It’s time for beauty business leaders to go back to core values

It’s time for beauty business leaders to go back to core values
Published: 4 June 2020

Last week we hosted an online discussion with key figures from the beauty community and our guest speaker, Tracey Woodward, about how, in this changed landscape, leaders need to pause and pivot!

With a 36-year career in the beauty industry, Tracey is a high-flier and 'go to' for advice on building successful brands and teams. Beginning on beauty counters, Tracey quickly excelled up the career ladder with brands such as Clinique, Aveda and Estee Lauder, and has taken the reins for a number of amazing brands including Aromatherapy Associates, MOP UK and M&S.

Tracey spoke to the group about what leaders can expect and need to be looking at doing differently as sanctions begin to lift. With contributions from leaders across businesses such as Molton Brown, Prismologie, Wax Lyrical and Medik8, we spent an hour discussing changes in leadership and the priorities business leaders need to adopt if they are to not only recover, but ensure they thrive over the next 5-10 years.

Below is a summary of each of the key points raised and discussed during the forum:

Switch from top-down to bottom-up

For too long, businesses have practiced top-down decision making whilst missing the feedback and views of those who interact with consumers and suppliers on a day to day basis. It is now more important than ever that leaders engage with, and listen to, employees from across the business to make the necessary changes within the wider organisation. This will allow businesses to be bring the consumer to the fore and make for a more sustainable business.

Inclusion is essential

The discussion understandably moved to that of inclusion, a topic which has already received much attention this last year (and quite rightly so). We discussed inclusion from both a consumer and employee perspective. Per point one, now is the time to ensure that businesses speak to and allow input from all employees. For example, innovation can come from anywhere and shouldn’t just sit with the marketing and development teams. The idea of a ‘Good Idea Box’ and equally a ‘Fear Box’ was discussed.

Now is the time to re-assess infrastructures. Are people really in the right places? Do some have a desire to change career function? Are you aware of these and facilitate such conversations? Leaders have a duty of care to their employees and without these people, businesses will cease to exist. It is important to get it right when it comes to managing our re-emergence through, what we are all hoping is, the latter stages of this pandemic. People will remember what their employers did during this time, and they will either rally or rebel.

Recognise what beauty means to your consumer

Moving to the consumer, it is safe to say we have all undergone a significant change in our thinking since the world was plummeted into a pandemic. It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that our purchasing behaviour may have also changed, both in terms of what it is we want to buy and how we go about it. There has probably never been a more important time to speak to your consumers to understand how your brand can stay relevant to them and address consumer demand in both the short and long term.

Authenticity is a must

Consumers have long looked for authenticity from a brand and, again, now so more than ever. Brands which reacted quickly, responsibly and genuinely, in the pandemic, by supporting customers with buying on-line or using social media to re-assure consumers that they can shop safely with them have been received with open arms and support. M&S were cited as such a brand. Post pandemic, consumers are going to be more demanding than ever when it comes to what they expect from their products and the credentials of the brands which make them. Whether that be what is being coined as ‘Healthy Beauty’, sustainable, ‘green’ products or knowing that the brands manufacturing them do so in a responsible way. Consumers will vote with their feet and if you don’t have an authentic dialogue with your consumer, you may find they leave you behind.

It was also discussed here how technology is an imperative part of a comms strategy. The latest advances in technology now available to the beauty sector are predicted to hit in mass much earlier than originally anticipated. Consumers have not stopped purchasing despite the closure of stores these past few months.  A brand which embraces such technology will again remain relevant to their consumers.

Leaders lead people, not businesses

A lot of the above brings us to our last point - what leadership is needed to see brands through to the other side of this storm. We discussed how important it was to have an emotional connection in order to lead, how leaders need to have EQ over any other trait to see a business to success and particularly in times of crisis. People respond to situations differently, there isn’t a “one solution fits all” in this time, so leadership teams need to anticipate this and elate in different ways.

The overriding message coming from our session was how leaders need to be more people focussed than ever, both internally and externally. Leaders have to understand what their employees are thinking and feeling, and show support and optimism in this time. They also need to understand the changing mindset of their consumer so they can put strategies in place to alleviate their worries and meet their demands.

For further information on the above or to take part in the next forum, please contact Claire Stewart.

Claire Stewart is a Consultant in the Consumer Practice at Berwick Partners, specialising in recruiting senior management and leadership roles within the Consumer Lifestyle sector.

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