#136 Est‚e Lauder



In her autobiography "A Success Story," Estee Lauder, a pioneering founder in the cosmetics industry, shares her journey from a passionate young girl experimenting with her uncle's creams to creating a beauty empire. Lauder's relentless determination, belief in the power of persistence, and innovative sales strategies, such as her "gift with purchase" approach, propelled her brand from a single beauty salon counter to an international household name. She emphasizes the importance of loving one's product, selling aggressively, and trusting one's instincts. Lauder's story is a testament to the idea that success is not solely about talent or intelligence, but rather the unwavering commitment to one's vision and the ability to sell it effectively. Her legacy is a reflection of her mantra: potential is unlimited, and success depends on the courage to act on dreams.

Summary Notes

The Importance of Persistence and Vision

  • Estee Lauder emphasizes the importance of having a dream and the determination to work tirelessly toward it.
  • She believes in the potential for unlimited success if one dares to act on their dreams.
  • Achieving dreams requires staying focused, strong, and steady, with a refusal to settle for mediocrity.
  • Lauder celebrates the American Dream and the opportunities it has provided her for a fulfilling life.
  • She insists that success comes from not letting one's eyes stray from their target, regardless of the nature or size of the target.

"First comes the wish. Then you must have the heart to have the dream. Then you work and work and work."

This quote encapsulates Lauder's belief that success begins with a desire, followed by the passion to dream and the commitment to work hard to achieve that dream.

"Success depends on daring to act on your dreams."

Lauder stresses that potential alone is not enough; one must take bold actions to realize their dreams.

"Within each person is the potential to build the empire of her wishes."

Lauder encourages individuals to believe in their ability to create their own success stories.

"Anyone who wants to achieve a dream must stay strong, focused, and steady."

The quote highlights the need for resilience and unwavering focus in the pursuit of one's dreams.

Overcoming Adversity and Harnessing Motivation

  • Estee Lauder recounts an unpleasant interaction at a beauty salon that motivated her to succeed.
  • The negative experience became a catalyst for her ambition, as she vowed never to let anyone demean her again.
  • Lauder's obsession with beauty is not unique; it is part of a long-standing tradition in human culture.

"Never, never will anyone say that to me again. I promised myself, someday I will have whatever I want."

Lauder's determination to prove her detractor wrong fueled her ambition and drive to succeed.

"Beauty secrets have been passed on from mother to daughter through the ages."

This quote reflects Lauder's understanding of the timeless nature of the beauty industry.

"You're as beautiful as you think you are."

Lauder's mother instilled in her a sense of self-worth and confidence, which played a significant role in her success.

The Timelessness of Beauty and Business Strategy

  • Lauder discusses the ancient and enduring nature of the beauty industry.
  • She points out the similarities between selling beauty products and other goods, emphasizing the importance of aggressive selling.
  • Jeff Bezos' philosophy of building a business around things that will never change is likened to Lauder's approach to fulfilling a natural desire for beauty.

"Beauty is a fine invention. There isn't a culture in the world that hasn't powdered, perfumed, and prittied its women."

Lauder asserts her expertise in the beauty industry and its historical significance.

"I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it and sell it hard."

Lauder emphasizes the constant need to sell and the importance of believing in one's product.

Early Life Influences and the Path to the Beauty Industry

  • Lauder's childhood experiences, including working at her father's hardware store, taught her valuable business lessons.
  • Her uncle introduced her to the beauty industry, which aligned with her interests and passions.
  • Lauder's self-confidence and high standards were influenced by her family's values and her own innate drive.

"I loved helping him arrange his wares. I would gift wrap a hammer or a set of nails with extravagant bows and papers, which really did seem to delight his customers."

Lauder learned the importance of presentation and customer delight from an early age.

"A person has to love her harvest if she's to expect others to love it."

Lauder believes that passion for one's product is crucial for convincing others of its value.

"I believed in my product. I loved my product."

The quote underscores Lauder's deep connection to her product, which she considers essential for success in business.

Early Influences and Personal Drive

  • Estee Lauder's interest in beauty was sparked by her Uncle John, a skin specialist from Hungary.
  • Uncle John's creation of creams and Estee's fascination with them led her to recognize her true path in life.
  • The mentorship and serious consideration of her dreams by her uncle gave Estee confidence and self-worth.
  • Estee valued the importance of trusting oneself, a lesson she learned early on and which stayed with her throughout her career.

