Vitamin B

A primer named „Porefessional“, rocket-shaped pencils, shops so cheerful (and pink) that they feel like a fun fair – Benefit brought a fun breeze into beauty. But also ultra effective products that are loved around the world.
Found more than 40 years ago by twin sister Jane and Jean Ford, the company, now taken care of Jean’s daughters Annie and Maggie Ford Danielson, focuses on easy to use products and a very feel- and visible good vibe plus innovative yet approachable concepts (Benefit brow bars started the hype)

We met Maggie – who embodies the brand’s positivity – to talk about the unique Benefit spirit.

American Maggie Ford Danielson is spreading the Benefit vibe around the world

Describe your vision for Benefit…

Customers nowadays have access to products but also knowledge. It’s not only a conversation that is led by the brands anymore; it’s about being really being driven by the consumers. The good news is that Benefit has always been a brand that reacts to what consumers want. We are a brand that is over 40 years old; we need to constantly make sure we are evolving. Not just our products but also our positioning, what we believe and what we stand for – also in terms of beauty.
Beauty is such an intimate thing in someone’s life. I think younger girls as they grow up really want to align themselves with brands that stand for what they stand for. So they’re looking for socially conscious brands, who have a voice in conversations and not just be a neutral brand that stands for pretty make-up.

40 years – Benefit feels still young to me!

I know, even in the US people are shocked that our brand is that old. A lot of people first noticed the brand around 2010/2011 when we launched “professional” and “they’re real”. Those two products really catapulted our brand into another level of awareness and put us on the market in a more commercial way. Before we were sort of a niche or indie brand.

Benefit still transports a very special vibe, although being mass market.

A lot of brands try to emulate what we have and that feels forced. In the beginning it was just my mom and aunt, they build this company. They didn’t even really know that they wanted to sell make-up – they were not make-up artists, they were not obsessed with cosmetics. They were obsessed with communicating with people and women and wanted to be a friend to them – and their language to do that was make-up.
A lot of people feel that our brand leans towards the younger girls because it is playful. People always ask me how we attract women or people over 25 to 30. Honestly I don’t know an 18 year old that has dark circles or has thin brows – these are issues that women with real beauty dilemmas have. We say that “Benefit is for the younger part not just for the young” and that’s the kind of customer we attract – the playful, the confident, the person who doesn’t have a lot of time to do the Instagram-make-up.

Play- and powerful: Benefit's new blush palette

What’s your product-forecast?

I do know roughly what is happening in two years but that is kept under locking key. We really think about innovation. We are not going to create a new molecule or work with a new doctor that creates a new serum from planet Mars – that’s not us, that would be too scientific and doesn’t feel like a Benefit product. We think about how our product will make the customers’ life easier and make the make-up application quicker, faster and more reliable – that’s what we consider to be innovation.

How did you become part of the company?

For many years I was not. I didn’t think I would go down that path. My mom and aunt were such huge forces and I didn’t know if there was room for me to have a space in that world. After I graduated I moved to Manhattan, worked for a marketing company for five years. There are so many beauty companies in NY I sort of slit in. But my sister knew right away that she was going to join benefit. So we started at the bottom – in a store. We never wanted to be handed out a big position. The rest is history! My mom and aunt are retired, but they used to come in on weekends and want to know what is going on. after all it is their baby.

What did you want to change?

The only thing my sister and me wanted to do was to really make a mark in terms of philanthropy for the company. Myself, my sister and our CEO talked about doing something on a global level in 2014. 2015 we launched this beautiful project, which is our global philanthropy program. It’s been incredible – within just three years we raised over 17 million dollars. That was the one thing that was missing from Benefit. People really connect with our brand, so it felt like it was the right time. It was our responsibility to reach out beyond the counter and really effect change in women and girls lifes in a financial, monetary very impactful way. This year there will be 18-19 countries that are participating. 100% of the proceeds from brow waxes in May go towards this project. That was the one thing that was missing. And now we have that – it feels really complete.

 

Classics: Brow products
…and the matte bronzer

Was there a moment in your career where you were frightend?

A couple transitions have been challenging for me in terms of figuring out the dynamics. When I moved back from New York to San Francisco – I already was working for Benefit – coming back to the mothership in San Francisco was a challenge. We had to understand and get reoriented with each other and this new dynamic. 10 years ago my sister and I started a new sales channel called “Home Shopping Network” – where you go on TV in the US. We sell the products on TV – which we still do because in the US it is very big. Learning how to do that was really terrifying but now I love it. It’s fun. It’s the most invaluable training I have ever received is having to do live television because you can talk about anything and you don’t get nervous – which took a long time to be able to do that.

And what has been one of your best moments?

My sister and I used to travel a lot together before we both had kids –7 or 8 years ago. They had just opened Benefit in Shanghai. And the team wanted us to go to a mall and do an opening party. This was one of our first international trips for the brand and we didn’t know what was going to happen. We went into the mall – we are very tall, we are Americans and in China they look at you like you’re from another planet – and people asked me to hold their baby. All of the sudden there were 700 people and the team was so overwhelmed that we were there. They made us hide in a closet, because the people didn’t wan to leave as long as we are still there. As we were crouching in this tiny closet, we were laughing so hard – we had one of these moments, where we thought “this is nuts, our lives are so funny right now and so cool!”

Did you ever think about creating your own make-up brand?

I intended to do something else but I feel like I could never go and do something else then Benefit in the beauty industry. If anything I would do something for my other passion – food. I love to cook and feed people this is how I show my love for people. Maybe a café or a restaurant…

 

Beautiful heritage: The Benefit founder and twins Jean and Jane Ford

[Editor]
Laura Dunkelmann
[Photo]
PR
Mai 6, 2019

TUSH 44

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