Swiss prestige skin care brand La Prairie is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2013 and is expected to grow by 3-4% globally next year, double the market rate, according to La Prairie Group president and ceo Patrick Rasquinet. Speaking to SPC, Rasquinet attributed the brand’s resilience during recent economic instability to a combination of innovation and the strong performance of teams within local markets, as well as adherence to its founding values. “What makes La Prairie successful is that we remain true and loyal to the values that form the brand equity of La Prairie: performance, service, luxury and cutting edge innovations,” he said.
La Prairie is now distributed in 82 countries worldwide. And while there are still big differences from region to region (the brand’s presence is strongest in the US and Europe, where it was historically founded and developed but growing very fast in Asia) the focus in now global.
“I like to say that there are no more markets,” said Rasquinet. “For us, the market is a global one. The UK for example is a very important market for Asian consumers because people are travelling a lot. The latest numbers for 2012 show that there will be 1 billion tourists in the world, which shows that you can’t really talk about single markets anymore.”
This said, one country La Prairie is focusing on is the UK, where it set up a subsidiary at the beginning of this year. La Prairie’s new managing director for UK & Ireland, Paul Fox, previously helped establish a La Prairie subsidiary in Australia and headed the brand’s Asia business. “The brand is the same, it’s positioned in the same way and we have the same loyal customers. But the UK is obviously a more developed market than the Asian markets it’s a very interesting market for us because we have a lot of international customers who’ve seen the brand in their own market and want to see the brand displayed properly, get fantastic service and basically have the La Prairie experience here,” he added. “When we took the market back from the distributor we knew we had a good business here but we felt there was massive opportunity to take the brand to the next level.”
Fox is striving to achieve this by raising brand awareness among consumers, strengthening the relationship between La Prairie and its key retailers and by improving dialogue with existing customers. “The whole area of CRM (customer relationship, marketing) is a huge area of development for us in the future; to improve our service, the way they perceive our brand and our overall relationship with them.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of La Prairie’s best selling range Skin Caviar. According to Jaime Maser, vp brand and public relations, the formulation for La Prairie’s dermal beads has remained the same since 1987 “but there are a slew of products in the range that have taken the benefits of caviar and evolved them”.
Maser cites the latest Skin Caviar addition, Skin Caviar Liquid Lift, as an example of this. “Our creative development group team (CDGT) were the first to have an encapsulated bead – at the time it came with a gauze pad and you had to push the gauze to get the ingredients out and press it onto the skin. To think that from there we’ve evolved into a product where you can twist the base and the beads melt into the serum inside is pretty incredible.”
A spin-off range, White Caviar, which tackles pigmentation issues such as age spots is currently being rolled out and will launch in the UK in 2013.
Present in all La Prairie ranges is the brand’s cellular complex, which Maser calls its ‘secret sauce’. Maser told SPC: “It [cellular complex] has evolved since the days of the Swiss Clinique. Since we left in 1982, and since we were acquired by Beiersdorf [in 1991] we’ve had access to new R&D, new scientists and new systems and labs, and we’ve been able to take our cellular complex and develop it with glyco-proteins, horsetail, and ginseng extracts to make an ingredient that boosts what skin does naturally and ensures that skin is nourished and energised.”
For Rasquinet, who took over the reins in September 2010, the most exciting development of recent months has been the creation of La Prairie’s Cellular Power range, which began with Cellular Power Infusion, then Cellular Power Charge Night and most recently Cellular Power Serum.
“Cellular Power Infusion has been a tremendous success all over the world, despite the fact that it wasn’t necessarily an easy sell, being a treatment,” he said.
As Maser explained: “Women think of products in steps: ‘I cleanse, I tone, I moisturise, I put a serum on and an eye cream’… Cellular Power Infusion was something new – it’s only used four times a year and you use it every day for a month then again next season.
“With Cellular Power Infusion it’s not an easy sell in that if you’re in a department store you can’t just pump it on someone’s hand and say ‘try this texture’. But consumers nowadays are educated and informed, and really curious… and once they’ve used it for seven days and start to notice the difference it doesn’t matter if it’s crazy, or complicated, or a kit, once they are a believer they stick with it for life.”
The night product, meanwhile, pairs the cellular power complex with a retinol and an oxygen complex, where the oxygen cancels out the drying properties of the retinol.
“The range is always expanding,” added Maser. “But we don’t dilute and we don’t launch for the sake of launching. It’s not about an ancillary or an anniversary, its abut filling a hole in our portfolio: what does our consumer want, what do we think they want and what product can we develop even if they didn’t have the expectation that they wanted this?”
Exactly how the brand intends to mark its 35th anniversary has yet to be disclosed. But according to Maser: “Each market will do their own on-counter consumer one-on-ones, whether it’s digital, or in person or in a perfumery. We’ll provide the collateral and each market will decide what best works for their consumers.”