"My shining moment came in the form of a quiet, bespeled man who also loved touching faces. My mother's brother came to visit us from Hungary. He was a skin specialist. What glories those words conjured up. He captured my imagination and interest as no one else ever had. I was smitten with Uncle John."

This quote underlines the profound impact Uncle John had on Estee Lauder's life, igniting her passion for skincare and beauty.

"I recognized in my uncle John my true path. He produced his glorious cream in our home, working happily over a gas stove. I watched, I learned. I was hypnotized."

Estee Lauder's realization of her passion for skincare and beauty is highlighted here, as she recalls her uncle's influence and her eagerness to learn from him.

"This is the story of a bewitchment. I was irrevocably bewitched by the power to create beauty."

Estee Lauder describes her deep, almost magical, captivation with the world of beauty and skincare.

"Today, there is no one who can intimidate me because of title or skill or fame. I do what's right for me."

Estee Lauder expresses her self-assuredness and the confidence she gained from her early experiences, which empowered her to trust her own decisions regardless of others' status.

The Journey to Entrepreneurship

  • Estee Lauder started her beauty empire later in life, founding Estee Lauder at around 40 years old.
  • Despite marrying young and becoming a mother, Estee continued to nurture her passion for beauty and skincare.
  • She faced financial struggles and the challenges of independence alongside her husband, but her obsession with her work never waned.
  • Estee's dedication to improving her uncle's creams and experimenting constantly exemplifies her commitment to excellence.

"Her dream is delayed, but her obsession continues to grow."

This quote encapsulates Estee Lauder's persistent dedication to her dream, even as she juggled personal responsibilities and a delayed start to her business.

"We were struggling so hard to be independent. And sometimes this was not easy. Times were lean."

Estee Lauder reflects on the difficult times she and her husband faced while striving for financial independence, setting the stage for her later success.

"I could always make it better. I now know that obsession is the word for my zeal."

Estee Lauder's relentless pursuit of perfection in her skincare products is highlighted here, showing her intense passion for her work.

Building the Business

  • Estee Lauder's business began humbly by giving away her products for free in a beauty salon.
  • Her outgoing nature and the salon's environment facilitated the recruitment of her first customers.
  • Estee Lauder's first business opportunity came with renting a small counter in a new salon, marking the start of her commercial venture.
  • She believed in taking risks and saw them as essential to building an empire, as evidenced by her decision to rent the counter without any partners.

"Of what becomes a massive, massive beauty empire."

This quote foreshadows the monumental success of Estee Lauder's business, which started from modest beginnings.

"I would have a small counter in her store. I would pay her rent. Whatever I sold would be mine to keep. No partners."

Estee Lauder recounts the pivotal moment when she transitioned from giving away products to starting her own business, emphasizing her independence and the risks she took.

Innovative Sales Techniques

  • Estee Lauder pioneered the "gift with purchase" sales technique, which is now a common practice in department stores.
  • She intuitively understood the appeal of giving samples to encourage future purchases and customer loyalty.
  • Her approach was hands-on, as she would personally ensure that her saleswomen sold products with the same passion and dedication she had.
  • Estee Lauder's belief in the power of patience and persistence is a recurring theme in her approach to business growth.

"I did not have an advertising department. I did not have a copywriter. But I had a woman's intuition."

Estee Lauder credits her innate intuition for her innovative approach to sales, which compensated for the lack of a formal marketing strategy.

"A devoted clientele was developing. Not to my surprise, of course. My products were the finest."

This quote reveals Estee Lauder's confidence in her products and her belief that quality would naturally lead to a loyal customer base.

Teaching as a Strategy

  • Estee Lauder's lack of funds for advertising led her to focus on educating potential customers about beauty.
  • Her passion and extensive knowledge in the field enabled her to convert people she taught into customers.
  • She viewed the process of teaching about beauty as an emotional and theatrical experience, which resonated with her audience.

"For me, teaching about beauty was and is an emotional experience."

Estee Lauder describes her teaching about beauty as more than just a sales strategy; it was a deeply personal and fulfilling activity.

"You can either outspend your competition or out teach your competition."

This quote highlights Estee Lauder's philosophy of leveraging knowledge and teaching as a competitive advantage in the absence of a large advertising budget.

