Looking Beautiful, Feeling Beautiful1 Dec, 2012 By: Thomas Haire Response
Mally Roncal and Don Pettit say that Mally Beauty's road to success has been paved by a positive message for women and a commitment to direct response.
“Direct response is everything to us. At the end of the day, there’s no other way that we’d ever want to present our products to a customer than the way we’re doing it right now,” says Mally Roncal, long-time makeup artist to the stars and founder of Mally Beauty in 2005. “Direct works for us. It’s been proven. For us, this is our sweet spot.”
Roncal, along with company CEO (and 30-year beauty industry veteran) Don Pettit, have utilized a combination of home shopping — Mally Beauty’s sales on QVC are massive — and long-form DRTV to create a multi-million dollar business with more than 1,000 products. Roncal contends, “I believe in our work, our education and that we make the best products hands down. The bottom line is I believe I was put on this earth for to communicate, to lift people up, to teach and educate about love for yourself. Any way we can communicate face-to-face with a customer is an honor and blessing.”
From her debut on QVC in 2005, Roncal’s personality and passion have been the drivers for a product line that’s grown exponentially. Her magnetism is what drew Mally Beauty CEO Don Pettit away from running a branding business in the beauty space and into her startup nearly a decade ago.
And after years of success in home shopping, the company entered the long-form DRTV space in 2011. “We talked from the start about modeling the idea on the success of how Bare Escentuals blended their work on QVC with successful infomercials all the way through retail expansion,” Pettit says. “From the beginning, we had an interest in doing DRTV, so we made sure we could do that in our relationship with QVC.”
The model has been successful for Mally Beauty — and with Roncal’s vibrant personality, adding social media aspects to the company’s DR arsenal has been a no-brainer. After all, Roncal’s gift for gab and her products’ obvious quality have been equally important to Mally Beauty’s success from the very start.
Combining Talent and Personality
Roncal points to her childhood when talking about her inspiration — not only for cosmetics, but also for DRTV. It was then she began experimenting with makeup on her mother (whom she calls her biggest inspiration) in her upstate New York home. At the same time, QVC was a constant presence.
“I grew up with QVC,” she says. “The reason we contacted them with our first products was because of my dad. He said to me, ‘You were always watching it. Why don’t you sell your makeup on there?’ It’s perfect!’ Turns out it wasn’t a bad idea.”
Roncal went to college as a pre-med major — following in the footsteps of both of her parents — but she soon found her passion for beauty to be an overwhelming driver. Using her job at the Shisheido counter at Barney’s as a springboard, Roncal quickly made a name for herself, eventually becoming makeup artist to the stars.
With a client list that includes stars like Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Celine Dion, Angelina Jolie and Heidi Klum, she became a star in her own right in the beauty space. Her talents with color and design — along with her charm — helped make her a go-to makeup artist and earned her guest spots on the “Today Show,” “The View” and “Oprah,” among many others.
All that success didn’t go to her head, though. It made Roncal realize that she could bring great beauty products — and more importantly, a positive message — to all women. “I was Sephora’s top spokesperson at the time, and was traveling constantly as a celebrity makeup artist,” she says. “Every cosmetics line was giving me the entire range of their products, but I wasn’t getting everything I wanted from one brand. I wanted to create a high-performance, ‘bulletproof’ makeup line that looked beautiful but lasted all day.”
When she began looking to begin her own business, she sought out Pettit — a 30-year veteran of the beauty business. “I’d done some digging around, and everyone said he was the best,” Roncal says.
Pettit says, “Frankly, she called over and over for a meeting. I was running a branding business at the time, but she was very hard to not meet with. And, once we sat down, within 15 minutes, it was obvious she had the same passion, the vision and the view of beauty that I do. My life is about building beauty that women can feel great about, and Mally discovers beauty in people and finds ways to leaven them feeling even more beautiful than they started.”
Pettit contends that first meeting with Roncal also brought an excitement back for him about a beauty business that he says had become too “corporate and exploitative” for his tastes. “I could see Mally creating something that brought joy and a sense of the possible back to beauty,” he adds.
From that first meeting in 2002, Roncal and Pettit joined forces with a series of labs to create products that fit “our vision of the role beauty products could play in women’s lives,” he says.
A Natural on QVC
But where would Mally Beauty market these products? Remember Roncal’s father’s advice?
“As the brand took shape, it became clear that we needed a direct connection to the customer,” Pettit says. “Mally grew up with QVC in the background of her life. So we used some connections to get to a buyer from the network. She saw the potential of the line and they gave us a full hour right off the bat. That’s very unusual for QVC — usually you get an eight-minute test.”
Roncal says her nerves before that first experience were limited by her excitement to share her product with a viewer she felt she knew. “It felt like home to me,” she recalls. “I knew how it worked and, as a spokesperson for Sephora, Revlon and Maybelline, I had practice speaking on camera. I was confident I knew my products inside and out. It ended up being exhilarating.”
