MAC's Global Brand President talks celebrity collaborations

From Miley Cyrus to Ariana Grande and Mariah Carey. How does MAC go about choosing the celebrities it works with?

Estée Lauder brand MAC is as well-known for its eclectic celebrity collaborations as it is its burgeoning product portfolio. Global Brand President Karen Buglisi Weiler talks to Cosmetics Business about how these much-anticipated unions come about...

Karen Buglisi Weiler

MAC is famed for its high-profile celebrity collaborations. How do these partnerships come about?
It's a constant process. There's not really a start and a stop. Many times, we have somebody in mind and many times people come to us. But it all has to make sense for the brand. The good news is, because of who we are, we have a very diverse consumer base. We are about all ages, all races, all sexes, and so there can be broadness and diversity about who makes sense to the brand. We want to make sure that we always reflect that in our collaborations.

Your latest announcement was Ariana Grande for Viva Glam. Would you say that was an expected choice because she's young, current and pretty?
Yes, she is. But we've also had Iris Apfel, who is a fashion and beauty icon at 94. We just announced Zac Posen. We do fashion and pop culture. We've done Barbie, Hello Kitty and Cinderella. We were shocked, when we did Barbie, that girls and women of all ages came out to see it. It brought them back to a place in their lives when there was that innocence. We did a collaboration with (Chinese designer) Guo Pei, who made that beautiful gown that Rihanna wore. These collaborations evoke different emotions and different connections.

Do you plan a set number of collaborations every year?
It changes every year. We're working on quite a few now. As long as the celebrity fits the brand and makes sense, and the partnership is very collaborative, these can come from different places: our creative team, marketing, global communications. It's even a collaboration from within the brand. Everybody has to feel good about what we're doing.

What makes a collaboration successful?
In my mind, it's when we both have respect for whoever we're collaborating with, what they want out of the collaboration and when they also understand the brand and what we would want. If we can bring a better awareness to the person we're collaborating with, to their celebrity and what they're looking to do, that's great. We have stores in 108 countries and that's a big advantage because many people we partner with want that global presence. And we can use their celebrity power and many times we get new consumers as well, which is a beautiful thing. And we don't always just go with the A-list celebrity. That's not where the brand came from. From the very beginning, MAC has been about this: if you don't belong anywhere else, you will belong at MAC. That's ingrained in our culture. We want to give a voice to communities or people who are underserved, and that's part of what we do with the MAC AIDS Fund.

With so many new brands entering the market every year, how does MAC stay fresh?
The make-up category now is explosive, all around the world. There are a lot of new consumers coming in – I love that. There's nothing wrong with all these new brands coming in and it gives us all a bigger audience to play to. We have to continue to be who we were. When you get bigger, you can never forget where you came from. You have to evolve and push the boundaries and make sure that you're ahead of the game in terms of foreseeing things that a consumer will want that they don't know they want yet.

And social media is a big part of getting the word out?
We're really active on social and digital media – that's the new word of mouth. And that's how you reach a certain audience, including using our spokespeople. Ariana Grande has 47 million Instagram followers. That's a huge audience. We're a fast fashion retailer; it's up to us to get our customers into the store, nobody is going to do it for us. So we have to continue with this flow of new ideas, to make sure we use our pillars of equity as our road map to the future. As long as we continue to build and evolve, the brand is good.