initiatives.

Nico Le Bourgeois, U.S. director of beauty and baby, Amazon

As director of the beauty and baby categories at Amazon, Nico Le Bourgeois has been tasked with leading the internet giant’s plan of attack for beauty. This year, Amazon has approached the category with fervor: it launched Belei, the company’s first private-label skin-care line in March; debuted the Amazon Professional Beauty Store in June; and became exclusive distributor of Lady Gaga’s Haus Laboratories makeup line in August.

“We are in the business of giving time and money back to customers,” said Le Bourgeois. “I want Amazon beauty to be the place for customers to find the right products for themselves very quickly and have them delivered in one day.”

Le Bourgeois, who previously held positions within L’Oreal’s luxury division and at French beauty brand Yves Rocher, said he’s seen first-hand how technology and direct-to-consumer brands have lowered the barrier to entry within beauty. As such, Le Bourgeois and his team are particularly interested in leveraging technology to help Amazon become a platform for beauty discovery versus simply replenishment.

In June, Amazon worked with L’Oreal-owned Modiface on an augmented reality tool for mobile so Amazon customers can test lipstick shades from L’Oreal brands and others (Le Bourgeois was unable to share any sales figures). In 2020, Amazon will begin launching similar services and features on its professional storefront.

Thanks to these efforts, there is good evidence that customers are starting to see Amazon as a beauty destination. A 2019 report published by marketing and media agency Stella Rising found that 71% of American women said their top destination for beauty products was Amazon. According to a 2019 Edge by Ascential report, Amazon will likely experience double-digit growth in health and beauty sales over the next five years — Amazon itself does not break out category sales.

Considering the wealth of resources at his disposal and the multiple projects he works on, Le Bourgeois said his biggest challenge is deciding which priorities need his attention at any given moment.

“It’s always day one at Amazon,” he said. “My single biggest way to define a priority is the impact on customers. When the impact is important, that becomes my focus, and it’s the single metric I use to make my choices.”

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