Question: How are western beauty brands expanding into the
Geoffrey Jones: As Russia and China
and now India really opened up to global capitalism, to foreign firms,
the very first reaction of consumers was a great hunger for western
brands. Local products, if they were made at all were poor quality,
dangerous, and absolutely lacking in aspirational value whatsoever. So,
these new markets, these so-called "BRICs," have proved incredibly
attractive to beauty companies and have grown incredibly quickly. China
in 1980 didn’t have a beauty industry. Mao Tse-Tung had abolished it, as
a matter of fact; it was regarded as a sign of bourgeois decadence.
It’s now the fourth beauty market in the world. Let’s see, it’s the
third biggest, Russia is eighth biggest.
So all of these markets
have seen this in-pouring of western brands. The interesting thing is
that over time we’ve seen, particularly in the case of China, growing
confidence among consumers in traditional beauty ideals and practices,
and this has increasingly obliged companies to consider and implement
what we call local customization of various kinds.
So, in China
today, there’s a huge demand for local ingredients, you know, ginseng
skin cream, or whatever. And so even if a brand is a global brand, like
Olay, or L’Oreal Paris, actually the ingredients often reflect a sort of
local content. But it’s more than that. Companies have shifted, again
in China in particular, from using western models—which a brand like
L’Oreal Paris always did—to using local models. But it’s more than this,
because they increasingly, or no pretty much always use local
photographers, local agencies to do all the shots because they are very,
very anxious to capture local feelings.
So, we live in a, I
think, in an interesting period where globalization and tribalization
are sort of dramatically interacting in the global industry. And I think
nobody is quite sure about the exact balance and consumers are kind of
saying different things. They’re saying, "Yeah, we want these fabulous
Paris and New York brands because they are aspirational." But they are
also saying, "We want them to be locally relevant."
Will Paris and New York continue to be considered global centers for
Geoffrey Jones: If we go back again to the
early 19th century, no one place was associated with being especially
beautiful. If you look at the perfume industry, which some would regard
is at the center of the industry, Britain was a bigger producer of
fragrance and perfume for much of the first half of the 19th century;
bigger than France. But, by the middle of the 19th century, in Paris you
have the development of fashion, of Paris as a kind of a spectacle with
the rebuilding of the city with wide boulevards. And the growth of the
perfume industry becomes closely associated with this cluster of
fashionable and luxurious industries.
So by the end of the 19th
century, Paris is regarded as THE benchmark of all that’s chic and
fashionable throughout the world. And fragrances and the beauty industry
is part of that. And this process is self-reinforcing. Certainly the
benchmark of aspiration is self-reinforcing, but because Paris is so
aspirational, so talented entrepreneurs, artists, and other people, the
suppliers of the beauty industry all cluster around Paris as well. So
you both have a... what economists would call a agglomeration effect and
reputation effects. And that proves incredibly strong and persistent
throughout the next century. Paris is a symbol of chicness and style and
aspiration and femininity.
New York is a slightly different
story. By the early 20th century, the United States is the world’s
biggest economy, the world’s richest economy; New York is the major
commercial center. Entrepreneurs and others are attracted to New York.
It’s a giant port for which ingredients of the industry come in. And so
it starts to develop, again, a cluster of entrepreneurs. But then the
growth of Hollywood, of the American film industry, to which New York is
quite closely tied as the center of finance and the center of a lot of
talent I think is really important in taking the division of America
around the world.
And then in the inter-war years, and after-war
years, a group of entrepreneurs like Elizabeth Arden, Helena
Rubenstein, Estée Lauder develop expensive luxury brands of cosmetics,
skin care, and fragrances which provide also New York and the United
States with a range of not only mass brands, but also prestigious
brands. And so New York and the United States come to represent a
different vision of beauty. It’s a vision that’s more accessible, more
democratic view of beauty, less complex, less chic, more hip, more
exciting. Just like New York itself.
And it’s an interesting
question why these two cities have continued that role. It’s partly
because there is so much talent clustered if you reach a certain role, a
certain size. But it’s also about the cities themselves. Both cities
have emotional associations in people’s heads; Paris of cafés and the
Left Bank, New York of skyscrapers and energy. And those images, the
cities today are – you could say the cities today are still having those
features. So, there’s no disconnect between people’s imaginations of
those cities and those cities today even though they are two of the most
fast-changing, cosmopolitan, evolving cities you could want in the
So I think the brand image of those cities, which is very
important in the beauty industry, is persistent and realistic. You can
get on a plane, go to those cities and you actually see what you imagine
it to be.
Now, it’s a very interesting question if other cities
can catch up, and I thought about that quite a lot. For example, Milan,
after the Second World War, develops as a major global fashion center,
but it doesn’t develop as a beauty capital. London has always been on
the fringes of the beauty industry and at various times has become hip
and exciting. The 1960’s swinging London, The Beatles, Twiggy, all the
rest of it, but never quite sort of made it as a beauty capital.
one can think of Tokyo, or Shanghai, or Rio as potentials.
on April 21, 2010