Cosmetics pioneer Estée Lauder has been applauded as being one of the 20th century’s most successful businesswomen, with a flair for genius marketing techniques. This feat achieved by understanding her clients’ needs intricately, exhibiting a great work ethic and by always being hands-on with product launches and training workshops.
Estée Lauder was born Josephine Esther Mentzer in Queens, New York. She came from a family of Jewish immigrants—her mother was Hungarian and her father was Czech. Her passion for cosmetics started as a young girl where she would brush her mother’s long hair and apply face cream. Her uncle, a pharmacist, exposed her to the foundational knowledge of making cosmetics, initially being made in a garage and using the kitchen of a former restaurant. Her marketing flair started when Lauder started selling creams called ‘Jars of Hope’.
Lauder’s career breakthrough came when Saks Fifth Avenue placed an order to the value of $800 – selling out within two days. In the 40s perfume was seen as an accessory that was only worn for special occasions and was also only gifted by men for birthdays and anniversary gifts. Women rarely bought perfume for themselves. The game changer came for Lauder who had a passion for perfume when she decided to call her launch, Youth Dew and not that of a perfume. Apparently driving men gaga when it was combined into a women’s hair.
What we can learn from Estee Lauder’s marketing savvy:
- ‘Telephone, Telegraph, Tell-a Woman’ is one of her famous quotes, referring to word of mouth referrals. She was of the opinion that if a woman likes one of her products, she would spread the good news far and wide.
- She would let her friends test her new perfume creations; not being guided by their comments but rather by the awakening (smiling) response of their eyes ‘now this is gorgeous’!
- Estee introduced the innovation of a free gift with each purchase. Who does not just love something for free that is beneficial and beautiful?
- Hard work pays off. Estee sharing “I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it.”
- Estee always had a hands-on approach and was intimately involved in every scent creation. She was once described as ‘the only true nose in all America’.
- Touch your customer and you are halfway there. “Touch a face. Touch a hand. Say, this is for you, this is what I want you to wear.”
- Estee often admitted; “Whether you are the chairperson of the board or want to charm him, you need beauty and femininity as well as wisdom and strength.”
Today, Estée’s Private Collection has a powerful legacy with perfumes such as White Linen, Pleasures, Beautiful and Alliage being enjoyed by many women around the globe. Estée’s two sons are intricately involved in the business projecting the persistence and hard work that was her business mantra as she established the Estee Lauder empire.