Exec brings focus and free-spirit to build buzz around natural beauty

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After nearly quadrupling Unilever's Pond's business and driving 60% growth for L'Oreal's Garnier hair-care brand, Mike Indursky is turning is attention to a quirkier set of products, those all-natural ones put out by Burt's Bees.

Mr. Indursky's efforts for L'Oreal and Unilever drew notice from growth-striving beauty marketer Burt's Bees and its President-CEO Doug Meyer, who recently hired Mr. Indursky as the company's first chief marketing and strategic officer.

"Mike has a blue-chip marketing background and a free-spirited approach, which makes him perfect for Burt's Bees," Mr. Meyer said. "He has proven expertise in the beauty industry and possesses a truly unique combination of having both extremely strong creative and strategic skills."

Mr. Indursky, who started with the natural-beauty brand in July, is excited about returning to his more entrepreneurial roots. Following college graduation he started his own pet-supply business on the side when serving as a product manager at a packaging company in New York City's South Bronx and, though he abandoned the start-up in favor of an M.B.A. in marketing from New York University and subsequent jobs with big corporations, his jumping off to a small independent has been a long-standing dream.

"My primary motivator [of coming to Burt's Bees] was the opportunity to build another big business in a very entrepreneurial environment," Mr. Indursky said.

Hot button

Fascinated with the simple philosophy of marketing where, he said, "ideas steeped in consumer insight properly executed can lead to big businesses," Mr. Indursky has an incredible track record putting the theory into practice.

Mr. Indursky spent six-and-a-half years as brand manager of Cheseborough Pond's flagship brand Pond's and, clearly finding women's emotional hot-button, quadrupled the $40 million business and increased it from a 7% share to 14% share. After stops at Unilever Cosmetics International, parent of Calvin Klein and other fragrances (a business recently sold to L'Oreal) and from L'Oreal to become VP first of Maybelline, he took over new line Garnier, which has been, by all accounts, a monster success. How did marketing help Garnier become the fastest growing hair-care brand, up 60% in 2004 largely due to new Fructis? Mr. Indursky chalks it up simply to "offering consumers an experience." His theory, he said, is to "try to make routines special. Shampooing is often not the most pleasant experience, so we had to have a wonderfully visual package, great fragrance, excellent aesthetics and a young, irreverent, go-all-out attitude and to capture that that's the kind of experience you can get in advertising."

Now, the challenge is to transfer that same logic to Burt's Bees, whose range of 120 items spans across nearly every personal-care category from oral care to baby products. The small company has grown at a fast clip and is expected to see sales of over $100 million this year, but Mr. Indursky is charged with growing the brand at least 20% a year through a combination of expanded distribution, new products and, simply, bigger buzz. "There's not one category we're in that we can't at least double. It's just a question of what to do first," Mr. Indursky said.

Before his arrival, Burt's Bees hired Y&R's Brand Buzz and has just begun its first-ever national print campaign, a $5 million effort that plays to the brand's truly all-natural, high-efficacy products and the private company's ongoing social-responsibility mission, not to mention its irreverence.

He expects to invest $10 million in advertising next year, and wants to use online advertising (its own Web site will relaunch this month), as well as radio and a sampling program that will kick into high gear in 2006. The recent addition of Walgreen's and CVS chains to its retail accounts virtually doubled Burt's Bees distribution and Mr. Indursky noted that the company will "carefully choose new accounts to open, making sure we partner with retailers that share our values and are consistent with Burt's Bees' imagery." (A new hive-shaped display module will help ensure that retailers play to the quirky side of the brand.)

Just Asking

What are your favorite Burt's Bees products? Almond-milk-beeswax hand cream is terrific. I also think our Baby Bee products are great, though my 13-year-old loves the lip balms and lip shimmers.

Has having a 13-year-old girl helped in understanding younger consumers' mind-set? She's not shy at all about sharing her point of view and she has a great track record on determining how well things do.

What was your first sign you might be a success? As a product manager at a packaging company in the South Bronx, my salary went from $15,000 to $22,500 after six weeks.

What was the biggest impetus behind joining Burt's Bees? What's amazing about the company is that they have a certain set of values they stand behind so fiercely and when consumers see that, they become more committed. People are fiercely loyal to products like the lip balm and the lemon-butter cuticle cream and that was part of the appeal.

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