Part and parcel of success

31 October 2019



The cosmetics market continues to grow, as the mantra ‘looking good, feeling great’ continues to drive millennial dollars and social media traffic to the brands that can deliver a true beauty experience. As one of the world’s largest network marketing companies in the world, Mary Kay is a household name in the cosmetics industry, with a strong brand reputation and credibility for high-quality products and ethical practices. Matthew Rogerson speaks with Deb Gibbons, chief operating officer, to learn more about packaging’s part in the company’s success, and with Chaun Harper, senior vice-president and chief manufacturing officer, to learn more about how the company is driving ethical and sustainable manufacturing practices.


Deb Gibbons, chief operating officer for Mary Kay, knows the importance of packaging, not just from her current role but from her decade-plus experience in her former position at PepsiCo. “At a minimum, cosmetic packaging must protect the product’s efficacy and provide the consumer a convenient way to access or dispense the products,” she says. “While some women are perfectly satisfied with simple, basic, functional packaging, other women are looking for a holistic experience, where the package is a key part of the positioning interaction. For example, they may want a more pleasant or impressive package experience. Others have a sustainability priority and look for eco-friendly options. A consumer’s packaging decisions are grounded in their overall needs and expectations. We have to be able to address the full spectrum to qualify for them to spend their dollars with us.”

With this move from the mass to the individual marketing approach, targeting consumer preferences, companies like Mary Kay have to move faster to be able to react to trends and capitalise on opportunities, as Gibbons explains, “Just as fashion trends move at an increasingly faster pace, the industry is learning to anticipate and react to morphing trends more quickly. As a global company, Mary Kay works with our ingredient suppliers and trend agencies to monitor and react to these industry shifts quickly. Having said that, we don’t attempt to chase every fad, and we do always take the time necessary to conduct the testing needed to ensure that our independent beauty consultants (IBCs) receive high-quality products that they can sell with confidence.”

This attitude of quality and not simply reacting to market conditions is one of the foundations of the company’s success, with one of the most important being its IBCs, who have a major influence on new product development. “IBCs are Mary Kay’s customers, and so our new product development (NPD) priorities are driven by their requirements to develop a loyal customer base and build a successful retail business,” Gibbons adds. “To accomplish this goal, we actively solicit input from our IBCs and listen to the lifestyle and behaviour needs of women from around the world to inspire our new product innovations.”

What’s new is beautiful

On the subject of innovations, Gibbons feels that the most important topic for Mary Kay in 2019 is a combination of factors under the umbrella of research. By developing innovative formulations and packaging designs, and accelerating speed-tomarket to provide its IBCs with the best possible product range, Mary Kay reiterates Gibbons’s claim that “supporting the success of our IBCs’ businesses remains our number one priority”.

The company has seen a number of activities recently in the areas of packaging innovations and launches, highlights of which include, “our new eye-and-cheek powder line with super-powered chromafusion technology for gorgeous shades and a life-proof formula that lets you face whatever is on your agenda, beautifully. These powders fit into our customisable Perfect Palette that allows total customisation, to create a personalised shade palette”.

Gibbons continues, “Our new Timewise Miracle Set 3D is a game-changer for us. Powered by our patent-pending Age Minimise 3D Complex, this is a breakthrough, three-dimensional approach to skincare that defends against environmental stressors, delays and delivers for younger-looking skin. Our Clear Proof Charcoal Mask broke company records with activated charcoal that acts like a magnet to unclog pores. The formula is clinically shown to instantly absorb excess oil and reduce shine. Lastly, we are very proud of our beauty industry-first, TimeWise Vitamin C Activating Squares, which use breakthrough technology to deliver pure vitamin C to your skin in a tiny, dissolvable square. The squares deliver visible benefits in the appearance of even skin tone, skin radiance, and reduced fine lines and wrinkles.”

3.3 million
The number of US jobs accounted for by the green construction industry in 2018.
US Green Building Council

She highlighted three very interesting areas that she expected would have the biggest impact on the market in 2019. Some of them are noted by GlobalData in its cosmetics insight, such as consumers aligning their patronage and trust with companies that the actions, beliefs and morals of which match their own; and that companies need to be transparent and credible with their stories to gain consumer trust. “Consumers are putting increased emphasis on experiences over possessions,” says Gibbins. “Finally, as the line between online and offline blurs, smart systems are delivering seamless convenience and consumers expect brands to engage with them in ways that suit their interests and lifestyle.”