Personal Traits and Family Dynamics

  • Estee Lauder was instinctual and quick to act, which served her well in business but sometimes caused friction in personal relationships.
  • Her single-minded pursuit of her dream led to a temporary separation from her husband, but they eventually reunited and continued to work together in the family business.
  • Estee Lauder's determination never to give up, despite challenges and naysayers, was her "secret weapon."

"I'm a visceral person by nature. I act on instinct quickly, without pondering possible disaster and without indulging in deep introspection."

Estee Lauder acknowledges her instinct-driven nature and how it influenced her business decisions and personal life.

"Despite all the naysayers, there was never a single moment when I considered giving up."

This quote underscores Estee Lauder's unwavering commitment to her goals, despite facing skepticism and obstacles along the way.

Estee Lauder's Secret Weapon

  • Estee Lauder considered word-of-mouth her secret weapon for building her company.
  • Women were effectively selling her cream through their recommendations before they even reached her salon.
  • This method of marketing was pivotal in launching Estee Lauder cosmetics.

"Tell a woman was the word of mouth campaign that launched Estee Lauder cosmetics."

The quote highlights the significance of the word-of-mouth campaign in the success of Estee Lauder's cosmetic line.

Product Design and Decision Making

  • Estee Lauder put a great deal of effort into the design of her product packaging.
  • She wanted the jars to be present in every woman's bathroom and to be a reminder of the brand.
  • The design needed to be beautiful and harmonious with various bathroom decors.
  • She conducted thorough research by matching jar colors to wallpapers in different bathrooms.
  • The jars were meant to convey luxury and harmony, and they had to be unique.

"The name would have to be embedded right on the jar. Needless to say, the jar had to be beautiful."

The quote explains Estee Lauder's intention for the product jars to be both a visual reminder of the brand and an aesthetically pleasing item in a customer's bathroom.

Ambition and Retail Strategy

  • Estee Lauder's ambition was to have her products sold in the best stores worldwide.
  • She planned to transition from beauty salon counters to high-end retailers.
  • Charge cards were a new phenomenon, and Estee Lauder recognized their potential for increasing sales.
  • She used the strategy of persistence and direct customer requests to break into Saks Fifth Avenue.

"So eventually she wants to make the jump into the best retailers in the world, right?"

This quote captures Estee Lauder's strategic goal of placing her products in premier retail spaces to increase brand prestige and sales.

Persistence and Retail Breakthrough

  • Estee Lauder was relentless in her pursuit of getting her products into Saks Fifth Avenue.
  • She used both organic customer requests and her determination to persuade the cosmetics buyer at Saks.
  • Her persistence included waiting for hours for meetings and continuously following up on requests.

"The telewoman campaign had already resulted in hundreds of phone calls from women asking for my products."

The quote indicates how Estee Lauder's word-of-mouth campaign effectively generated demand for her products at Saks before she was even stocked there.

Investment and Launch

  • Estee Lauder invested all her savings into her first large order from Saks.
  • She understood the importance of never running out of stock and maintaining a consistent presence.
  • The initial launch at Saks was supported by all the people who had previously received samples.
  • Estee Lauder's success was attributed to her belief in her products and her missionary-like dedication.

"In two days, we were sold out."

The quote signifies the immediate success of Estee Lauder's products at Saks Fifth Avenue, highlighting the effectiveness of her marketing and launch strategies.

Innovation in Marketing

  • Estee Lauder pioneered the free sample gift with purchase technique.
  • She decided against traditional advertising due to a small budget and instead invested in product giveaways.
  • This marketing strategy was initially sneered at by competitors but later widely adopted.

"You give people a product to try, if they like its quality, they buy it."

The quote explains Estee Lauder's innovative marketing approach, which relied on the quality of her products to drive sales rather than traditional advertising.

Persistence as a Key to Success

  • Estee Lauder believed persistence was the most important trait for success.
  • She viewed business as an act of love, requiring dedication and the will to overcome obstacles.
  • Her success was built on relentless effort and personal engagement with customers.

"It's persistence. It's that certain little spirit that compels you to stick it out when you're at your most tired."

This quote defines the core attribute Estee Lauder credits for her success, emphasizing the importance of persistence in entrepreneurship.

Personal Effort and Customer Engagement

  • Estee Lauder personally engaged with potential customers as she expanded her business.
  • She traveled extensively to be present at each counter opening and never missed an opportunity to talk about her products.

"To that end, I never stopped talking to people, not ever."

