The Beauty Business | Natalie Clue - The Marketing Consultant

The Beauty Business | Natalie Clue – The Marketing Consultant

Natalie Clue

In the second installment of The Beauty Business, I’m interviewing Natalie Clue, beauty blogger and marketing executive. She’s worked for various brands including Dermalogica and she’s even worked for Selfridges (my home away from home!). Natalie is a great friend and mentor of mine, and she’s definitely someone who gives stimulating conversation about beauty, business, branding and success. So I picked her brain to know everything from the glamour of being a marketing executive to the beauty products she’s loving.

What inspired you to work in marketing? I have loved the beauty industry for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t decide to pursue a career in the industry until after I graduated, in Human Genetics incidentally.  I decided to pursue my dream of working within the industry and got my break working as a buyers assistant in the fragrance department of the Selfridges beauty buying office.  It was while I was in this role, that I became interested to the marketing side of the beauty industry – observing the positive effect that the promotional marketing activity that the various brands executed in store such as gift with purchase activity, sampling campaigns and celebrity personal appearances had on the overall sales was fascinating and I decided then that that is what I wanted to do! Thus I transitioned  into marketing, first by doing a six-month internship with Origins which is part of the Estee Lauder companies, and then working for John Frieda/Jergens as a Junior Category Manager.  I was responsible for the in-store promotional marketing for the brands which included managing the design of development of all of the promotional material, the creation and execution of in-store promotional activity and the conducting of competitor analysis. I also had roles in the marketing departments of Coty PrestigeDermalogica and Noble Sleek (a hair extensions company based in London).

At the end of last year I decided to pursue a dream that I have had for a few years now, to start my own business within the industry, so I left the corporate world behind and I now work as a marketing consultant , specialising in developing the marketing and branding strategies for start-up beauty brands in the UK and Europe, with a specialism in the ethnic beauty market.

What does your day-to-day job involve? My day to day role as a Marketing Consultant is is extremely varied,  I spend time meeting with clients, conducting market research to produce a customer centric execution plans that supports the strategic objectives of the brand.  I also work with clients to develop marketing communications, promotional plans and brand development.  I also spend time writing my blog BeautyPulseLondon!

With the recent popularity of social media, how has marketing evolved? When I started working in marketing, social media was in its infancy and it is nothing short of amazing to see how it has completely revolutionised the dynamic between the brand and the end consumer.  The marketer has had to adapt to (1) the speed of this medium – every comment, post or status update is so instantaneous that it is important that the social media strategy is adequately managed to be able to keep up with the pace and the consumer now has much more access to the brand and can in fact become key influencers themselves, so the balance of power – which was previously very much in the hands of the brand – has now tipped.  Brands now realise the importance of developing an authentic relationship with the consumers they are interacting with.

How does a beauty brand develop their marketing strategy? The brands that I admire the most have a clear positioning and clarity of identity.  When you look behind the corporate image of most of the successful brands on the market today, whether it is a classic brand such as Estee Lauder or one of the newer brands that have taken the industry by storm, such as Liz Earle, you will find that the founder was at the heart of this success.  They believed deeply in the products they created and communicated this to the  consumer.  Their passion was a vital ingredient.  I encourage the clients I work with to develop a brand that they are deeply passionate about, because authenticity is critical. I call this ‘marketing with heart’.  The purchase of beauty products is a very emotional process and as the consumer becomes more and more informed and empowered, they are able to see past the gimmicky marketing campaign.  Many are seeking to build a relationship with a brand that resonates with their own values and higher ideals.

There should be a clear vision and mission for the brand and then it is vital to research and understand the market that is being targeted, and identify  their wants and  needs?  Once this has been determined a strategy can be designed to meet these needs. There are a number of marketing techniques that can be employed to do this and it can all become very intricate and detailed – but it is important to never loose sight of the vision and to always keep the consumer close to your heart.