2.2 million
The approximate amount of square feet that is LEED-certified every day, across over 90,000 projects.
US Green Building Council

A matter of certification

Chaun Harper, senior vice-president and chief manufacturing officer at Mary Kay, provided a deeper dive into the Richard R Rogers (R3) manufacturing and R&D centre’s LEED Silver certification, and the importance of this globally recognised sustainability achievement to the company. The building earned its LEED Silver certification based on a number of key elements in design and construction, including location, heat island, water use and energy savings. In addition, cutting-edge manufacturing technology and an astute focus on sustainable, environmentally friendly construction supports Mary Kay’s continued effort to make the community a healthier, greener place and encourage other beauty companies to strive for sustainability.

“LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world and was developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC),” Harper explains. “LEED certification is awarded to projects that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated using healthy, highly efficient and sustainable practices.”

Silver certification is significant as it is “the third-highest LEED certification a facility can receive. All buildings pursuing LEED certification earn points across categories including water efficiency, innovation and indoor environmental quality; and the number of points earned translates to the level of LEED certification”. This is a tough accreditation to gain, according to Harper, who was keen to stress the opportunities such a certification brings. “After almost 50 years in our original manufacturing site, we used this new facility as an opportunity to update our equipment but also completely rethink how we operate,” Harper says. “We consolidated all of our operations that make our product – R&D, innovation, supply chain and manufacturing – with all of the supporting functions – HR, finance and IST – under one roof. The facility now is not only a space of collaboration that encourages innovation, but it also supports our commitment to enriching the lives of our employees through rewarding opportunities, social responsibility and, most importantly, sustainable practices.”

In addition, there are further benefits for Harper, “Approximately 75% of our business is overseas, but more than 50% of Mary Kay products are produced at our R3 facility. With the large role it plays for our business, an LEED Silver certification and the ability to function as a zero-waste-to-landfill facility is confirmation of Mary Kay’s sustainability commitments. The facility gives us the opportunity to continue producing best-in-industry products with sustainable product packaging and biodegradable packing materials, while putting an emphasis on practicing sustainability for the future.”

Identify the main objectives

Taking a step back from the factory and looking at the general key objectives in manufacturing and the time frames to deliver them, Harper responded that the current goal is “championing the corporate mission of enriching women’s lives via product manufacturing. Our key objectives are focused on our people, processes and technology. We maintain end-to-end transparency and flexibility across the supply chain, while concentrating on being data-driven and adding value. With efficient processes in place, we can focus on advanced technological improvements such as equipment automation and integration of information systems. Our strategy is to drive key resources and activities to support these objectives to achieve the very prestigious JIPM Award, presented by the Japanese Institute of Plant Maintenance, by 2025. This award is given to companies that demonstrate their commitment to operational excellence through total productive maintenance.”

According to Harper, this endeavour is actually the second project by Mary Kay to gain this certification, saying, “In 2018, Mary Kay China was awarded LEED Gold certification for its corporate headquarters building located in Shanghai. We understand that every choice we make today impacts the future. It’s our responsibility to drive sustainable business practices, including continuously striving to make our supply chain, operations and product offerings environmentally friendly. Our global manufacturing facility is zero landfill, and our US distribution centres ship orders using packing materials made from renewable corn and potato starch (bio peanuts), which are 100% biodegradable. Mary Kay was one of the first US corporations to adopt recycling as a corporate practice back in the 1980s. Any upcoming projects will be designed with this in mind as we look to ensure the fortitude of the company for generations to come.”

Harper expanded a little more on some of the cutting-edge practices that had been employed in order to gain this certification including “location – R3 is located within one-quarter-mile walking distance of one or more stops for two or more public, campus or private bus lines usable by our employees. Next was heat island – 100% of the weighted building roof surface has a solar reflectance index (SRI) of 95. Our water use has reduced potable water use by 33.96%, saving over 913,480Gal of potable water per year. Finally energy – we have achieved cost savings of 13.48% by implementing strategies such as energyefficient lighting, thermal controls and purchasing renewable energy for 100% of electricity consumed through 2021.”

As for what’s next for the team, Harper concluded by saying the focus will be on industry 4.0. “This transformation will be critically important to the evolution of manufacturing and supply chain,” he claims. “This includes leveraging IoT to ensure the integration of disparate systems, and the use of big data and AI to manage supply chain risk, optimise processes and drive efficiencies. Ultimately, this ensures that we have the most agile supply chain possible to deliver product to our independent sales force and provide them with a superior end-to-end service experience that focuses on quality and availability in our markets.” 

Mary Kay’s ChromaFusion blush palette is just one of the company’s recent innovative launches.


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