Connect with us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Join our LinkedIn Group Subscribe to us on YouTube Share with us on Google+ Subscribe to our RSS feed

November 02, 2010

Industry with Heart

JAFRA: The Heart of Beauty

by Lauri Dodd

Ladies in Red: JAFRA’s Hispanic District Directors.

A mutually beneficial relationship with the American Heart Association has cosmetics company JAFRA changing the face of caring.

It was just supposed to be a routine exam. Although she hadn’t been to the doctor in ages, she was young, so why worry? But now here she was, perched on the edge of a paper-covered exam table, wondering what all the fuss was about. Why did her doctor seem so concerned as she ran down the list of her current symptoms? After all, fatigue and disruptive sleep were to be expected of a busy mom of three.

Had she heard him correctly? Had he really mentioned something about women’s symptoms being different from men’s… for a heart attack?! That was just silly—everyone knows heart disease only affects older men who are unhealthy, right? And yet, here she was, with an almost imperceptible bead of sweat trickling its way down her forehead—every passing minute feeling like an eternity.

Then, finally, as the doctor entered the room with the good news—no heart disease… yet—she let out a sigh of relief. She had gotten a reprieve, a second chance to get healthier and stay that way. From now on, things were going to be different.
Versions of this scenario are played out every year in doctors’ offices across the nation, not always with such positive results. In fact, more than 400,000 women lose their lives to heart disease annually, making it the No. 1 killer of women, as well as of men. To help turn the tide, one of the foremost beauty companies in the direct selling space, JAFRA, has teamed up with the American Heart Association (AHA). The message is simple: Arm women with the knowledge to make a difference—for their own health and the health of others. It has been a long road, but the results have been astounding for everyone involved.

JAFRA Smoothie Sale: JAFRA employees who voluntarily make up the “Go Red” Team.

JAFRA Smoothie Sale: JAFRA employees who voluntarily make up the “Go Red” Team.

A Common Cause

At first glance, it would appear that JAFRA, a 54-year-old, highly successful cosmetics company, would have very little in common with the American Heart Association. But the two powerhouses, indeed, have one major unifying goal: They are both working to empower women.

“When we were looking for a cause to align ourselves with five years ago, the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign was a perfect fit,” says JAFRA USA President Connie Tang. “AHA’s mission mirrors what we strive to offer women—the confidence to take control.”

It makes perfect sense when you think about it, because the direct selling industry is about opportunity and taking control of your own life—so you can reshape your destiny. “At JAFRA, we empower women to transform their lives financially, professionally and personally,” Tang says. “And AHA is empowering them with vital knowledge that can literally save their lives.”

Another factor to consider was the sheer number of people affected by this deadly condition. While heart disease doesn’t discriminate—it attacks people of all ages and races, without regard to gender or socioeconomic status—there are some people who do face a greater risk. Among those more likely to fall prey to heart disease are the African-American and Latino communities. And since each of these groups make up a large part of JAFRA’s widely diverse consultant base, the Go Red For Women mission resonated even more profoundly for  JAFRA.

Without a doubt, an overriding factor in the decision to partner with Go Red for Women was one of control. Tang and her team liked the fact that women didn’t have to be victims of heart disease—and JAFRA could play a role in helping them realize that. “It was the right time, the right place, and the right relationship for us,” Tang says. “Any other cause is just as worthy, but we felt passionately that you can have an immediate impact with heart disease.”

Additionally, it just so happened that JAFRA and Go Red for Women share another, more serendipitous, commonality in the iconic red dress. “For years, the red dress has been a symbol of excellence for us,” Tang says. “Our ladies in red onstage at our conventions are our top leaders, so it was an interesting synchronicity that the Go Red for Women campaign matched our vision of leadership excellence with a red dress of their own.”

Healthier—Inside and Out

The fact many don’t realize is that if you act on the knowledge you’ve gained about staving off heart disease, you can not only prevent health problems, but you can actually see immediate improvements in your current health. “Eighty percent of the cases of heart disease could be prevented,” says AHA Chairman of the Board Debra Lockwood. “That is a staggering number that propels us to keep working harder at educating the public.”

That is truly a major incentive for change, and JAFRA’s field of 60,000 independent beauty consultants in the United States has stepped up to the challenge of spreading the urgent message. It is a grassroots effort that starts at the most basic level. First off, the consultants gain valuable heart-healthy information via a Go Red training kit. Included is good working knowledge to help themselves, and then, in turn, train their teams and clients. “It’s encouraging to see it in action, because JAFRA is helping women take care of themselves, not just on the outside with their products, but inside as well,” Lockwood says.