The quote underscores Estee Lauder's commitment to personal customer engagement as a cornerstone of her business expansion strategy.

Expansion into Perfume

  • Estee Lauder expanded her product line to include perfume, addressing the challenge of how to encourage women to buy perfume for themselves.
  • She aimed to change the perception of perfume as a gift item to an everyday luxury.
  • Estee Lauder's strategy was to make perfume a regular part of a woman's daily routine.

"She didn't think that you should just smell great on special occasions."

The quote reflects Estee Lauder's innovative approach to marketing perfume, aiming to make it an everyday accessory rather than a luxury reserved for special events.

Introduction to a New Product Category

  • Estee Lauder discusses the concept of creating a new product category with Youth Dew.
  • The strategy was to market Youth Dew as a bath oil that also worked as a skin perfume, making it more socially acceptable for American women to purchase for themselves.

It's bananas. So it says, how can I get the american woman to buy her own perfume? I would not call it a perfume. I would call it Youth Dew, a bath oil that doubled as a skin, perfume that would be acceptable to buy because it was a feminine, all american, very girl next door to take baths.

This quote explains the rationale behind the marketing strategy for Youth Dew, emphasizing its dual purpose and social acceptability.

Sales Strategy and Impact

  • Youth Dew's sales strategy involved changing consumer behavior from using expensive French perfumes sparingly to using Youth Dew more liberally in bathwater.
  • This shift in usage led to a significant increase in sales volume and revenue.

Instead of using their french perfumes by the drop behind each ear, women were using youth do by the bottle in their bathwater. It doesn't take a graduate of business school to figure out what that meant. Sales, beautiful sales in 1953.

The quote highlights the successful impact of the strategy on sales, showing how changing the application method from drops to bottles led to increased consumption and sales.

Growth and Expansion

  • Estee Lauder's business experienced exponential growth, from $50,000 in sales in 1953 to over $150 million in 1984.
  • The expansion strategy included looking up to influential figures like Coco Chanel and learning from their insights on the industry.

In 1953, youth do did about $50,000 worth of business for us. In 1984, that figure had jumped to over $150,000,000.

This quote demonstrates the remarkable growth of the Youth Dew product line over three decades.

Protecting Trade Secrets

  • Estee Lauder took extraordinary measures to protect the secret ingredients of their fragrances.
  • Only a member of the Lauder family would add the final secret ingredients to ensure their products could not be replicated.

No one can ever copy us. The final ingredient is never known to our factories or essence suppliers or anyone. Only a Lauder knows it.

The quote emphasizes the company's commitment to maintaining the uniqueness of their products by keeping the final ingredient a family secret.

International Expansion

  • Estee Lauder's strategy for entering the European market focused on starting with the most prestigious stores, such as Harrods in London.
  • Persistence and media attention played critical roles in overcoming initial rejections and eventually gaining a foothold in the European market.

If I could start with the finest store in London, which was Harrods, all the other great stores would follow.

This quote reflects Estee Lauder's strategic approach to international expansion by targeting high-end retailers to establish a strong brand presence.

Marketing and Promotion Tactics

  • Estee Lauder leveraged media coverage to create demand for her products, even before they were available in certain markets.
  • By forging relationships with beauty editors and providing samples, she ensured that her brand was publicized and anticipated by consumers.

I visited every one of the beauty editors again to remind them of me. Another round of makeups, another round of samples.

The quote illustrates Estee Lauder's proactive approach to marketing and her use of media relationships to boost brand awareness and demand.

Lauderisms: Business Wisdom

  • Estee Lauder shared her business insights, known as "Lauderisms," which included maintaining a clear brand image, keeping an eye on the competition, learning to say no, and trusting one's instincts.
  • These principles were derived from years of experience and helped shape the company's unique style and success.

Our unique style has come from years of trial and error. Truths have emerged that work for us. Let me share them with you.

The quote introduces the concept of "Lauderisms," encapsulating the distilled wisdom from Estee Lauder's business experiences.

Reflections on Success

  • Estee Lauder reflects on her journey from a small-time entrepreneur to the head of a beauty empire.
  • She expresses gratitude for her achievements and the fulfillment she feels seeing her name on her factory as a testament to her hard work and dedication.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe what hard work and prayer have brought me.

This quote captures Estee Lauder's sense of accomplishment and the realization of her dreams through perseverance and faith in her vision.

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