On Top of the World

Lynne Greene has propelled the 43-year-old Clinique into the industry’s leading power position.

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Lynne Greene

Photo By Michael O'Neill

Appeared In
Special Issue
Beauty Inc issue 03/11/2011

Assessing where the local needs are and how best to communicate them has formed the backbone of Clinique’s interna- tional strategy. “The dermatological concerns are relevant everywhere, but not necessarily in the same hierarchy,” says Greene. “The eye area may be the number-one concern in China, but in Japan, it’s de-aging,” she continues, using Clinique’s term for the antiaging category. “There’s an architecture to what we have that circles the globe and what needs to be more locally relevant.”

The same holds true for communications. For example, the Even Better Clinical ads in the West feature brown eggs speckled with dark spots that clear up to convey the purpose of the product. In China, where the product is called Derma White Clinical Brightening Essence, the eggs are white with black spots.

Greene started in the industry as an account executive for Estée Lauder in St. Louis after deciding against a career in teaching (“I knew it wasn’t right for me. I wanted to be in business and interact with adults,” she laughs). She is as passionate about beauty today as when she started, and sees the business entering a new golden age, driven by the revolution in communications and technology. “I feel electricity in the industry—I feel it everywhere. There’s a vibrancy, because everyone is looking at the world and saying change is part of today,” she says. “As we speak, millions and millions of things are being redefined. People are willing to step out and try new things. They don’t try to change everything at once, but they try a little bit, refine it, refine it again and establish a new model.”

The willingness to change, and talking with the consumer rather than at her, is key to winning the future. “The consumer is involved as never before,” says Greene, who predicts that, in 10 years’ time, 80 percent of her brand’s media mix could be digital. “The speed with which technology is moving changes everything.

“That means that, more and more, beauty companies will become editors for the consumer,” she continues. “They will have to understand where the consumer’s head is and how to give her information the way she wants it, in the way she can understand it and in the time she can digest it. She’s not going to take a salesperson trying to sell, sell, sell or a company trying to give her information, information, information.”

In other words, consumers want their voices to be heard. Making your opinion known is an idea that resonates with Greene because it was one of her earliest—and most important—business lessons. “When I was first at Estée Lauder, I was in a meeting with Mrs. Estée Lauder and Leonard Lauder and Ida Stewart [a senior executive at the time] discussing a new skin care product,” remembers Greene. “Afterwards, I went into Ida’s office and she asked me what I thought.

“I started to say, ‘Leonard thinks,’ and she immediately interrupted me. ‘I didn’t ask you what Leonard Lauder thought. I asked you what you thought. Always remember this: You are paid to think and to say what you think.’”

Greene pauses.

“I have remembered that moment for the rest of my life,” she says. “I have always tried to find a way to say what I think in the right form and the right way. When you do that, you feel good about yourself, your character, your integrity. That’s what I encourage everyone who works with me to do. Say what you think.”

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