INNOVATION DRIVES FASHION FORWARD

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Luxe.Co Exclusive Interview with Ivy Liu, Brand Director of Helena Rubinstein (HR) China

September 30,2018

Founded by Mrs. Helena Rubinstein, Helena Rubinstein (HR) is a top beauty brand of L'Oréal Group. Inspired by "Technology and Beauty", this 116-year-old brand has many glorious labels such as "a century of inheritance", "technology beauty pioneer", "beauty salon originator", and is still unremittingly tapping its inner potential.

HR entered the China market in 2000, focusing on high-end department stores. HR achieved double-digit growth in 2017. In the 18th year of entering China, how would HR tell Chinese consumers its brand story?

Luxe.Co interviewed Ivy Liu, the brand director of HR China. Ivy pointed out HR's branding strategy in China was to tell Chinese consumers a touching brand story, so that consumers could recognize the “added value” while using the products. She also revealed the latest trends of the brand. Apart from the entrepreneur camp, the brand will also launch a limited gift box in collaboration with the well-known fashion blogger Rebecca.

Picture Above: Ivy Liu, Brand Director of HR China

First, What Story To Tell?
Loyal to HR DNA: A Century Of Inheritance, Technology Is The Cornerstone

1. "Let Technology Serve The Beauty"

Looking back on HR's brand story in 116 years, “Technology” has always been one of the most distinctive keywords of the brand. In the era of Mrs. Helena, the brand created numerous “firsts” in the industry –

The first facial cream: In 1902, inspired by her secret family recipe, Mrs. Helena developed the world's first facial cream, Valaze, to cure skin problems caused by aging and long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

The first beauty salon: In the same year, Mrs. Helena opened the world's first beauty salon in Melbourne under the name of Valaze. "Customized beauty services", "beauty classes", which are now very familiar to customers, have appeared first time more than a century ago.

The first concept of “three classifications of skin”: as early as 1910, Mrs. Helena divided the skin into three different types, and provided personalized care for different skin types.
......

Many of the pioneering ideas of Mrs. Helena have become a source of inspiration for current brand innovations. The application of plant stem cells to skin care products led to the birth of PRODIGY POWERCELL; The innovative formula collaborated with the Swiss plastic surgery clinic LACLINIC MONTREUX became the core power of the signature cream Re-PLASTY; The debut of Mrs. Helena's Valaze cream inspired another signature product PRODIGY EYES...

From the rare plant stem cell skincare ingredients to the industry's highest concentration of 30% Pro-Xylane, from customized beauty programs to high-tech beauty equipment treatments, today, HR adheres to the concept of “letting technology serve the beauty”, and actively explores the application of cutting-edge technology in the beauty industry.

“Until today, HR has always been at the forefront of the entire cosmetics industry regarding product development and technology applications. In L'Oréal Group, HR is also the first brand to use the latest R&D results.” Ivy Liu told Luxe.Co.

2. Female Entrepreneurship, Dare To Be The First

The New York Times once wrote that Mrs. Helena, as a great female entrepreneur in the United States, built a beauty empire with "creams and dreams."

Mrs. Helena was born and raised in Poland. She went to Australia at the age of 24, working on pharmaceutical formulations. She opened the world's first beauty salon in Melbourne, Australia in 1902. The HR brand has now spread to 51 countries.

Mrs. Helena is not only a pioneer in technology but also in marketing. As early as more than 100 years ago, Mrs. Helena employed spokespersons and even mail-orders. Led by Mrs. Helena, HR became the first beauty brand to enter department stores. Even as early as the 1930s, HR began to implement the “free trial” promoting strategy.

From zero to a beauty empire, Mrs. Helena has created a legend. Her entrepreneurial spirit has been integrated into the DNA of HR. She also encouraged other women to be self-reliant. Recently, the brand launched an entrepreneur camp to help women start their own businesses.

“Mrs. Helena's belief in 'the power of beauty’ encouraged generations of women, and now we hope to bring this belief to a more diverse population. Our brand is a perfect demonstration of the free spirits and pursuit of self-improvement. Mrs. Helena, as a female leader, deeply cared about women's growth,” Ivy Liu said.

Second, Who To Tell The Story?
From Customers to Spokespersons, From "Millennials" to "Silver Hair"

1. Cooperate with local stars: the first brand ambassador

Most foreign brands choose to collaborate with famous local stars to raise local popularity. There have been numerous endorsements, ambassadors of various luxury brands in the first half of 2018 alone.

It was not until May of this year that HR announced its brand ambassador Xue Han, a Chinese actor and singer. This is the first time for HR to have a brand ambassador, an unprecedented signal showing the HR's determination in the China market.

This decision reveals the development stage of HR. Ivy told Luxe.Co, “A few years ago, the brand focused more on a small number of core groups. Back then, it only needed word-of-mouth promotion. Now that the brand enters a new stage, it needs to spread out widely and quickly, so we hope to use the influence of stars to raise brand awareness."

"The elegant and tech-savvy image of Xue Han is in line with HR's pursuit of luxury and technology, and are very close to the core target customers of our brand", said Ivy Liu.

Xue Han

2. New Players: Gathering Both "Millennials" And "Silver Hair"
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HR continues to pay attention to "millennials" as this generation has become the new consumption engine. From product architecture to marketing strategy, HR hopes to gather more "millennials" consumers.

