War Paint on Broadway

The message of female empowerment then and now.IMG_2813

Recently the new musical War Paint starring Patti Lupone, and Christine Ebersol debuted at the Nederlander Theatre in New York City.

The new Broadway show is about two beauty icons and pioneers, Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden, yes, the same as in the infamous Red Door.  The play spans 4 decades and empowerment is the key message from start to finish.

Sitting in the audience I realized from the start that the perfume bottles and skin care jars surrounding the set, while beautifully packaged, are not intended to be the centerpiece of the story.  The message centers on the passion that both women shared to succeed and to be empowered in a man’s world.  The products were just a means to an end.

Immigrants from Poland (Rubenstein), and Canada (Arden) their companies became American icons in the world of beauty.  While they approached it from different angles, Rubenstein the technician, versus Arden the feminist enabler, they soon became a girl’s best friend, or in this case an aging woman’s best friend.  The two shared a similar message to women; your youthful looks are what will keep your partner from roaming.  Their secret weapon was insights into women’s insecurities living in a judgmental world, however, they too were never really accepted into the upper echelon of society notably the “Mayflower” set of women they served with unrelenting devotion.  So much so that when Helena was denied a co-op in a ritzy upper East Side building she didn’t walk away from it, she bought the entire building!

Men and male relationships took a back seat to their professional ambitions.  It was clear that they focused on helping women keep a man happy unlike themselves.  This back then wScreen Shot 2017-03-10 at 9.46.36 AMas a message of empowerment… remember a movie entitled “The Women”?  The characters in that movie were the very same customers of Arden and Rubenstein.

                                                                              (The Women 1939 …. All about keeping men!)

Despite their shared commitment to women, and beauty they remained arch rivals to the end.  The final scene in the play underscores their disdain for the other, however, reveals a split second of a veiled respect for each other having succeeded in a man’s world.  One could only wonder what would they have accomplished for women’s equality had they joined forces.

Empowerment is a key communication platform for most beauty brands today.  L’Oreal Paris established their mantra of “worth” almost 50 years ago.  The message was simply whatever you do, do it because “You’re Worth It”.  Recently more and more brands are joining in on the quest for empowerment.  From the most recent effort by J&J’s Neutrogena’s “See What’s Possible”, which debuted on this year Oscars, to the on-going P&G’s Always’ “Like a Girl” campaign, both celebrate the diversity, individuality and the strength of a woman.  Beauty and Empowerment are becoming more integrated and interchangeable than ever before.   Pantene’s message to be strong is beautiful is a clear example of this.  Dove’s message of female empowerment underscores that there is no longer a one size fits all standard in beauty.

Back when Helena and Elizabeth were an inspiration to women around the world, empowerment was achieved by conforming to the standards provided or, in some cases, imposed upon one by society.  Now, empowerment is about self-expression, courage, and unity.  I couldn’t help to notice that during the same week of previews for this Broadway show another female empowerment icon debuted in New York.  The irony was not lost.

“The Fearless Girl” arrived in the dead of night in time to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8th).  The young girl confronting the bull represents the future and meant to raise awareness of gender diversity in the heart of the financial world, Wall Street itself.

The lesson learned from “War Paint” and Wall Street’s “The Fearless Girl” reminds us that messengers have come and gone, but the message of equality remains constant.  There could be a statue of Elizabeth Arden, who began her company in1910, standing side by side with the “The Fearless Girl”.  She like many after believed the path to equality was through self-empowerment.  However, the one thing about Elizabeth and Helena is that they would be wearing the right shade of red lip color to taunt the bull standing before them.Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 1.45.41 PM

Read more about female empowerment and beauty in


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CONTENT…The NEW fabric of our lives.

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Too much of a good thing?

The changing world of brand communications, or to be honest, selling products, has taken on a new format to attract buyers…it’s called content.  Content is the “new” communication tool that engages consumers to connect with brands.  It is the fuel that feeds today’s consumer insatiable appetite habit to search for information or simply to be entertained.   Brand’s today can only hope that this connection will translate into sales.  At the very least be shared to amplify the brand message.

