Dana Wood

About Dana Wood

A beauty journalist for 20+ years, Dana Wood has served as Beauty Director for BRIDES, Cookie and W magazines, has written for numerous national publications, and is an author and a blogger. She also spent several years in the Luxury Products Division of L’Oreal, as AVP Strategic Development. She recently relocated to Florida, and is embracing high-speed, expressway driving.

While P&G and Coty Shuffle the Deck, Unilever Does Some Stealth Scooping of Its Own

RR_While-P&G-and-Coty-Shuffle-the-Deck_2“Portfolio reshaping.”

Apparently that’s now beauty-biz code for: “Let us take whatever wasn’t working for you – including some stuff that really and truly wasn’t working for you – and see what we can do with it.”

Presumably that wasn’t the way the talks around Coty’s jaw-dropping, $12.5 billion purchase of 43 P&G brands went down in early July. But to the average armchair industry-watcher, it’s easy to think it might have.

Why? Because along with semi-gems like Wella and CoverGirl (and let’s be frank – if they were genuine growth-potential gems P&G would have hung onto them, as it did with Pantene, Olay and SK-II), Coty, come mid-2016, will be tasked with absorbing not only dozens of tiny underperformers, but also the thousands of employees attached to those brands.

Taking the Talent, Too

And for the moment at least, that’s Coty’s official stance: We want and need the management teams of our newly acquired brands, too.

Of course it does; by snapping up a raft of salon brands (Sebastian and Nioxin, in addition to Wella), it’s instantly in an entirely new distribution channel. And with the purchase of Clairol and Sassoon, it’s suddenly a player in at-home hair color, too. That’s a lot of heads to keep happy; although the percentage of women coloring their own hair bounces around a bit with the ups and downs of the economy, roughly half of U.S. females go the DIY route. The rest are all but welded to their favorite salons.

So what else did Coty nab from P&G? On the cosmetics side, Max Factor, a storied, 106-year-old brand in need of a refresh. And fragrances. Lots and lots of fragrances.

While one of Coty’s stated goals for this bulk P&G acquisition was to round out its existing portfolio, which is heavily weighted toward fragrance, it has nonetheless added 13 scents to its roster.

Talk about a mixed bag. Coty’s new fragrance babies range from the vibrant and viable Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci, to the chic-but-small Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, and the undoubtedly troublesome Christina Aguilera and Gabriela Sabatini. As for the latter two, that’s the problem with the celebrity-scent game; they’re all too easy to get into, but how – and when – do you get out?

At the Top of Fragrance Mount Olympus

Already a bit of a Goliath in fragrance – thanks to its Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs and Chloe brands, among others – Coty, with the P&G buy, has solidified its position as the global leader in this category. But what troubled turf! Those tricky celeb scents we mentioned earlier? Coty already owns a sizeable fleet of them, including Halle Berry, Enrique Iglesias and the one that started it all – Jennifer Lopez. For a good decade, in fact, Coty was the go-to for star scents.

In mass-market makeup, Coty, which already owned the edgy, Georgia May Jagger – and Kate Moss-fronted Rimmel brand, will now also be a force to be reckoned with. That is, if it’s willing to invest, invest, invest in Max Factor and tighten up the marketing around CoverGirl.

With a spokesmodel roster bursting to the seams including Sofia Vergara, Pink, Katy Perry, Ellen DeGeneres and Queen Latifah, CoverGirl – long the purveyor of some of the best budget-friendly beauty products of all time – could benefit from a more focused, disciplined message. One that – gasp – maybe even shifts some of the spotlight back onto the merch itself.

Hair, fragrance, makeup. What about skin? Well, as noted, P&G’s biggies in this category – the decidedly buzzy SK-II and the slightly wobbly but highly innovative Olay – weren’t up for grabs. So for now, Coty will just have to keep its laser focus on Philosophy, which it acquired from Carlyle Group in 2010 and has been working very, very hard on of late.

