Vice president of global advertising, Estee Lauder Companies
Born: April 23, 1970, in New York City, New York.
Education: University of Pennsylvania, BA, 1991.
Family: Daughter of Ronald S. Lauder (the chairman of Clinique Laboratories) and Jo-Carole Knopf; married Eric Zinterhofer (a broker with Morgan Stanley); children: two.
Career: Estee Lauder Companies, 1992–1995, director of marketing for Prescriptives; 1995–1997, creative product-development director; 1997–2001, executive director of creative marketing; 2001–, vice president of global advertising.
Address: Estee Lauder, 767 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10153; http://www.elcompanies.com.
■ Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer was the prominent public face of the large family business Estee Lauder, the $5 billion cosmetics empire comprising 19 brands, including Prescriptives, Clinique, Origins, Aveda, and MAC. Having carefully crafted an image and bearing a zealous drive to use that image effectively, Zinterhofer was the heiress to a fortune in stock worth at least $550 million in 2004. She was part of the third generation of her family to work at the firm that was founded by her grandmother, Estee Lauder, in the 1940s. Her first cousin, William, was Estee Lauder's COO and was being groomed by her uncle Leonard Lauder to lead the company. Zinterhofer also staked out her own claim to the company's future, with her glamorous image proving vital in reaching out to the company's customer base. She often invoked and was deeply inspired by her entrepreneurial grandmother.
Beauty and glamour were integral to Zinterhofer's childhood. She recounted sitting with her grandmother in front of
her vanity, studiously observing her techniques for applying eye shadow and lipstick. At an early age she wore opal lip gloss to school and mapped out her plans to work for either the family business or a fashion magazine.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a communications degree, Zinterhofer joined Estee Lauder's Prescriptives marketing team. She began working for the flag-ship Lauder brand in 1995 and was promoted to executive director of creative marketing in 1997. She created seasonal palettes for lipsticks and makeup and devised the concept of seasonal fragrances. She also conceived the notion of seasonal nail varnish bottled in vials small enough to last a season before new colors were launched.
One of her most successful projects was the ad campaign shot by the photographer Steven Meisel featuring the model Elizabeth Hurley. Lauder had researched ads from the 1970s featuring the model Karen Graham and became convinced that the key to a new campaign would be a sense of lifestyle. Elizabeth Hurley was featured running along a beach wearing full bridal attire, pursued by a number of young men presumed to be friends of the groom.
The year 2001 was pivotal for Estee Lauder. The company weathered tough times after the terrorist attacks of September 11 due to a weak economy, a drop in travel, less traffic in department stores, and fierce competition. Additionally, the flag-ship brand was losing ground as consumers' top choice in cosmetics; the company's core customers were aging and so was the company's image.
The firm needed an executive who could be trusted and who truly understood the customer base; Zinterhofer fit the bill. She had worked in different facets of the business, but perhaps more significantly she was a young, glamorous woman. When Zinterhofer acquired the role of vice president of global advertising in 2001, she was positioned at the helm of all advertising for Estee Lauder.
Zinterhofer immediately pushed to reinvent the namesake brand, staying true to its trademark sophistication while introducing modern undertones that would appeal to a younger audience. She recruited the model Carolyn Murphy as a spokes-woman and signed the Ethiopian-born Liya Kebede to the company's first major contract with a black model. She took the bold step of replacing the photographer with whom she had worked so closely, Steven Meisel, bringing on the more modern style of Mario Testino. Estee Lauder had a strong 2003, with 8 percent sales growth, a 20 percent increase in earnings, and $5 billion in sales for the first time.
From the silver bowls of candy that filled her Park Avenue apartment to the colors of the pillows in her ad campaigns, Zinterhofer devoted considerable attention to her image, which she believed was inextricably linked to the success of the family business. She maintained an active social schedule, spotting trends and showing off her designer outfits at charity galas, fashion shows, and other events that brought together the most influential people in fashion and beauty. What to some might have appeared to be a superficial lifestyle was all business and brand recognition for Zinterhofer. Said Wendy Nicholson, the financial analyst for Smith Barney, in Time magazine, "Aerin's a terrific ambassador who focuses on brand image" (December 1, 2003).
Zinterhofer was born into a lifestyle of privilege and wealth that was made possible by her grandmother's fierce battles to build a business, which she did literally from scratch. Estee Lauder, born Josephine Esther Mentzer, was the daughter of immigrants and lived above her father's hardware store in Queens, New York. She began her career by selling skin creams concocted by her uncle, a chemist, in beauty shops, beach clubs, and resorts. She was said to have outworked everyone else in the cosmetics industry; by her own admission she stalked the bosses of New York City department stores until she was given counter space at Saks Fifth Avenue in 1948. Once in that space she utilized a personal selling approach that proved as potent as the promise of her skin regimens and perfumes.
While she did not face the same pressing survival issues that her grandmother faced, Zinterhofer had her own series of pressures and responsibilities. She was keenly aware of her own image and the potential for her to be negatively portrayed as no more than an heiress; the degree of affluence into which she was born brought with it the highest scrutiny. Frequently photographed and often written about, privacy for her family was almost impossible. While she clearly enjoyed the role she played, it came with a price. As she described in the London Times , "It's my name on those bottles. When people leave work at the end of the day, they close the office door and go home. When I go home, I look at a product or an advertisement, and I'm constantly reminded of the business. It's a totally different kind of pressure than most people experience" (May 20, 2000).
Though living in a world vastly different from the one her grandmother faced as a young woman, the two shared core values. Both embraced the notion that one can give one hundred percent at the office and still have energy left for family and home life. Zinterhofer drew attention to her boundless energy, pointing out that she found time to walk the dog and play with her baby after a long day of creating advertising campaigns and attending business functions. She aspired to live a life that would have made Estee Lauder proud, as she described in the Ottawa Citizen : "I think she's had a great influence on me because she's always worked hard at the same time as being very feminine. That's a great combination: an attractive business-woman who can do a lot of different things is very impressive. I never heard her take no for an answer. She always got her way and she really worked for it" (September 22, 2001).
See also entry on Estee Lauder Companies Inc. in International Directory of Company Histories .
Hodson, Heather, "The Aerin Effect: The Granddaughter of Estee Lauder Cuts an Elegant Swath through the Worlds of Fashion, Society, and Business," Ottawa Citizen , September 22, 2001.
Preston, Morag, "American Beauty," London Times , May 20, 2000.
Tsiantar, Dody, "The Burden of Being the Heiress of Style," Time , December 1, 2003, p. 68.