Content in beauty can be anything from the latest runway looks and trends to how to get the perfect cat eye tutorial.  However content is expanding beyond the expected look and how to.  A Google/Millward Brown Beauty Digital Study indicates that 49% of undecided women shopping on-line begin their search with non branded questions…for example, “how do I get the perfect cat eye?”  This number is expected to grow as more and more consumers, especially in beauty and the use of mobile devices.  So the shift in content is from that which engages to content that provides answers.  I did learn in my research from Jan Godsk of BCMA (Brand Content Marketing Association), that there are two approaches to content.

The first is Branded Content Marketing Campaigns that are used to connect consumers on an emotional level, think Dove Real Beauty.  This content is primarily a brand message of empowerment with no product sell.  The second as Jan called it is Content Marketing Campaigns which provide brand/product information and a definite RTB which intent is to lead to product purchase.

All this chat about content makes me realize that it is a good thing.  The at your fingertips convenience of both information and entertainment to keep us occupied and informed. Especially when one is looking for the perfect cat eye that will empower them to act.  From desk top computers, laptops, tablets, smart watches and mobile devices that provide an always there for you service, content is indeed becoming the new fabric of our lives.

For more on beauty from the inside order a copy of MR. BEAUTY: AN AFFAIR WITH THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY.

Purchase the book at amazon.com/gp/product/1508619573




Sidestepping Celebrity for a Rare Breed of Influencer: The Socialite.

Princess Stephanie of Monaco for La Prairie Skin Care

There is a lot of conversation these days about “Influencers” in beauty.  In the past this breed of brand ambassadors ranged from mothers and girlfriends on one end to Hollywood celebrities on the other; simply, women who influence other women on beauty products. Today the Influencer has expanded beyond mom and the celebrity to vloggers, bloggers, and anyone with a large enough following that listens to what she has to say.  Her influence has the power to make or break a new beauty product with a simple yes or no. But some 30 years ago a beauty brand with little awareness in the U.S. selected a very unique type of influencer, the Socialite.   All of the socialites selected for the campaign were unknown to the majority of women in the country.  However, the 1% of women aware of them was exactly the highly targeted audience that La Prairie Skin Care wanted to reach.

I was at Peter Rogers Associates, the ad agency that created the La Prairie beauty campaign “Beauty Is Not Only Skin Deep” back in the mid-80’s.

What made this skin care campaign unique at that time was that none of the women were Hollywood celebrities — they were prominent Socialites that were highly influential in their elite social circles.  Mind you back in 1985 La Prairie Skin Caviar was the most expensive skin care product on the market (it even came with its own silver spoon!).Screen shot 2016-01-10 at 6.43.47 PM

The challenge for La Prairie, then a Swiss owned company, was to overcome low awareness and distribution in the U.S. prestige market.  What the “Beauty Is Not Only Skin Deep” campaign did to tackle this marketing challenge was to create a “social buzz” using these “influencers”.  The beauty ambassadors were hardly household names, however, within their elite social circles they reigned supreme creating a consumer demand for the product in department stores. Beside the influencing power of the brand ambassadors the campaign provide an additional unique component – philanthropy.

Each ambassador received $50,000 for the charity of her choice. Beginning with Princess Aga Khan of Palm Beach the money was donated to Alzheimer research – her mother Susan Hayward the actress was an early famous face of what was then a hardly understood diagnosis.  Ann Getty passed along the money to the San Francisco Opera – she was a board member.  Mrs. Judith Peabody’s from NY donated her ‘stipend’ to the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Mrs. Oscar Wyatt of Texas donated her share to the Houston Grand Opera. Princess Stephanie, featured in the ad above, donated her $50K in honor of her mother, Princess Grace, and her foundation supporting new talent in the arts.

Princess Yasmin
Princess Yasmin

The impactful portraits of these socialite influencers was shot by the legendary photographer Horst P Horst known for his signature black and white photography that capture elegance and timeless glamour.  Next to her photo was the only copy on the page that identified the individual and her charity.

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Horst P Horst

Unique and incredibly bold for the time was the absence of a product photo in the ad, only the La Prairie logo discretely placed in the lower right hand corner.

