Caroline Neville MBE, President of CEW, speaks with Dianna Tieu, vice president/general manager, La Mer & Darphin UK & Ireland at Estée Lauder Companies, who shares her insights into the prestige market.
What is your experience in the beauty industry?
I joined Estée Lauder Companies as a marketing intern, fresh from university, and have been fortunate enough to work on six beautiful brands; Estée Lauder, Jo Malone London, Clinique, Prescriptives and now, La Mer and Darphin, across the UK & Ireland and Asia-Pacific regions. I’ve also worked for Harrods Beauty and Natura Bissé, Greater China. I lead a team of 200 people in my current role, which covers brand equity, sales, marketing and P&L management.
What have you seen as the most significant changes in the industry over the past 10 years?
First, inclusion and diversity. As a member of several minority groups – I’m proud to be British-born Chinese and Vietnamese, a working mother and a millennial on the company’s leadership team – I know how powerful it is when you feel you are represented with authenticity. A genuinely diverse approach is a must for any brand to be perceived as relevant to all consumers. There has been a healthy shift away from aspirations of perfection to being a better version of yourself.
Second, sustainability. At La Mer, the ocean is our muse and we are committed to helping protect marine habitats across the globe.
Who is your customer and how do you communicate with them?
Today’s luxury consumer values products that work using the best ingredients and latest technology, but also an experience that is personalised. Our approach was introduced by our founder, Estée Lauder, who inspires us with her unique way of connecting with the consumer. We communicate beyond the beauty department floor – from eCommerce and social media to a hand-written note from a beauty advisor.
How do you want your customers to feel when using your products?
We strive for them to feel they’ve been treated in an authentic and unique way. We refer to our consumer as our ‘guest’ and our Surprise & Delight programme was created to treat our guests in a meaningful way. I have two favourite examples: the first is when a guest and her toddler were on a mother-daughter day out, and our beauty advisor treated them to a sundae at the department store’s ice cream parlour. My other favourite example is when a beauty advisor replaced a guest’s favourite book, which he had lost. Only by knowing our guests can we create authentic experiences.
What do you see as the beauty industry’s biggest challenge?
Data is the industry’s biggest challenge and opportunity. Using data in a responsible way that enhances the consumer’s experience is super powerful.
What is the most valuable piece of career advice you’ve received?
Be true to yourself. I’ve had the privilege to work with amazing leaders, all equally inspiring and yet very different in style. It takes some time to work out what your own leadership style is and what your core values are, both professionally and personally. Finding out what’s important is hugely empowering.
What is your proudest achievement?
My all-time proudest achievement is becoming a mother. My daughter is three and I’m currently expecting my second. There’s nothing quite like having the responsibility of another life to put things into perspective! I have personally found becoming a mother has made me a better business person. I have become more empathetic, efficient with time and have a different view on life that helps me keep sensible checks and balances on work stress.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in beauty?
Take risks: your career is a jungle gym, not a ladder. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others and spend your energy on rocking the job in front of you. Doors will open based on your reputation. I’ve taken sideways and seemingly ‘downward’ steps during my career, as I believe that enriching your experience and learning a new skill set trumps getting a new title.
Can you share any exciting developments from La Mer?
Recently, La Mer launched Spa de la Mer, our only full-service spa in the UK, exclusively at Harrods. There are one-of-a-kind exclusive treatments such as the Miracle Broth Facial, where your skin can receive a pure infusion of the signature elixir that runs through the heart of La Mer products.