How the shrewdest cosmetics and personal care brands engage consumers and attract investors

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

Maxwell Luthy, of TrendWatching (left to right);  Kelly McPhilliamy of Wells Fargo Securities; Elana Drell Szyfer, CEO of Laura Geller New York; and Jenny Fine of WWD (photo courtesy of  JF Productions)
Maxwell Luthy, of TrendWatching (left to right); Kelly McPhilliamy of Wells Fargo Securities; Elana Drell Szyfer, CEO of Laura Geller New York; and Jenny Fine of WWD (photo courtesy of JF Productions)
A CEW Business Insider event in New York City last week explored the connection between indie brand strategy, consumer expectations, and M&A activity in the beauty business. 

The organization brought Elana Drell Szyfer, CEO of Laura Geller New York, Kelly McPhilliamy, managing director of consumer and retail investment banking at Wells Fargo Securities, and Maxwell Luthy, director of trends and insights for TrendWatching, together in conversation with Jenny Fine of WWD.

“We are thrilled to have hosted our first CEW event of 2016 with such knowledgeable speakers and this important topic,”​ says Carlotta Jacobson, president of CEW, in a statement to the press. “CEW is committed to the mission of educating our members, and it’s important for them to be at the forefront of shifting consumer trends and understand how [those trends] will impact their business.”

Deep pockets

In the cosmetics and personal care industry, “disrupters abound,” ​affirms McPhilliamy. This is true in today’s economy because of an “increase in financial investors backing growth brands,” ​she explains. 

And where there is money to be made, innovation and initiative run rampant. McPhilliamy points to digital tech, market growth trends, and founder creativity as other drivers of indie beauty.

She highlighted data on the drop in market share for top beauty players between 2012 and 2015 across categories, from skin care to color cosmetics to lipstick and beyond.

Indie beauty companies are consequently enjoying an escalation in market share. And, those which resonate with consumers and are poised to reach into new markets are seeing an increase in outside investment.

By extension then, beauty M&A volumes are at historical highs, with over $17bn in transactions being reported last year, according to the figures McPhilliamy presented.

Market developments

Consumer expectations across industries shape the trends that matter in beauty. Luthy illustrated this idea with data showing that once the transportation network Uber became available in a given city, consumer willingness to wait for a car dropped drastically; and he suggested that this sparked a service-on-demand trend across the board.

Brands looking to do well today, he advises, should keep pace with shifts in consumer values and expectations.

Brand values

Laura Geller New York is a company set to make the leap from being an indie innovator to being a prime acquisition target.

Elana Drell Szyfer, CEO of Laura Geller New York, covered how the company intelligently expanded with the benefit of investor dollars by first clearly defining and then replicating, in a fractal-like fashion, the values that made Laura Geller successful through packaging, product lines, marketing, etc.

“We seek to ‘touch’ the customer across channels in the same personal way that Laura Geller herself would connect with them during a personalized makeup application or in-store appearance,” ​explains Drell Szyfer.

“We aim to share our products and beauty advice with anyone who is seeking simple advice and high quality products that will make them feel and look beautiful.”

Now, the values that made Laura Geller successful as a small, indie brand can reach a wider audience with the same indispensable feel and quality. “Laura Geller New York is taking a personalized approach to consumer engagement through evolved brand values that reflect the company founder, increased education for consumers and authentic social media interactions,” ​says Drell Szyfer.

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