Regarding product architecture, HR will further clarify the existing product layouts. The PRODIGY POWERCELL collection is an important product line for millennials. As for marketing strategy, HR will focus on the interaction with young people. “Millennials don’t like plain marketing stories. They prefer to interact with brands.” Ivy Liu said.

Another feature is the continuous development of the “Silver Hair” customer base in China market. Stéphane Rinderknech, CEO of L'Oréal Group China, pointed out that “Silver Hair” represented hundreds of millions of potential consumers. In the future, HR will further reach the “Silver Hair” consumers and establish in-depth communication with them. Ivy Liu said, “They are not our core customers at present, but I believe that in the next five, ten or even fifteen years, they will be an important part of our consumer base.”

Third, How to Tell the Story?
Signature Products and Cross-Over Marketing

1. Creating Signature Products

Skincare brands also need to have signature products. HR already has many signature products, such as the cheetah mascara, the PRODIGY POWERCELL essence, and the Re-PLASTY cream.

For top skincare brands, the creation of signature products requires both core technology and engaging brand stories. Whether it is the core component of the PRODIGY POWERCELL essence, or the R&D behind the Re-PLASTY cream, technology has always been in the DNA of HR.

The popularity of a certain product can radiate to the entire collection and create synergies. Take PRODIGY POWERCELL essence as an example, after using the essence, consumers may further purchase the eye creams, night creams, and other products in the same collection. This year, the Re-PLASTY cream has achieved sales growth of over 300 %.

2. Seamless Integration of Online and Offline Member Benefits

At present, HR launched the official flagship store on the two e-commerce platforms of Tmall and JD.com. The official website also has the online store that directs to the Tmall flagship store. According to Ivy Liu, HR and Tmall would share member data to give customers seamless membership benefits and services both offline and online. “We can use Tmall Big Data to reach out to potential consumers and give them the opportunity to experience our service offline.”

Although HR has not yet opened the WeChat sales channel, the brand WeChat official account is connected to the official Tmall. When selecting online channels, Ivy Liu said that HR would first consider whether the channel environment is consistent with the brand positioning. Second, HR hopes to let consumers know more about the products, thus enhancing the purchasing confidence. Therefore, HR is happy to offer free trial opportunities through online channels.

For example, when the user applies "free application" on WeChat official account, they can receive free samples at nearby retail stores. In addition, the user can also make an appointment on WeChat, and experience facial care service at the counter. These practices helped HR to achieve accurate online and offline integration.

HR also encourages consumers to return to the counter through interactive activities. According to Ivy Liu, the brand currently has nearly 50 stores in China and is actively opening new stores every year. She emphasized that the core strength of HR is the products and services. “The average amount of spending per consumer will double, compared to those who have not experienced our service.”

3. Marketing Campaigns through Cross-Over Collaboration

Cross-over collaboration has become a new trend. In addition to the strong alliance between beauty brands, brand cross-over collaboration and cooperation with stars, KOLs, artists, and designers, are also popular ways of marketing. For beauty brands, the co-branded approach can quickly help to capture more potential customers.

On the Chinese Valentine's Day, HR teamed up with the healthy yogurt brand Lechun to launch an exclusive gift box containing six boxes of fruit smoothies and an HR eye cream (3ml). This collaboration attracted huge attention on social media. So far, the tweet of joint gift box is still ranked top three on HR's official Weibo.

“Eye-catching and great value” is the general feedback from consumers on the joint gift box. In fact, this is the second consecutive year that the two brands have jointly launched a joint gift box. The first collaboration has already set the fastest sales record in the history of Lechun.

“HR will fully embrace this new trend, but we will be very cautious in the choice of partners. We hope to achieve a win-win situation between the two parties.” Ivy Liu said. She also revealed that HR would cooperate with the famous fashion blogger Rebecca to launch a limited product gift box.

Interview with Ivy Liu:

Luxe.Co: We have noticed that all major brands are focusing on cosmetics products. Which category will HR focus on in the future? Will it use makeup line to attract more young consumers?

Ivy Liu: HR's category focus will be on skincare products. We want to be a professional luxury skincare brand. Taking into account the growing consumer demand for color cosmetics, we will also have some makeup lines for eyes and lips, not only to attract young consumers, but to provide a full range of products and caring services.

Luxe.Co: What is the user portrait of your Chinese consumers?

Ivy Liu: The core age of our Chinese consumers is between 30 and 40 years old. We also have a group of very young customers, such as freshmen who just turned 18 and started using the PRODIGY POWERCELL essence. It is a new force among our customers.

Our customers are a group of people who pursue quality of life and have certain spending power. They can be divided into two categories: one is "Intelligent Woman". They are smart and rational. They pay more attention to the brand itself rather than the advertisement. Another type is "Elite Diva", they are very self-conscious and insist on using the best things.

Luxe.Co: In the future marketing promotion in China, what kind of marketing will HR focus on?

Ivy Liu: In the past two years, we have paid great attention to creating signature products. We also hope that consumers can further understand the brand story and the technology behind HR.

It is vital to for HR to tell brand stories to Chinese consumers. Chinese customers like touching stories. Therefore, we need to tell something that can resonate with them.

The entrepreneur training camp is an excellent opportunity to spread our brand spirits. I hope that in this way, HR will continue to support women's growth.

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