Portraits in Leadership
As vice president of packaging innovations, George Kress has a huge responsibility at The Estée Lauder Companies. “Being in charge of Innovation is probably one of the best jobs in the industry. I have the opportunity to work with a wide variety of brands, each with its own unique DNA and specific needs,” he explains.
Every day, Kress works with his team to lead The Estée Lauder Companies into new territory by being a driver for new packaging concepts. According to Kress, every good leader should have a point of view. Leadership also requires passion. “People who work with me will become inspired about a concept when I am excited by it,” he says. “Additionally, allowing people to experiment is the genius of innovation.”
Kress has been driving concepts for the packaging innovations group since 2001. He started his career at Estée Lauder in 1994 as director of package development for Clinique, in charge of global promotions until 1998. He then moved to Bobbi Brown, serving as executive director of brand package development until 2001.
Previously, Kress had worked in the cosmetics and fragrance field for nine years. He spent four years with Jacqueline Cochran, a division of Shulton, and five years with Lancôme and Ralph Lauren Fragrances. However, Kress wasn’t always in the beauty business. He started his career as a graphic designer working on annual reports and institutional graphics. Branching from graphics he worked in the industrial design field with assignments in consumer electronics, medical devices, housewares, and toys.
On a daily basis, Kress is faced with the challenge of finding and presenting new ideas to the marketing and creative teams from every one of The Estée Lauder Companies’ brands. “Sometimes, a package will immediately strike me as being appropriate for a specific brand. Other times, you really don’t know until you present it,” he says.
Kress often meets with suppliers to find new packaging concepts but also looks outside the industry for inspiration. He keeps track of trends in automotive, electronics, architecture, and home decor. He might purchase a vase, tableware, or stationery items that can inspire package innovation. All of these ideas, along with emerging packaging trends, are displayed in the Innovations Showroom, the corporate resource for Estée Lauder’s design, marketing, and creative teams.
Kress also runs a “new technology” meeting every month. “It is meant to be an exchange of ideas. R&D presents new products that need packaging solutions, and I bring new packaging concepts,” he says.
Looking back at the past 10 years, Kress feels that all luxury products, as a whole, have changed. “The levels of precision and quality in manufacturing have increased tremendously. This is due to major advances that have been made in equipment and technology,” Kress explains. For this reason, consumers have come to expect more. “In order to compete, we must continue to offer even higher standards in packaging and design,” says Kress. “The greatest challenge this presents is how to increase the prestige aspect of packaging, while keeping the cost of goods and value in mind.”
During the past five years, Kress has seen significant advances in the area of decorating technologies, including metal finishes, laser decorations on glass, and sublimation techniques used on glass. “We will soon see the development of new technology playing a much larger role in packaging,” he says.