Meanwhile, Over at Unilever…

And shocker of all shockers, Coty might even have to cede a little ground in prestige skincare to the most unlikely mega beauty corp of all: Unilever. Yes, Unilever, home to supermarket skincare brands like St. Ives, Pond’s and Noxema, has suddenly decided it wants in on the high-end treatment action. In the past year, after forming a Prestige personal care unit, it has scooped up REN, Kate Somerville, Dermalogica and Murad in rapid succession.

Oh to be a fly on the wall in Rotterdam, as Unilever plots its stealth infiltration of this red-hot sector. Clearly, there’s wizardry at work here. Not only is Unilever now covering the organic angle with the acquisition of REN, it’s tapping the L.A. celeb market with star aesthetician Kate Somerville, who is developing quite a following in Asia, particularly South Korea.

With Murad, Unilever adds not only a brand with a solid foothold in Sephora and QVC, but also access to Howard Murad himself, a well-regarded skincare doc and professor of dermatology at UCLA. And Dermalogica? Well, it’s only the leading professional and spa skincare brand in the world.

Upsizing, downsizing, coming out of left field and sideways-sizing. The era of portfolio reshaping is upon us.

Staying Hot (AKA The Other Kind of Sustainability): Can Frédéric Fekkai Get His Mojo Back?

lead_frederic_bioIf you’re older than a minute, and in the beauty biz in any way, shape or form, you will remember the epic hotness of one Frédéric Fekkai.

There was another guy named Oribe who was equally epically hot at the same time, circa 1995, and we’ll circle back to him later. But in the spirit of serving short Internet attention spans, our task today will be to focus on Monsieur Fekkai, and how his once ground-breaking product and salon business has changed hands more times than a blackjack whale on a bender in Vegas.

While much has been made of Fekkai’s swarthy good looks and devastating French accent over the years – and there is zero question that both factored mightily into his early success – the fact of the matter is that the guy is really smart and incredibly driven. You don’t get from Aix en Provence with a pair of scissors in your hand to acquisition by P&G for north of $400 million simply by trading on your own charm and pulchritude. The beauty industry isn’t Hollywood. (But then again, judging by all the A-list actresses launching lifestyle brands, Hollywood isn’t even Hollywood anymore…) [Read more…]

The Grooming Boom: This One’s Gonna Stick

Martial Vivot at his salon on West 39th Street in Manhattan, Friday February 11th, 2011.

Mampering. Manscaping. Guy-brows. There are lots of lame new monikers attached to a bonafide beauty movement with big-bucks potential: The rise of guys as committed, trend-savvy – and, dare one say it, glamorous – consumers of product and services.

Have we been here before? Kinda. Since the mid-Aughts, there have been a handful of ship-on-the-horizon upticks in the men’s grooming market, enough to embolden such establishment brand behemoths as L’Oréal Paris and Dove to roll out initiatives like Men’s Expert and Men+Care, respectively.

But while L’Oréal SA and Unilever (the corporate papas of L’Oréal Paris and Dove) can afford to take a flyer on a new product range that may or may not jibe, here’s how you know when the rising guy tide is poised to lift all boats:

A) When tiny niche brands gain traction right out of the launch gate; [Read more…]

Overfranchising: When Category-Killers Just Can’t Stop Cannibalizing

overfranchisingMaybe you’re Maybelline.

And maybe, because you’re Maybelline, you produce one of the most beloved mascaras of all time. Yes, Great Lash is one for the ages, a perennial box-office champ for the last 44 years. In this era of here-today, gone-tomorrow product launches, that preppy pink and green tube of makeup magic is in a class by itself.

In the prestige arena, Lancôme has enjoyed a similarly mammoth success story. Though its Définicils High Definition Mascara is 20 years younger than Great Lash, urban legend has it that one is sold – somewhere, globally, from Boston to Beijing — every three minutes.

