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It is hard to think in a cosmetic brand more aspirational than Estée Lauder. The products always come in a luxurious packaging and the campaigns are impossibly glamorous, in the best “American beauty” ideal approach. It all started in 1946, when Estée (born Josephine Esther Mentzer and daughter of Hungarian and Czech immigrants), and her husband, Joseph Lauder, started the company after an order of $800 from Saks Fifth Avenue.
She became interested in the beauty world by seeing an uncle mixing formulas in the family kitchen. With a keen talent for marketing, it didn’t take long for her to begin selling the lotions in local New York salons. The strategy of offering free trials and distributing samples to clients helped spread the word about the products – and set up the business core. About a decade later, Estée Lauder was sold all over the US and from the 1960s started its international expansion, first with a concession at Harrods, then acquiring or developing new brands such as Clinique, Origins, Prescriptives, Aramis, MAC, La Mer, Bobbi Brown, Aveda, Smashbox – the list goes on…
Besides the four original products (Super-Rich All Purpose Creme, Creme Pack, Cleansing Oil and Skin Lotion), Estée created some classic fragrances as well: the Youth Dew oil, which has many versions, and Aramis and Beautiful, the latter targeted at brides. I wonder how many women has brought it exclusively for their wedding day! Above all these things, the brand is a benchmark for skincare with lines like Re-Nutriv, Advanced Night Repair and Resilience. Some of them still come in the light blue packaging; a colour that Estée thought was sophisticated and perfect to match the décor of most bathroom counters.
Another crucial marketing strategy is the choice of ambassadors. The company has helped to boost the career of many models (Karen Graham, Paulina Porizkova, Carolyn Murphy, Anja Rubik) and also named top celebrities, such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Elizabeth Hurley (unforgettable in the ads for Pleasures in the 1990s). Currently, in an effort to lure a new generation of customers, Kendall Jenner is the face of the Modern Muse fragrance, a few makeup lines and the ‘millennial’ driven Estée Edit sub-brand. Needless to say that her nomination was an absolute hit and now grandmothers, mothers and daughters have the products on their wish lists.