We’re closing out 2021 with our 40th episode of Earned, and it’s certainly one you do not want to miss! Conor sits down with Aïda Moudachirou-Rébois, Global CMO of iconic beauty brand MAC Cosmetics. Aïda’s experience in the beauty industry is nothing short of impressive. Prior to joining MAC at the start of 2021, she led the marketing divisions of companies including L'Oréal, Johnson & Johnson, and Revlon.
We start the episode by discussing the current “makeup rebound,” and Aïda shares why she believes the vertical is picking up steam. We then dive into MAC’s community of 13,000 professional makeup artists, and learn how the brand leverages their field insight to inform product development. Aïda speaks to her personal connection to MAC, and emphasizes how inclusivity has been at the forefront of the brand since its inception. We also hear why Aïda prioritized listening and observation when first joining MAC, and explore the brand’s dedication to innovation and building out its digital framework. Finally, Aïda offers some key takeaways from her career journey, and we close the show by diving into MAC’s focus on earned media and commitment to “harnessing the power of community to transform society.”
The following interview has been lightly edited for concision.
“They have a seat at the table”: How MAC Leverages Insight From its Makeup Artist Community to Inform Product Development
Conor Begley: MAC’s 13,000 makeup artists are quite the community to have attached to your brand. When we look at the influencers in this space, so many of them are either current makeup artists or former makeup artists, and they really use social media as their platform to become discovered. So how do you guys interact with your makeup artist community? How have you invested in that more recently? What are you seeing in terms of their impact on social?
Aïda Moudachirou-Rébois: We're the first makeup professional brand, so artistry is at the core of what we do. We were created by makeup artists, for makeup artists—whether they're professional or beginners. So artistry is really at the core of everything we do at MAC. We really value our 13,000 makeup artists. They're the heart and soul of the brand. They work with us through every step of the product development process. They have a seat at the table. They have incredible insight. Of course, we do have data and analytics that we layer on, but our artists are our boots on the ground. They help us understand where the consumer’s need gaps are, where they're evolving, and the latest backstage trends. We use our artists in over 100 fashion shows in Fashion Week around the world.
So a good example of this is the development of our Up For Everything mascara, which addressed the common complaint our artists were hearing, that the Latin American consumer, the Hispanic consumer overall, has their lashes pointing down. So our artists were like, this is easy insight that we need to address. So the SKU was launched thanks to them. The product development team worked with the artists to really perfect what formula would be good for that. And the SKU's now the number one in Mexico and Chile, and we also cater to the U.S. Latina consumer. I have many other examples, for instance, in India, our artists were really instrumental in understanding the undertone of the Indian consumer so that we can make sure we have the right shade range for the Indian consumer in our foundation range. So we worked with local artists and we tested on the consuming market before we launched globally, and that was makeup artist insight there.
They have also played a key role when we think about discontinued products. What product needs to stay, what needs to go. They have their favorites, from the heart standpoint, but they can also tell you why, from an artistry standpoint, they think that these products are needed, even if sometimes from a financial standpoint, we cannot see that. So their role is super important from every standpoint: innovation, shade, diversity, and just staying ahead of trends, and creating trends and looks.
“At MAC, I felt I mattered”: Aïda’s Personal Connection to MAC’s Inclusive Mission
Conor Begley: Going back to that idea of shade ranges and the work that you're doing in India, I think that was part of how you actually discovered MAC, right? They were the brand that helped you out in your own wedding?
Aïda Moudachirou-Rébois: Yes, exactly. So my personal story with MAC, actually the first time I used the brand I was quite young. I was about to get married. I got married in my mid-twenties and I was living in Paris at the time, and I was quite broke. Today weddings are fancy, people have a hashtag, they have makeup parties for the whole party and everything. I was like, okay, I'm just looking for something to give me a great look for my wedding, that's all I wanted. So I went to a few department stores in Paris and I went around different counters and I was asking, “I'm getting married, I'm looking for products to create a look for my wedding.”
But all the brands were like, “Oh no, we’re very sorry, but we cannot help you because we don't have a shade for you.” And at the time, it was part of my day-to-day of being underrepresented and underserved. So I bumped into one artist from another brand, and he was like “Oh, you should go to the MAC counter.” So he sent me to the MAC counter, and I was very down, it was supposed to be a happy moment, but after five or six no’s, I was like, okay, whatever.
But then the MAC artist sat me at the table and asked me what I wanted. They asked me about myself, where I was getting married, what my dress was, and they just listened to me and looked at my face and helped me create the look I wanted. And I walked out of the door that day with a bunch of products that I used to recreate the looks for my weddings. I had two weddings actually, one in Africa and one in France, and I created the same look with just different lipstick. [I used] Studio Fix powder foundation, they gave me a bunch of lipstick shades that they felt could be good, and then lip liners, and I've been using those products since.
I felt so wrapped into [the brand]. It was inclusivity at its best. I felt like this was the best expression of equity. For the first time in my life, in beauty, whether it was for my hair or for my makeup, I felt like a brand was not looking at me like, “oh, sorry, we don't do shades for you because you're not worth our time or business.” The way it was coming across to me was just that I didn't matter. And at MAC, I felt I mattered.
The service was fantastic, and that’s still one of the reasons why people come to our stores, because our makeup artists are the best in the world. We invest in them. We train them to be the best makeup artists they can be, but also to face consumers in a way that is very centered on the consumer’s needs. So I felt that [at MAC]. I found product that I loved, and by the way, I was working for a competitive company, like competition, and I couldn’t really use their products.
Conor Begley: You couldn’t buy your own company’s products.
Aïda Moudachirou-Rébois: And you know, today [inclusivity] feels so normal, but it wasn't [back then]. And that's been MAC since its inception 37 years ago. They’ve always been very intentionally inclusive of all skin tones. It's not something that they did because now it's politically correct, or politically incorrect not to be. It's just part of the DNA of the brand. The values of MAC—and I'm big about brand equity when it comes to marketing—I think are a big asset of the brand. When I started to work at MAC, everybody I've met shares those values, values them, wears them as a badge on their black shirts, and are extremely passionate about them. It’s a culture, it’s a point of view, it's something we believe in. It's not just a fad, it's not a trend, it's not a politically correct trait. It's not something we must do now. It's something we’ve always done.
You can watch the entire interview here, or listen to the full episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts. To catch up on our other 39 episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Milk Makeup, Gymshark, Gucci, and Summer Fridays, visit our Earned Podcast page.