Clearly, these two brands have carved-out massive slices of the brutally competitive mascara pie, proffering products women the world over genuinely adore. [Read more…]

Beauty’s Buying Blitz: It’s the Early Aughts All Over Again

NYX Cosmetics at Yigal Azrouel Spring 2015 - BackstageIf it weren’t for the massive stack of 2015 promo calendars clogging our mailbox (thank you, Triple-A Termite Control and Super Shiny Carwash!), we’d bet our bottom dollar it was 2000 all over again.

At least this seems to be the case for the beauty business, which is currently on an acquisition spree, the likes of which we’ve not seen since the go-go early Aughts.

But before we dive into any serious tea-leaf reading, let’s recap the M&A landscape of the past year.

Acquisitions on Steroids

In 2014, L’Oréal Group snapped up a whopping six brands: three that are primarily skincare (Magic Holdings International, Decléor, Carita); two in hair (Niely Cosméticos, Carol’s Daughter); and one in makeup (NYX Cosmetics).

The Estée Lauder Companies, while less acquisitive, nonetheless swooped in with three third-quarter purchases, adding two fragrance brands to its portfolio (Le Labo and Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle) and one in skincare, Rodin Olio Lusso. [Read more…]

Vegan Is the New Black

dana_veganWhat’s more mainstream-American-beauty than Christie Brinkley? Christie Brinkley selling her upcoming face and body de-agers on HSN, that’s what. And for an extra dose of apple-pie wholesome, how about a Christie Brinkley beauty counter at Kohl’s?

But here’s what isn’t so by-the-book about Christie Brinkley Authentic Skincare: just like the 60-year-old stunner herself, it’s 100 percent anti-animal cruelty. In fact, it’s vegan. As a decades-long vegetarian and staunch wildlife advocate who spearheads anti-poaching missions in Africa, Brinkley made damn sure her eight-SKU range doesn’t contain a trace of animal anything.

If this were 10 – even five – years ago, Brinkley’s product positioning might have been deemed a gamble. Yes, the line’s core raison d’être is anti-aging; vegan is only one chapter of the story she’s telling. But the fact that Brinkley will be able to riff about why eschewing animal ingredients and testing is important to her — on the massive platform that is HSN – speaks volumes about where the beauty industry is headed these days. [Read more…]

Coty Sinks In Its Claws

shutterstock_152473550When it comes to spending sprees, November 2010 was a doozy for Coty, Inc. In rapid succession, the New York-based, publicly held global powerhouse scooped up the German makeup company Dr. Scheller Cosmetics AG for an undisclosed amount; the touchy-feely Philosophy skincare brand from the Carlyle Group for an estimated $1 billion; and OPI, the pro nail care line famous for lacquers with cheeky names like “Skull & Glossbones” and “Wooden Shoe Like to Know,” for another (rumored) $1 billion.

At the time of those purchases, Coty, then a $3.6 billion entity, was billing itself as the world’s largest fragrance company. By rounding out its portfolio with these brands, the plan was to reduce its reliance on the recession-plagued perfume biz, carve off a bigger slice of Germany’s beauty pie, and inch toward its stated goal of $7 billion in revenue by 2015.

While it would be hard to argue which was the splashier score— Philosophy or OPI, both of which are wildly beloved by consumers— the latter allowed Coty to not only tap an entirely new distribution channel, but also expand its foothold in the supernova that was nails circa 2010. [Read more…]

MAC: All Things to All People…Even If That Maybe Isn’t The Best Idea Right Now

MACUpfront disclaimer #1: MAC is one of the best beauty brands of all time.

Now that that’s firmly out of the way, let’s commit a little heresy and posit that maybe, just maybe – and this is solely one industry-watcher’s opinion, Makeup Artist Cosmetics, founded in Toronto in 1984 by two guys both named Frank (Toskan and Angelo), snatched up by the Estée Lauder Companies in 1998 for a cool $60 million, has lost sight of its North Star.

How do you know a colossal cosmetics company, one that cut its teeth with professional makeup artists and deployed 6’7” drag superstar RuPaul as its very first spokesperson, may be veering off track? When it announces its hot new collaboration with…Brooke Shields.