With the classic portrait of socialite influencers, a philanthropic cause mentioned under the headline “Beauty Is Not Only Skin Deep”, a new skincare line was launched with great success.  The unexpected and powerful influencers created an awareness of both La Prairie in skin care, and a variety of causes and charities. The brand remains one of the most prestigious names in beauty today and is still in demand by “socialites” and other mere mortals around the world.

To learn more about beauty influencers go to MR. BEAUTY: AN AFFAIR WITH THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY.

Order your copy today at  amazon.com/gp/product/1508619573


Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

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The pursuit of salon inspired beautiful hair – a global desire.

I’ll never forget the first shampoo commercial I was a part of.  It was for Vidal Sassoon, the “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good” brand phenomenon in the late 80’s.  Earlier, Vidal had been crowned the most famous celebrity stylist after his innovative invention of the 5-point cut. This was the asymmetrical bowl cut hairstyle on Peggy Moffitt, a “mod” celebrity model in the 60’s, and became the rage from London to New York overnight.  Vidal’s celebrity was further solidified with the pixie cut he created for Mia Farrow who was dating Frank Sinatra, one of the world’s biggest stars at the time.  She wore this haircut in Rosemary’s Baby and it created a sensation and began a trend.  Vidal who took his salon inspired hair care products to the masses in the 70’s soon provided the desire for all women to join in on this hair revolution.  Remember the brown cylindrical bottle?  He was the first salon stylist to do this, which did not endear him to the salon professionals of the day.

Salon brands go global when large beauty care companies purchase them. In the case of Vidal Sassoon its early exposure in the 70’s was due to its acquisition by Richardson Vicks, the famous makers of the VapoRub a medicine cabinet must during cold season.  By the mid 80’s P&G acquired the company and added Vidal Sassoon, Pantene and Bain de Soliel to its beauty portfolio.   P&G took Vidal Sassoon global in the early 90’s with a version called Ultra Care.  This salon inspired product now provided the world with the new 2 in 1 technology that created the wash ‘n go platform for Pert Plus, another P&G shampoo and conditioner in one brand.

Another salon inspired brand to go global was Unilever’s Salon Selectives. While the brand never originated in salons, Unilever was quick to capitalize on the popularity of the salon inspired products emerging in the mass market.  While salon was not part of the brand equity, the brand had created what was probably the first form of personalization in mass shampoos and conditioners.  Salon Selectives allowed the consumer to purchase different benefits to achieve desired results, shampoo for shine, and conditioner for frizz control.  The wrap up was “For salon beautiful hair like you just walked out of the salon”.

Recently a third brand that seems to be spreading the word globally about its salon heritage and value is TRESemme.  Blasting airwaves with behind the scene shots of models and stylist prepping for the runway the brand platform of salon heritage at an affordable price is very clear or, in their words, “A salon quality-collection created by experts for everyday runway results at home”.

What is the consumer pull that encourages this salon proposition around the world?  It is simply the belief that a salon brand is a better product and that an expert that works in fashion and beauty knows hair better than most.   A stylist recommendation influences a purchase more than anything else in this category.

In my book MR. BEAUTY, women were asked this question when it came to hair care products: What’s more important — price or performance?  Performance leads regardless of price.  Salon “inspired” brands at mass prices will always have some appeal, however, women know better when it comes down to a true salon brand like Redkin or Nexxus.  Even Vidal Sassoon with a heritage based on the first celebrity stylist is no longer in distribution given its move to mass production and diminished product quality.  Women who have converted to salon products know the difference and are able to quickly separate product quality from dollar value.  In essence, the age-old belief that you get what you pay for still hold true regardless of a product’s implied “inspiration”.

To learn more about women’s relationships with shampoos and other beauty product pick up a copy of MR. BEAUTY: AN AFFAIR IN THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY.

Order your copy today at  amazon.com/gp/product/1508619573



Who doesn’t like a good story?


There is “dish” and than there is a “story” that everyone likes to hear.