Overall, it is a well-orchestrated plan with a very specific goal: Focus on the decision makers. “Women are generally very influential in their homes when it comes to their families’ health,” Lockwood says. “They typically are the primary healthcare decision makers, whether it’s going to the doctor or choosing nutritional foods for their families to eat. If we can impact those decisions at the source which will have a huge ripple effect for not just women, but for families everywhere.”

The Girls’ Club

The nationwide push to educate women about heart disease began in 2004, when the American Heart Association launched the Go Red for Women initiative. Not only weren’t women taking heart disease seriously as a major health threat, but the information circulating was largely flawed. Two myths permeated: Heart disease only affects older men (not true); and the symptoms for heart attack are all the same (also, not true).

American Heart Association Heartwalk 2009: JAFRA employees and family/friends.

American Heart Association Heartwalk 2009: JAFRA employees and family/friends.

Quite frankly, women’s symptoms for heart disease can be different from men’s. And it has been an uphill battle to get the accurate message out to the public. “Partnerships like the one we have with JAFRA are critical to our success,” Lockwood says. “And JAFRA’s contribution is somewhat unique because of the nature of their business model. Not only are the women within their organization learning and becoming healthier, but those women are out in the community every day spreading the word and helping to duplicate our efforts on a grand scale.”

Intensifying the urgency to get the message in the hands of women is one of AHA’s goals. It is the tendency for women to put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own. It is no secret that women, most often, take care of themselves last, which makes it even more imperative to get the correct information out there.

At its very core, the program boils down to something JAFRA knows quite a lot about and has been doing well for nearly six decades—women helping other women to achieve success. “JAFRA recognized that their market is women, and they’re tapping into that to make a difference,” Lockwood says. “Essentially, JAFRA is helping to ensure their sales force and their customers live long, healthy lives. It really is a win-win situation for all involved.”

Changing the Face of JAFRA

When JAFRA joined forces with the AHA in 2005, they had no way of knowing just how much of a learning experience the partnership would become. While it has been incredibly positive, the reality is that the journey has not been without its challenges. In the early stages, the company’s communication to the field about the Go Red program was admittedly somewhat of an afterthought. But now they have a more unified and structured strategy. “We realized we couldn’t just tell people we support a cause and expect them to buy into it,” Tang says. “We have to show them why it’s important to them—why they should care.”

Because people have fewer discretionary dollars these days, they are understandably pretty picky about ponying up their hard-earned money. “Now, more than ever, the competition is stiff for people’s donations,” Tang says. “We have to keep this cause at the forefront of our consultants’ minds with consistent messaging. And so we tie many of our events back to Go Red in some way. We’ve gotten much better at it over the years, but it’s still a work in progress.”

At the same time, they have learned how to strike a balance—to avoid becoming intrusive in their consultants’ already busy lives. “We want them to know we really want to make a difference, but we certainly don’t want to be too solicitous,” Tang says. “If we are constantly going to the sales force asking for donations, they will get tired of it pretty quickly. So we’ll have a big event, then we’ll ease up, and after a while we’ll ask ourselves if it’s time to pass the basket again.”

JAFRA’s commitment goes beyond just talk. On target to meet their goal of donating $100,000 to AHA this year alone, those funds come primarily from sales of products specially designated to promote the cause. “Being able to show someone a Go Red lip gloss helps to open up that otherwise difficult dialogue about heart disease,” Tang says. “So it helps to raise money and awareness as well.”

The benefits to JAFRA have been stacking up—so much so that the movement has taken on a life of its own. “This cause has become a part of who we are,” Tang says. “Our consultants have fun being creative. They have auctions and raffles—and most of the time, the events end up becoming bonding, team-building exercises. It even offers us another reason to recognize people for their efforts, so it actually serves many purposes for us.”

An added bonus, the Go Red for Women alliance serves to raise the company up a couple of notches on the “feel-good” meter in their clients’ eyes. “The affiliation with Go Red for Women adds credibility to our organization,” Tang says. “Our consultants have become role models in the community.”

As the recent trend toward cause marketing proves, people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves—and JAFRA’s participation in the Go Red campaign allows them to do that. “Consumers may not be able to donate much, if anything, but if we can help them feel like they’re contributing when they buy something they already need, then that’s an added value for them,” Tang says. “We’re bringing the opportunity to do something good to an accessible level. Our customers can  give to the cause without an additional investment on their part. We’re making it easy for them—and that has a very tangible value.”