To be honest, everything I learned from branding and marketing I learned from hairdressers and tequila.
I come from a liberal arts background. I got an MBA, but every job I got, I started in a creative capacity [mostly as a copywriter] then moved into marketing and brand development.
As a young man in Los Angeles, I did a lot of bar promotions for a number of brands, one of which was Jose Cuervo. That experience taught me that there is a lot more to marketing than what you learn in a traditional academic environment. Marketing is about the one-on-one experience. And this shaped the rest of my career.
From there I went to Redken, where, yet again, I started in creative and ended up in marketing (eventually becoming international marketing director for Redken NYC). Through my experience there, I learned that you can’t take (demographic) summaries or reports about people who fall into certain categories as gospel. This reduces lifestyle as an abstraction, instead of, well… life.
I feel the same approach should be used with brand values. Brands aren’t people. People are people. Culture doesn’t belong to brands. Brands belong to culture. Marketing people tend to try and create demand and not necessarily satisfy needs. With all the need that already exists in the world, why would anyone overlook what already exists and try to satisfy those needs instead? To develop a brand, it’s important to educate yourself about real people and respond to their needs. It’s a holistic approach to branding that I call ‘living media.’
Coty is a 100-year old brand, which a few decades ago people associated with what was on their grandmother’s vanity. Our CEO created an Ideas and Image division to upgrade our brand image and redefine our place in the market, showing people what Coty is today.
My job is to look beyond licensing to find a way to touch people on a basic level. In developing luxury brands, we look at the world and consider what traditionally is considered luxury. Traditionally, ‘luxury’ has a very couture inference rather than the broader idea of something aspirational, so we try to stretch that perception. A luxury fragrance doesn’t necessarily mean gold caps and frosted bottles. We look at people’s dreams to discover what motivates and moves them.
When working with Jennifer Lopez to develop Glow, we positioned her as a commonly desired beautiful woman. Naysayers said it would only appeal to Jennifer’s fan base, but I bet teenage girls aren’t the only ones going to Bloomingdale’s to get it. I’ll bet 40- and 50-year old women are using it also!
At around the same time we launched Glow, we launched Celine Dion, who is sort of like the Barbra Streisand of her generation. Celine is a beautiful, successful, talented woman who comes from a humble background, and she doesn’t apologize for it. She felt we understood who she was, and the fragrance truly represents her. We positioned Celine’s fragrance at a lower price point than Glow to make it more accessible to women who might connect with her, and they responded to it.
Another of our brands, Rimmel, is very popular in Europe. To raise awareness in the US, we did some fun things, like renting a British double-decker bus staffed with cosmetic stylists and going around the country to introduce the brand to people one-on-one. In no time, women in Tulsa were lining up to ‘Get Rimmel-ized.’
I firmly believe that technology is the new luxury. Lycra is a proprietary brand that is instantly recognizable and associated with comfort. We imagined the impact that technology could have on makeup and cuticles and worked with Rimmel to develop a nail polish that offered the benefits of that technology. It goes to show that the nature of brands is that they can be stretched, taken to their limits.
End note: Rimmel Lycra Wear nail polish experienced 500 percent sales growth in its first six months. Glow and Celine also broke historical records of commercial success.