In the beauty business there are a lot of stories about female empowerment. Take, for example, Dove’s “Real Beauty” that was launched by the brand over 10 years ago.  In 2004 Dove reached out to over 3,200 women to better understand their perception on the beauty industry.  The result was that only 2% of the women in the study considered themselves to be beautiful.  This staggering statistic inspired Dove to challenge beauty standards of the day with the “Real Beauty” campaign that appeared in print and television and also leveraged the new social media channels that were emerging.  This garnered enormous public relations value for the company.  In essence, this strategic platform of female empowerment catapulted a soap brand into a beauty brand (?!) almost overnight by creating a new dialogue with women on the topic of self-acceptance.  Dove was not the first personal care product company to do this and certainly not the last.

For decades L’Oreal Paris reminded women of their value with the infamous slogan “Because You’re Worth It”.  Created in the early 70’s this proclamation of value served two purposes.  First, the exclamation of product superiority and, second, with the belief in a woman’s self esteem.  The earliest expression of this idea was deployed in the first commercial for Preference Hair Color with the on-camera statement, “Actually, I don’t mind spending more for L’Oreal… Because I’m Worth It.”  Since that time this expression of self worth has expanded to a program celebrating its 10th year, Women of Worth, that recognizes women from across the country who give of themselves helping to make a better world.

This year two beauty brands took on the female empowerment voice with the intent to create their own versions of empowerment to connect on an emotional level with women.  Pantene created the “Not Sorry” campaign, which encourages women to stop apologizing for things based on a study that revealed that women apologize more than men for things that need no apology.  The underlying insight is that women tend to excuse themselves for things that men would never consider doing, e.g., being late for a meeting, etc.

Most recently Maybelline New York replaced its decade old slogan “Maybe She’s Born With It, Maybe It’s Maybelline” with “Make IT Happen”.  While there is little explanation on why this evolution is empowering to women, the “IT” in the slogan suggests that there is a ‘go out there and do it’ Nike-like sensibility happening.  The visual expression of this sentiment is enhanced with images of women applying makeup and getting out into the world to meet challenges head on.  In essence, the insight here is not new.  It is based on a beauty principle used for decades that when you look your best you can do your best.

Empowerment stories are not new in the beauty business, however, they are becoming more important as companies are looking for new ways to connect to women.  Even more so they are vital in our new social media landscape where exchanging dialogues and building loyalty are the new currency.  They will continue, as they should, but will never replace the value of someone that knows you well telling you how strong, beautiful and wonderful you really are.   Happy Holidays!  The future holds the promise of greatness!

For more insights into how truly beautiful you are, click on the link below.

MR. BEAUTY:  AN AFFAIR WITH THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY.  All proceeds benefit Pancreatic Cancer Research in honor of Eileen McKenna.

Order your copy today at  amazon.com/gp/product/1508619573








Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall, Which Celebrity & Beauty Brand Has It All?

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Celebrities and Beauty Brands have been having a love affair for a long time, but do women in the real world think they’re worth it?

Today the multibillion dollar beauty industry features celebrities across some of the top beauty brands.  Take for example L’Oreal Paris, Lancome, Neutrogena and Cover Girl.  These 4 beauty companies combined feature 25 celebrities in their advertising with L’Oreal Paris and Cover Girl tied for having the most in their portfolio.  What’s the point behind all of this beauty bling?

What I learned from the interviewees in MR. BEAUTY is that there is a lot of confusion around matching the celebrity to a brand she represents.  The women in the study suggested that this mix up is due to 3 basic elements.  The shear number of celebrity endorsements is the number one reason for the confusion.  Secondly, the number of celebrities that switch to competitive brands, for example, Keri Washington who was once a L’Oreal Paris spokeswoman is now representing Neutrogena, and Julianne Moore was once a face for Revlon and is now part of the “I’m Worth It” dream team .   Last of all, if the celebrity is unrelatable, she is also unmemorable.

I also learned from the interviewees examples of when a celebrity and beauty brand hook up works.  Examples provided included Katy Perry (pre Cover Girl) expressing her frustrations with her skin and a credible before and after demonstration of the results of using Pro-Activ.  Andie MacDowell is a celebrity that was universally loved by the interviewees because of her authenticity, style and classic beauty.  A third for completely different reasons was Ellen Degeneres with her unexpected, but inclusive appearance as a spokesperson for Olay.