Indeed, it did — Roncal left the set after 45 minutes (instead of the hour) because she sold out her product offerings, which included the Shimmer, Shape and Glow Face Defining System, the Light Wand Eye Brightener, Visible Skin Foundation and Life, Love & a Really Great Lip Gloss.
Pettit recalls the pressure on the appearance. “We’d basically, begged and borrowed to convince vendors to support us,” he says. “Selling out meant we could pay all of our bills. It was also exciting because of the feedback. We confirmed that Mally was indeed made for TV. Her energy comes through the lens. Plus, those products captured Mally’s best techniques. They were made for that environment.”
Many of Mally Beauty’s products — especially those initial ones — “package techniques Mally had used for years on celebrities,” Pettit says. Those techniques and products remain a huge hit with QVC viewers today.
“We’ve been on QVC thousands of times,” Pettit says. “We have 240 items on its website, and do six to eight major visits a year, each with three or four new products. We introduce about 50 products or more a year with the network.”
But that home shopping success was just step one in the original Mally Beauty plan. “As much as I wanted to be on QVC, I wanted an infomercial,” Roncal says.
“When we started looking at an infomercial, we sought out the best beauty-capable resources to help us do that,” Pettit recalls. “We are very attentive to how the product and brand looks at all times. Phil Bickett, our creative director — and Mally’s husband — takes tremendous pride and effort in our image.”
Beyond that image, the plan for Mally Beauty’s first step into long-form DRTV was for it to be a piece of “self-liquidating advertising.” Pettit adds, “We needed the show to create a symbiosis with QVC and make sure that it helps our business on that channel and vice versa.”
Pettit and Roncal met with producer Bob Caudill about three years ago. “He really gets beauty, in much the same way we do,” Pettit says. “But we wanted to do things a little differently.”
Pettit says the idea of a multi-pod, multi-product approach to DRTV — rather than the traditional three pods followed by calls to action for the same offer — became intriguing right away. “We thought we could achieve something with a problem solving Q&A format — building it as a series of answers to the beauty questions people have.”
The resulting show promotes and offers three different Mally Beauty products: the Beautiful Skin Prep Starter Kit, the Fierce Face in Five Minutes Kit, and the Instant 8-Hours of Sleep Kit. “When we got the green light for the infomercial, it was one of the most exciting moments of my life,” Roncal says. “Don, Phil and I collaborated with Bob Caudill, and the goal was to something that had never been — to elevate the art form of the infomercial. I’m so happy that we stepped outside the norm. Our brand is about taking those risks, doing something different. It goes back to that first meeting with Don, where I asked him, ‘Are you ready to change the world?’”
Pettit agrees with Roncal and says that the risk was worth the reward. “We’re two years into using the show, and it’s been very successful at broadening our business,” he says. “Georgia Benson of GB Media is our media buying partner. She’s been a tremendous resource in guiding our buys. Together with Bob, they’ve done a great job of educating us on what works and why.”
Part of that was keying the CTA to a Web push. “We designed the show to drive consumers to the Web, and we’ve seen our Web sales more than double,” Pettit says. “By creating the show to drive multiple solutions, we’ve had great feedback and reaction to all the kits.”
Connecting With Customers
Reacting to the kind of feedback the Mally Beauty team receives has been another key factor in their success. The company’s most vocal customers — called ‘Mallynistas’ by Roncal — are huge brand advocates.
“Our Mallynistas are vocal,” she says. “You’re going to know what they want. I’m on Facebook and Twitter with them every day. Our social media presence is strong and incredibly important to our success. We listen, we talk, we interact and we hear them.”
Pettit adds, “Social is a wonderful asset. Beauty is so psychological, so the two-way communication we have today allows us to feel what our audience is feeling more than ever before.”
Mally Beauty capitalizes on the great two-way relationship it has with its customers regularly. “There are times when Don and I are working on a project, and I’ll go on Twitter and ask our customers, ‘Do you want black or blue eyeliner with this product?’ We’ll get 500 responses in 10 minutes. It’s amazing, and it makes our life easier,” Roncal says.
The combination of home shopping, DRTV and social media — among other direct touchpoints — continues to work wonders for Mally Beauty. Pettit and Roncal see no reason to change direction, but are always open to tweaks that can improve their products and communication with consumers.
“We are looking at some significant new programs in 2013,” Pettit says. “We’re going to try some different approaches with the same product assortment to drive consumers to the Web. There are definitely some new strategies we’re excited about.”
The ability to test and tweak strategies is why Pettit says DR will remain crucial to Mally Beauty’s success. “When you look at the role DR plays for our brand and our vision, it’s really about the kind of connection you can get from it,” he contends. “Going back to my initial discussion with Mally, it’s that connection driven by a direct relationship with our customers that allows use to educate and inspire.” ■