I wasn’t lying in my last post about those 30 pages of GENIUS. Sorry for the long silence, but the reason why Eunnie and I have been so MIA over the past few weeks is that we’ve been terribly busy graduating!!!

Yes it’s true, folks. We are done with school! We survived. And, we are done with our research paper on digital beauty! That was, after all, the whole reason for this blog’s existence. It took some hard work. There were some late nights of paper writing, some very long run-on sentences, and many, many Friday morning “Project CF” meetings– but we made it! Our paper was finished, polished up, and turned in to the heads of the MS in Information System department here at BU. I’m sure I won’t be giving anything away when I tell you that we passed. (Pause for hysterical cheering here).

In the end, we have had a great semester discussing the concept of digital beauty, and the implications of new emerging technologies for the beauty industry. I’m not sure what the future will hold for this little blog of ours, but thanks to everyone who stumbled across here and took the time to read a post or two. It’s been a pleasure.

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Amazingly enough, the semester is almost at a close. We have two short weeks left to finish up classes, a brief exam period, and then we graduate (hopefully) on the 20th of May. We are in full-out paper-writing mode right now, trying to distill everything we’ve been researching and talking about for the past few months into 30 pages of GENIUS.

We just sent off our first rough draft to our professors, so fingers crossed that they like at least some of what we’ve written!

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Retail and Luxury Goods Conference

As you probably have already gathered, Eunnie and I had the good fortune recently to attend the HBS Retail and Luxury Goods Conference a week or two ago. The keynote speakers were William Lauder from Estee Lauder, and Tommy Hilfiger.

Notes from William Lauder: [Luxury goods] are not in the mass business. The value proposition from luxury goods is that you can get service from an expert to get you the right product the first time. Customers expect a certain level of expertise, just as if they were going to a nice restaurant. Today, the customer is in control, and we need to develop strong connections to them. There are two factors for success: great brands, and great people.

Notes from the panel discussion with Lauder and Hilfiger: Our notion of authority has shifted. The consumer is mobile, social, and better informed. Anyone and everyone is an authority now. Shopping is entertainment, not consumption. Everything revolves around the product. How can we continue to make the product better?

Interesting comments. What are your reactions? Do you agree with Lauder/Hilfiger that the rise of social media means a loss of control?

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William Lauder on Social Media

Beauty industry rock star William Lauder was in Boston Sunday as a keynote speaker for the annual Retail and Luxury Goods Conference at Harvard Business School. More on the conference later, but I wanted to share this bit that the CEO of Estee Lauder had to say about social media:

There are three great lies: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” “I will respect you in the morning,” and “It must be true because I read it on the Internet.”

The fact of the matter is, anybody can say anything on the Internet. Because there is no authority — authority comes from individuals and there is no editing except editing of a mob — and that has its own strengths and weaknesses.

But social media from a branding perspective can be very effective and there was a time when we said, “Oh, no no! We don’t want to participate in that because it’s not authorized.” But if you realize that if people feel strongly enough about your brand to form a group who “like” you in whatever media platform you’ve got, you realize they only do it because they feel a passion for your brand, and if there’s five people or ten people who have a passion for your brand want to start a fan club, who are we to say “Oh no no, we don’t like the fact that you’re a fan of our brand”?

Now we’re all learning to embrace this passion and this ability to find each other around the world. It’s a very important aspect, and an increasingly important aspect of how we communicate with consumers. Consumers are so much more well-informed than they were 10 or 15 years ago because they’re getting a different kind of democratic feedback about our brand that they didn’t necessarily have access to before.

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L’Oreal’s Digital Push

L’Oreal has hired its first digital director for its luxury brands.

Julie Thompson, the former VP of digital and CRM for Lancôme, will be in charge of all the digital activity across its luxury brands including Lancôme and Shu Uemura. According to this article, L’Oreal had digital heads for its consumer and hair care businesses but not its luxury division. Thompson is probably a good woman for the job, considering how active Lancome has been in the digital space compared to many of L’Oreal’s other brands.

L’Oreal has also hired the Mymarketmonitor, a media monitoring company, to evaluate online conversations. The company will review English-language blogs, social media channels, chat rooms and online editorial for conversations about L’Oréal UK brands.

So what will Thompson do in her new role? What will Mymarketmonitor find? If we knew, our project would probably get a lot easier!

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Brand Revitalization in the Age of the Internet

As I inhaled vast amounts of coffee this morning, I came across this article in the New York Times about Estee Lauder and how the company is looking to revitalize the aging brand by moving into new markets. There were a few interesting portions of the article, which I’m including below (with comments):

“But the company’s specialization in high-end cosmetics has also limited its ability to compete with companies like Procter & Gamble or L’Oréal, which have more diversified product lines. And, over the last few years, some department stores have consolidated, closing dozens of locations nationwide.” Specialization vs. diversification– the age-old question. I think that, especially in this age of recession (are we officially ‘post-recession’ yet?), diversified companies are better situated to weather economic ups and downs. There is a theory that we’ve come across that luxury brands actually do well during recessions. While this may be true to a certain extent, the concept of what luxury actually is, is changing, and consumer brand loyalty is shifting as well. My vote goes for diversification.

“Although some Lauder brands have been increasing their presence in specialty stores and shopping channels like QVC, Mr. Lauder says the company will never embrace mass-market distribution. He remains as committed as ever to department stores, citing examples like Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor where the company has been updating its displays and marketing techniques to attract new customers.” Interesting– I personally haven’t stepped foot in a department store in years. And if/when I do, the makeup counter area is one that I avoid at all costs. If I do need to get by, I power-walk my way through, no eye contact. The displays might be great, but the aggressive over-selling turns me off. Lesson– if you’re going to commit to department stores, make your counters welcoming. According to the article, if you pick up a basket while browsing, the clerks won’t aggressively push you to buy anything. Um, OK. But what if I didn’t know that, and I don’t want to carry around a basket on my arm??

This made me think– is the department store a dying channel, or does it still hold relevance? Sure, Clinique may have the ‘Clinique Smart Bar’, which is a tablet computer that customers can use to find out information about skin conditions. But what if I can’t make it to Bloomingdale’s to actually use that computer in person? I understand that Estee Lauder is targeting the luxury consumer, but aren’t they all online too these days? New markets today don’t have to be restricted to geography. What about online? What about going after the younger consumer? It seems to me that these are questions that luxury brands will need to answer, and soon.

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A Penny for Your Thoughts

In our Marketing and tech strategy classes, we often talk about what motivates consumers to participate in crowdsourcing activities — whether it is consumer-generated ads (Dove), designs (Threadless), or problem solutions (Innocentive). On a smaller scale, companies rely on consumers all the time to contribute product reviews and participate in on-line discussions.

When I got this email from The Body Shop today, I started thinking about what motivates consumers to write product reviews. Is it their deep love/hate for the product? Their love/hate for the brand? Or is it some kind of primal desire to share your opinion with others? Or… are they getting a discount on their next order? Somehow I doubt that’s the answer.

So what motivates people to actively contribute reviews on one site and remain quiet on another? Why are thousands of consumers eagerly reviewing products on Sephora.com and even eyeslipsface.com without extra incentives and yet The Body Shop has to offer 10% off next purchase?  What’s the secret ingredient?

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