The Groundbreakers: The executives behind key changes at influential companies
VP of marketing, Clinique North America
Sameer Agarwal, vp of marketing for Clinique North America, is trying to bridge the gap between traditional and data-driven marketing.
Early in his marketing career, Agarwal focused on primary research, including through focus groups, to understand consumers and gather feedback. But today, algorithms and data often drive too much of a brand’s direction and strategies. With that, Agarwal wants to find a balance.
“There are few brands that are as old and as big as ours, because beauty is often driven by the latest or newest thing,” said Agarwal. “My macro mission is taking a 54-year-old brand, with so much richness and so much heritage, and making it feel like a modern brand.”
To achieve this modernity, Clinique has focused on multicultural consumers. That’s included a 2022 Mother’s Day campaign speaking to Latina customers — namely, the way beauty secrets are transferred from mother to daughter, but beauty trends pass from daughter to mother. In February, Clinique revealed a campaign based on its 2020 consumer feedback initiative called Co-Lab. The campaign consisted of photos of the 51 Co-Lab participants, selected with a focus on diversity, as well as their self-directed and -created video diaries, and Clinique’s plan to further use Co-Lab feedback in its campaigns.
Clinique has also invested in Gen-Z outreach, especially through TikTok: In October, Clinique adopted an “always on” TikTok influencer strategy called #CSuite, which will last until at least July 2023. C-Suite consists of eight makeup artists, dermatologists and influencers who create TikTok videos on an ongoing basis. Clinique also invests in Snapchat, which Agarwal said has become one of the biggest media channels the brand invests in.
In addition, Clinique took 2022 to reinvest in real-life experiences and in-store shopping. In September, Clinique participated in an experiential consumer-facing event in New York City called Beauty Lab, hosted by publication Byrdie, and in October, it had a presence at Creative Collective NYC-hosted BIPOC conference CultureCon in October. In July, Clinique rolled out a new retail concept space, dubbed The Clinique Lab, in Macy’s in NYC’s Herald Square. The Clinique Lab offers customers a proprietary diagnostics session with its scanning tool called Clinique Clinical Reality, which uses facial scanning software to analyze skin and provide skin-care and beauty recommendations. The offering is available in seven retail locations and will further expand in the coming years.
“The Clinique Lab is a beacon for the absolute best Clinique can be and the future of our in-store experience,” said Agarwal. “Some people haven’t been in stores for a long time and want to enjoy the experience. They want a high level of service from a Clinique consultant, who can diagnose their needs and [allow them to] absorb a lot of information.”
Agarwal declined to comment on Clinique’s sales or growth, but Clinique is consistently called out during The Estée Lauder Companies’ quarterly earnings for its strong sales performance. On the company’s latest earnings call, for fiscal 2023 in November, Clinique was mentioned six times. Clinique’s Happy fragrance franchise saw double-digit growth in the quarter, according to the call.
“People are increasingly [discerning], in terms of what experiences brands are offering and whether they should pay attention,” Agarwal said. “Building off of our success over the past year, we want to be relentless about reintroducing consumers to the best of Clinique. That will involve reaching out to audiences in genuine and authentic ways that tap into cultural insights, and marrying that with our hero products.”
Click here to see all 2022 Glossy 50 honorees.