Women to Watch

Women to Watch: Georgia Garinois-Melenikiotou, Estee Lauder Cos.

With 'Consumer as Muse,' Exec Homes in on Digital, Demographic Revolutions to Keep Organic Growth Strong for Prestige-Cosmetics Brand

By Published on .

Georgia Garinois-Melenikiotou had plenty of experience in the mass side of beauty care at Johnson & Johnson, but when she was picked to head global corporate marketing efforts for Estee Lauder Cos. last year, it couldn't have come at a better time.

Georgia Garinois-Melenikiotou
Georgia Garinois-Melenikiotou

The company has had organic sales growth of 11.4% to 20% each of the past four quarters, easily beating all others among publicly traded beauty competitors and helped, in part, by almost all U.S. consumer-spending growth coming from households making $100,000 or more. But Ms. Garinois-Melenikiotou's hiring is a sign that Estee Lauder is anything but complacent.

"By 2020, 80% of all media, including TV, will be digital," she said. "But the demographic revolution is also important. In that year, 1.6 billion people will be global travelers living in megacities, and they will be my prime target ."

To deal with what she terms these "two revolutions" in her new role as senior VP-corporate marketing, she's developed a list of 10 priorities (without divulging the list) and is ramping up her marketing organization with people from within and without.

She's also learning to see beauty through a different lens. Ms. Garinois-Melenikiotou had worked for 26 years in seven countries with J&J, helping the company grow a beauty business largely from the ground up as it acquired brands such as Neutrogena, Roc and Aveeno. She had risen to president-strategy and new growth for J&J when Estee Lauder approached her.

From a J&J perspective, Estee Lauder was a "very admirable competitor, but it took us time to realize that ." Ultimately, she said, J&J realized "the consumer buys in all channels."

Ms. Garinois-Melenikiotou, 51, is now working on a much larger stable of "selective distribution" brands, as she puts it, including Clinique, Bobbi Brown, M.A.C., Origins and Aveda -- a total of 29. The prestige business is a lot more about loyalty than a mass business heavily focused on new-product trial, she said. And while J&J worked with outside agencies, Estee Lauder brands primarily keep the creative work in house.

Mass marketers, of course, hear a lot of "consumer is boss" talk, echoing a catchphrase of former Procter & Gamble Co. Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley. P&G alum and Estee Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda puts his company's approach a little differently: "creativity-driven and consumer-inspired."

Ms. Garinois-Melenikiotou describes the philosophy this way: "The consumer will be our muse, but she will not dictate to us her needs. ... We are not a need-driven organization. Our role is to anticipate desire. That means we want to give her, and have been giving her, not only what she wants today but what tomorrow she cannot live without."

Most Popular