How bareMinerals Changed Cosmetics and Brought the Customer into the Boardroom
Leslie Blodgett, Founder and former CEO of bareMinerals, knows retail. In 1994, when she became CEO of what was then the obscure bath and body brand Bare Escentuals, she rolled up her sleeves. She repackaged and renamed the company’s line of mineral makeup—bareMinerals—and promoted it as a healthy alternative to traditional makeup, ”which at the time was just liquid and full of chemicals.” There was no budget for print ads, so she began doing shows on QVC, the shopping channel. The live format cultivated an air of a best friend sharing her beauty routine and made Blodgett the face of the brand. To this day, bareMinerals has a die-hard community of users.
When Blodgett came to Bare Escentuals, she was 32 years old and had been in the beauty industry since she was about 20. This included work in product development for several large cosmetics companies, but also experience behind the cosmetics counter at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s in NYC. ”I was able to see how people interacted with customers and that one-on-one relationship ended up being a very big part of my success in the future.”
“I absolutely believe that the founder has more credibility than anyone, if you believe in your product, no one can sell it better than you.”
In the corporate world on the other hand, she found there to be ”a disconnect between what the women really wanted and what companies were doing; not being transparent to their audience, not actually asking women.”
Blodgett’s solution was to bring the customer connection that she found through television, into the boardroom. ”I was calling 25 people a week, even when our company was a billion dollars in retail sales. We crowdsourced product ideas from our community and they were always best sellers because we knew exactly what they wanted.”
Centering business on the personal connection meant that as bareMinerals grew, they had to find a way to scale the human side. ”We would bring customers into the office and hold meetings with them. The most loyal customers had often been using our products for longer than our new employees had worked for us; it was about finding out why they were with us.”
”Don’t just hire people you can relate to, you need everybody.”
While Blodgett always worked to build community around her product as CEO, she sees what it takes to reach out to people and to sell something changing with the advent of new technologies. ”People don’t trust companies anymore, so putting a human face behind the brand is important. Brands are walking away from things that sound too corporate or polished. I hate the word ’authenticity,’ because I think it is so overused, but consumers do need to feel that it is real.”
Her prognosis is that the beauty industry and ”celebrities” need to be cautious about paid-to-pitch products and turn away from that perceived lack of authenticity. She believes that the industry is thus on the cusp of another big change. Part of that change will be bringing e-commerce together with the in-person connection.
”E-commerce channels are killing it and they are realizing that they do want to interact with people face to face and malls are in the process of reinventing themselves. How do you combine a kick-ass experience in person with the e-commerce engine? That synergy is going to be electric in the future.”