Upfront disclaimer #2. Brooke Shields is incredibly beautiful and an American institution. [Read more…]

For Moroccanoil, Imitation Is the Most Litigious Form of Flattery

DanaWood1In all likelihood, only Novak Djokovic logs more court time than the corporate counsels of beauty brands in possession of a true rarity; an original idea. Breaking ground in a new category of product? Be prepared to spend your days fending off a slew of increasingly shameless copycats.

Flashback to 2006: An obscure “hair oil” – created not by an A-list coiffeur, but by under-the-radar Montreal salon owner Carmen Tal – starts trickling into the public consciousness. It’s derived from the nuts of argan trees, which are indigenous to Morocco, and is laced with hair-soothing fatty acids. Sure, argan oil is good for other stuff, like preventing heart attacks. But who cares about that when it can deliver livelier, lusher locks? [Read more…]

Forget Bentley. The new name in prestige is…Ford?

The Robin Report - The New Prestige is "Ford" not BentleyBefore he left the planet, when he wanted to make the point that he considered something seriously chi-chi, Andy Warhol would describe it as “up-there.” And, as I recently scrolled, ever so slowly, through the stunning Tom Ford Beauty website, I couldn’t help repeating the Pop Art God’s ultimate thumbs-up catchphrase: “This stuff is up-there,” I marveled to me, myself and I. “Truly, genuinely up-there.”

Of course, I already knew it was up-there; unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s nearly impossible to miss the collective oohing and aahing over Ford’s niche-luxe scents, and, as of Fall 2011, his 132-sku cosmetics collection and tightly edited – but serious – range of skincare. Launched under the auspices of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., and the stewardship of group president John Demsey, the buzz has been deafening.

In great part, the hoopla over the newish beauty brand – his first Signature fragrance, Black Orchid, hit the market in 2006 – stems from the global obsession with Tom Ford himself. Yes, there are designers of equal fascination and rock star status (Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs topping that list), but none has controlled his image, nor fiercely guarded his commitment to luxury, in quite the way Ford has. [Read more…]

Beauty A.D.D.: Losing Focus in the Department Store

On a Monday evening this past September, I had a bit of time to kill before a press event celebrating the launch of Dr. Fredric Brandt’s new radio show on Sirius XM. And because I’m beauty-obsessed (both personally and professionally), I decided to scoot into Macy’s Herald Square for a quick lap around the beauty department before heading uptown to pay my respects to “The Baron of Botox.”

Who knows, I thought, maybe I’ll treat myself to a little something.

But within seconds of hitting the main floor, I felt overwhelmed, my head swiveling back and forth à la Linda Blair in The Exorcist, between the Marc Jacobs handbags, the tantalizing costume jewelry, the miracle crèmes and the perfumes. Upping the A.D.D. ante? Karl Lagerfeld opining from a video monitor plunked in the middle of the aisle separating the bags from the beauty. In the endless loop, the German design god riffed on his much buzzed-about eponymous collection for Macy’s, a few items of which were also on display, mere feet from the $25 prestige mascara. [Read more…]

Message to Big Beauty Marketers: Pick A Lane and Stick With It

In the mid-1990s, when Lancôme had l’audacité to nudge long-time spokesmodel Isabella Rossellini out the back door after a 14-year run because she refused to share the limelight with Spanish stunner Inés Sastre, I wasn’t one of the many beauty editors (or women, for that matter) who got all rant-y and rave-y about it.

The way I saw it – which is allegedly the way the French beauty behemoth saw it, too – Rossellini had enjoyed a fabulous stint, one that millions of model-actor hyphenates would’ve killed for. So why not let the young whippersnapper Sastre pop up in an ad every now and then? Why feel threatened? And, more importantly, why throw the baby out with the rose-scented bath water?

Cut to 2011, and the Lancôme spokesmodel roster looks like the front row at the Oscars. There’s Kate Winslet! And Julia Roberts! Wait – is that Penelope Cruz I spy in a Trésor ad? Why, yes! Yes it is. [Read more…]