Growing up in the shadow of Estée Lauder, spending summers working in the offices of sophisticated beauty companies and being shown the glamorous power behind a hint of blush or a dash of lipstick is something most young girls could only dream of. But for Aerin Lauder it was everyday life.
Some of Aerin’s fondest childhood memories were spent with her grandmother – the trailblazing businesswoman behind Estée Lauder Companies (ELC).
Following a rich 25-year stint at the helm of ELC, the 49-year-old stepped out of her grandmother’s shadow with the launch of her eponymous luxury beauty lifestyle brand AERIN in 2012.
“Estée Lauder was such a big part of my life and career,” Aerin told The CEO Magazine .
“I could see a gap in the market for a beauty lifestyle brand based on storytelling, feminist elements, heritage and quality. It was an interesting time to explore the possibilities in that concept.”
With 22 fragrances and more than 100 products, AERIN Beauty has flourished in 900 stores worldwide across 43 countries, while AERIN Home blossomed in 31 nations with more than 324 products.
“It’s a challenging time to be launching a brand but that’s why it’s so important to stay true to who you are,” – Aerin Lauder
And at a time where bricks-and-mortar stores are dwindling, AERIN thrives. “Retail is changing, the traditional department store is completely changing,” Aerin says.
“At a time when there’s so much product, so much choice and so much clutter, a point of difference and authenticity allows you to separate yourself.
“Estée talked about the importance of being authentic and I think if you’re passionate and true, success will come.”
Donning many different hats (product development, marketing, creative advertising and creative director) at ELC left Aerin, who is worth US$2.7 billion according to Forbes, well equipped to start her own venture.
“I was waiting in line before we opened our newest store in Los Angeles and it put a smile on my face because I remember thinking Estée would be so proud,” Aerin says.
“I think she would love how the industry has changed, how people are thinking outside the box. Estée would absolutely love what we’ve created.”
Aerin sat down with The CEO Magazine to share the secrets behind running a successful, multibillion-dollar beauty lifestyle company.
Rule 1. Authenticity is key
The most important business rule is to stay authentic and true. It’s a challenging time to be launching a brand but that’s why it’s so important to stay true to who you are, have storytelling and authenticity. There’s something very special in that. I think if you’re passionate and true, success will come.
Rule 2. Be creative
In the past year, we’ve done a lot of collaborations. It’s about thinking outside the box, creating buzz with wonderful new products and being honest. With all of our stores we’ve really tried to surprise and delight the customer with the music, bowls of fresh candy, fresh flowers, beautiful plants, nothing is behind glass – it’s all about delighting and surprising the customer, making her happy.
“We’ve done a lot of collaborations. It’s about thinking outside the box, creating buzz with wonderful new products,” – Aerin Lauder
Rule 3. Whatever you do, do it well
Estée had this amazing quote launching her brand. She said: “It’s my name on the package, so it has to be the best it can possibly be.” And I couldn’t believe in that more, I feel very strongly about it.
Rule 4. Understand your customer and connect with them
‘Tell-a-graph, tell-a-phone, tell-a-woman’ is what Estée used to say. The importance of woman-to-woman communication and really talking about your products; explaining it, describing why you love it – is more important than ever. The perfect example is Instagram. I love to see what people are responding to when we open a new store or launch a new product; what they’re gravitating towards and commenting on.
Rule 5. Surround yourself with incredible people
Good-quality top management and being surrounded by talent is important. You’re only as good as the people around you and I always surround myself with the best. Stay true to who you are, product-wise, and have a great team – there’s a lucky number of people from ELC I’ve taken with me.
Rule 6. Keep your ears and eyes open
Listen to intuition and listen to the customer. I’ve really learned from Estée to keep my eyes and ears open and try to understand everyone around me. There’s so much competition and retail is always changing.
Rule 7. Never take no for an answer
Stay passionate and focused. Estée used to talk about the importance of passion, hard work and persistence – she never took no for an answer. There are all these amazing stories of her sitting and waiting at beauty bars to talk to managers.
Rule 8. Look to the future
I learned a lot from ELC about being strategic, creating a calendar and looking into the future. I had great training and wonderful mentors so it gave me the confidence and freedom to follow my dreams. AERIN was the perfect next chapter.