BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- "Easy, breezy" as CoverGirl's slogan may be, the cosmetics business hasn't always come easy for P&G. Nor has it always been a thing of beauty.
Olay cosmetics failed, and Max Factor got booted from most U.S. stores but Walmart over the past decade. CoverGirl has faced a tough fight against L'Oreal in particular.
But the business has never been in better shape than now under Esi Eggleston Bracey, 38, VP-global cosmetics. CoverGirl has been gaining share for more than a year and, thanks to Lash Blast mascara, it been staging a particularly effective run at an eye makeup business long dominated by L'Oreal's Maybelline.
CoverGirl's U.S. shares were up in all three of its major categories -- eye, lip and face -- last year and last quarter, and brand sales overall were up despite broad recession-fueled in cosmetics, according to Information Resources Inc. data from Deutsche Bank.
When P&G Chairman-CEO AG Lafley in April referred to a current restructuring of the beauty business allowing "our best-performing beauty and grooming leaders to get more responsibility and to grow faster," clearly Ms. Bracey was one of them. Though she's had the global role for two years, she's in the process of relocating from Hunt Valley, Md., to Geneva to assume more direct day-to-day oversight of the global business.
"Without a doubt, CoverGirl's mascara innovation [Lash Blast] has grown the eye segment," Ms. Bracey said in an e-mail. "We've tripled our market share in mascara in the past three years and doubled our market share in the eye segment in the same time frame."
More recently, Cover Girl and Olay Simply Ageless Foundation, backed in an unconventional but highly successful move by Ellen Degeneres as spokeswoman, became the best-selling foundation at mass retailers during its first full quarter on the market, she said.
Ms. Bracey was P&G's first female African-American general manager, though she says the milestone is really about valuing diversity more broadly. "If my role inspires people to appreciate our unique gifts," she said, "then I'm making a difference, and that means a lot to me."
Ms. Bracey's move into general management in 2007 wasn't her first tour of duty on cosmetics. And it actually allowed her to reap benefits of work she did as a marketing director on the business early in the decade, said Dave Rose, a former CoverGirl brand manager, now marketing consultant.
Those were tough times, he noted, just after P&G pulled the plug on Olay cosmetics, with little in the CoverGirl innovation pipeline, he said. Ms. Bracey provided the leadership to help change that.
"People were pretty shell shocked," he said. "She did a good job of getting us going again."