When Debra Perelman was tapped for the top job at Revlon in 2018, becoming the 90-year-old beauty giant’s first ever female CEO, she faced some significant challenges – and saw huge opportunities.
The iconic, global beauty company had been leveraging its almost century-old heritage and settled into a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset. The company filled its c-suite with men and relied primarily on the traditional brick and mortar strategy to sell its 15+ brands around the world.
Fast forward four years and the beauty company is in the midst of a major transformation, embracing an empathy-first leadership style with its employees, filling the highest ranks of the company with women and leveraging digital to bring a true omnichannel experience to Revlon customers around the world.
Perelman found a way to turn the ship; to maintain the heritage of an old, large iconic beauty brand while infusing some of the modern characteristics of today’s indie brands and beauty industry disruptors. The result? A revered brand with a new soul, ready to capture an even greater share of the $500+ billion global beauty business.
An Employee-First Culture
One big shift: today Revlon solicits feedback from many of its team members around the world, using the data for decision making and to establish employee-friendly policies that focus on mental and physical wellbeing, work/life balance and, of course, productivity. This empathy-led leadership style stems from Perelman’s passion for mental health and her commitment to the world-renowned children’s mental health resource, Child Mind Institute, which she co-founded.
“It’s really important to be able to give employees that sense of hope that they can progress within a company,” she says. “It’s about being mindful and putting employees at the forefront of everything we do.” And so, she went on what she calls a “listening tour.”
The result? A number of new corporate initiatives that are empathy-driven, employee-focused and very forward thinking:
One Mind at Work – Revlon has joined forces with this global employer-led coalition dedicated to workplace mental health. The organization, of which Perelman sits on the Global Guiding Council, aims to combat stigma, improve access to treatment and prevention services and fosters a psychologically safe culture at work.
Moments That Matter – By designating certain events as important in-person moments, Revlon makes it clear when there is real purpose for bringing employees into the office and when it’s perfectly ok to work from home. “We wanted to provide flexibility for our employees because that’s what we heard from them,” says Perelman. “This enables them to have some space and enables them to balance the needs of their lives.”
Focus Time Fridays – Employees felt too many meetings during the week meant work had to be done on the weekends. Focus Time Fridays designates time on Fridays when standing meetings are not permitted, giving employees time to connect one-on-one and catch up on work.
Mental Health Fireside Chats – employees can join chats with mental health expert Harold Koplewicz to address issues affecting themselves or their families. “We are opening up the organization to have that type of exposure and that’s been really important, especially over the past couple of years,” says Perelman.
Diversity and Inclusion – “Some feedback we heard from employees was ‘I don’t see many people like me.’” So, Perelman created a Diversity & Inclusion Council led by employees and works with external parties like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Expanding Equity Program and with the United Negro College Fund to support students currently enrolled in historically Black colleges and universities. “Feedback from employees and the latest numbers show we are surpassing where the industry is today based on the actions we’ve taken.”
Getting Closer to The Customer
The company’s strategic transformation also includes diversifying the management team and streamlining workflow to make the company nimbler and more closely aligned to the consumer.
When Perelman took the helm, only a few members of the Executive Leadership Team were women. Her first step was making her leadership team more reflective of the customer base they serve. Four years later, women make up 50% of the team with women in the CMO, CSO and CFO roles. “I really focused on bringing in female leaders for key roles and elevating other women to key positions.”
Perelman implemented a unique “pod” strategy that enables the company to deliver products customers really want in a timely way. Pods consist of cross-functional teams fully empowered to own their business, minimizing the steps and layers usually required to get approvals and push products through development.
Revlon’s new ColorStay Skin Awaken Concealer, a product that combines vitamin C and caffeine to brighten and hydrate the skin, is a direct result of the pod strategy. Pod team members identified the “skinification” trend (blurring the line between makeup and skincare) and quickly brought a new product to market. “This product is coming out now when it’s important to the consumer because with our pods we’re able to understand what they want and get those products to market more quickly,” says Perelman.
Prioritizing Digital and Ecommerce
Back in 2018, ecommerce sales at Revlon were in the low single digits. Today, that number has increased to 20%; sales over the past two years alone increased almost $100 million – a direct result of Perelman’s commitment to a true omnichannel approach and a company-wide digital transformation to merge consumers’ online and offline experiences. The company now offers live-selling, one-on-one beauty consultations both online and in-store, and in-store interactive tools to help customers find their perfect shade, fragrance or product.
Tapping Into the Global Market
The Asia Pacific region holds almost 50% of the global beauty industry market share and Revlon is going all in on this opportunity.
Elizabeth Arden is Revlon’s most digitally innovative brand, and China is the brand’s number one market, enjoying double digit growth there last year. Elizabeth Arden became one of Asia’s most revered brands through sales on China’s Tmall, where it was a pioneer as one of the first Western luxury brands available on that platform. Under Perelman’s leadership, the brand has activated cutting-edge technology across all markets to engage consumers and has a strong commitment to live-selling – a huge success for Revlon during last year’s 11-11 Chinese shopping holiday.
The Revlon of 2018 was an iconic brand, revered the world over yet large and slow to change. In a span of four years, Revlon’s new leadership has sparked a company-wide transformation, positioning the company to deliver an elevated consumer experience, both in store and online, take on increased competition, drive rapid and innovative product development and engage more closely with employees and consumers. Thanks to its new leadership, Revlon is now putting its best face forward, and in a very modern way.
Source: Jane Hanson