When all is said and done a celebrity can provide enormous thrust for a beauty brand if the match up provides 3 basic elements: Credibility – she actually uses the product,  Authenticity – she is speaking from her heart and not a script, Awareness – she provides unexpected impact in a positive way.

To learn more about the power of celebrity and beauty brands pick up a copy of MR. BEAUTY: AN AFFAIR WITH THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY.

Purchase the book at amazon.com/gp/product/1508619573



Beauty Angles

cropped-realbarbie.png  Beauty does indeed come in all shapes and sizes.  No longer are the days of one size fits all when “cover girls” reigned. Women today are encouraged to express themselves in traditional and non-traditional ways, (we’re talking tattoos and body piercing here). But one has to ask, where does it all begin?

In my book MR. BEAUTY:  AN AFFAIR WITH THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY, based on a study on how women look at beauty brands and products today, what I discovered is that women do not approach the topic of beauty in the same manner. Interestingly, they viewed the topic of beauty care in relationship to their daily lives and early influences, mostly mothers, sisters and girlfriends.  This learning only underscored how subjective and vast the topic of beauty is and that what may be the beginning of a conversation for one on the topic may have very little interest for another.  It was far more practical than I expected.

When talking about beauty care on a personal level, women felt comfortable addressing the topic based on what they did in their daily routines, what had influenced them and, most importantly, how comfortable they felt about their own beauty.  The underlying insight was the importance that was placed on care and overall beauty enhancement.  Not one interviewee ever mentioned how she wished she looked different. When one did mention a desire for smoother hair or healthier skin it was in the context of what they do to achieve it in a proactive way.

Lastly, I found it interesting that celebrities were never mentioned, nor were industry catch phrases like “radiant skin”, “silky, shiny hair” or “revolutionary wrinkle repair”. The language was very straight forward, practical, and simple when talking to the interviewees about what beauty care meant to them.

Learn more about this subject from my book, mrbeautybook.com  All proceeds benefit Pancreatic Cancer Research in honor of Eileen McKenna.

Purchase the book at amazon.com/gp/product/1508619573

Blog This!

Welcome to Mr. Beauty Blog. With the launch of my new book, Mr. Beauty – An Affair with the Beauty Industry, (available on Amazon.com and your Kindle), I was encouraged to write a blog.  While I am familiar with blogs, especially those that cover beauty, I wondered to myself what would separate Mr. Beauty Blog from all the others?  Since the platform for the book is rooted in observation it only made sense that the blog did too.  So Mr. Beauty Blog is not a “how to” or the “latest in color trends”, rather it is observation and insights on how women approach the topic of beauty.

Given the number of beauty bloggers, just Google for yourself and you will be amazed – I thought I would ask 5 urban sophisticated well-informed women who are their favorite beauty bloggers.  The result was fascinating. The women mentioned 15 different beauty blogs as their favorite. From Into the Gloss to Refinery29 with Brooklyn Blonde in between, not one of the five had the same blogger on their list.  I thought that it was interesting that among a small sample of women who share very similar profiles that not one of the beauty blog sites was shared among the group.

It made total sense to me that given my research for Mr. Beauty and what I learned about how women approach the topic.  For women it is not a one size fits all kind of thing.  They look at beauty in the context of their lives and early experiences.  For example, a woman growing up with a mother who believes healthy skin is the key to beauty, skin care is therefore top of mind when asked about beauty care. As the same woman begins to describe other beauty care items it is clear that the topic shifts to products that fit into her lifestyle.  Therefore it’s only logical that when seeking advice and inspiration it would be from blogger sites that offer diverse content – color cosmetics to fashion trends women are using blogs today that provide lifestyle inspiration.

Tune in next week to Mr. Beauty Blog when I follow up on the topic of Beauty Bloggers that Blog Beauty. In the meantime let Mr. Beauty know who are your favorite beauty blogs.

For more information go to mrbeautybook.com