People often associate with working in your industry as being glamourous; what’s the reality? The beauty industry is wonderful, because it has some of the most passionate, dedicated people working within it, people who genuinely love the product!  If you are a product junkie, it is fabulous, because you are surrounded by product at all times and you often get to try items before they launch and you do receive lots of freebies!  However, it is a very fast paced industry, most brands launch a new product or campaign on a monthly basis, so you have to have lots of stamina and be prepared to do the occasional late night to get a task done.

Do you feel that the beauty industry is welcoming to black women? When I entered the industry in my early twenties, I was in my element, as I love the products, I love being creative and I love interacting with the end consumer however, as I progressed in my career, I became more and  more aware of the lack of other black women in key decision making positions and the effect this had on the way products were developed/marketed.  There was little effort being made to engage the ethnic market, but I felt this was primarily because the lack of representation meant that our needs were not being brought to the fore. It became apparent  to me that in order to have our needs addressed by the industry, we need to be present, because only we can articulate and express our needs in a way that can be then adequately addressed.  In my experience, the industry is not unwelcoming to black women, but we are still a novelty – which is ironic , because women of colour, Black women in particular, spend up to seven times more on beauty and personal care products than her Caucasian counterpart.

The  industry is highly competitive and breaking in can be a challenge, if you are unaware of the process by which most beauty brands recruit. I am currently working on a project to demystify the beauty industry and to inform more women of colour on how they can make their mark in what is set to be a very exciting future for the beauty industry, as population and socio-ecomonic demographics are rapidly changing right here in the UK!  So watch this space, all will be revealed very soon!

I’m sure you’re running from meeting to meeting and then events; what’s in your make-up bag for quick glamour? I never leave home without my makeup bag!!! My quick fix must haves are:

  • MAC Studio Fix compact in NW45.  My skin can get shiny throughout the day, so this is perfect for a quick touch up.
  • Blusher – I love my blushers and always have one to hand.  NARS blushers are by far my favourite brand, so you may find Taj Mahal, Angelica, Catctus Flower or Exhibit A in my make up bag at any one time!!
  • I am a lip gloss girl!  The glossier, the stickier, the better!  I love the Stila Lip Glazes for their array of juicy colours (I am glad they now available to purchase in the UK again),  but I have recently been using the new Burberry Lipgloss in Hisbiscus in Number 13, which is a sheer, yet vibrant red and I have received so many compliments!  It works well with my skin tone, I really like it!

Who in the beauty industry are ones to watch? It has been really exciting to see the resurgence of black women wearing their hair in its natural state. Don’t get me wrong, I am completely in favour of women wearing any style they choose, be it chemically treated, natural or in hair extensions – but what has been really special with the natural resurgence is that many black woman have launched their own ranges and are benefiting directly from this growth both in the USA  – with the likes of Miss Jessie’s, Carol’s Daughter and Jane Carter Solutions  and right here in the UK. It was fantastic to here that the British brand Fro, created by Sonia Evelyn will be listed in Boots this October!

Which blogs and magazines are you reading? Well, apart from your blog I love reading British bloggers such Afro BlushDija’s World and Natural Belle.  One of my favourite US bloggers is called Tiffany and her blog Natural Hair in the Media documents the occurrences of natural hair models featured in American commercials – from detergents to cosmetics, from fashion to real estate!  I look forward to the day that we see more women of colour featured in the mainstream media – it is getting better, but there still is much room for improvement.

Finally, we all have obstacles in our careers; what has your biggest obstacle been and what did you learn from it which you have gone on to later apply that lesson to other situations? The biggest obstacle I have faced in my career is the fact that I made a complete career change to enter the industry.  As I mentioned, I gained my degree in Human Genetics and started to pursue a career as a Research Scientist (yes, I know it is hard to believe!), but early on in my career, I decided to follow my passion and work in beauty.  I faced many rejections when applying for roles was told by well meaning recruitment agents that I could never break into the industry because I lacked the qualifications but I was determined, dogged and persistent and I finally broke through.  Be prepared to take a risk and never give up on your dreams!