It might seem like a tall task for a company the size of GlamGlow, which generates an estimated $90 million to $110 million in annual sales, to match the girth of La Mer, a pillar of department stores nearing $1 billion in annual revenues. Yet Fabrizio Freda, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., invoked La Mer when discussing mergers and acquisitions during the company’s latest financial conference call, declaring that its current buys are being made in the spirit of Lauder’s purchase of the luxury skin care stalwart in 1995, when it was tiny fraction of its current self with $1 million in the annual till.

“Our acquisition strategy includes the idea of taking some brands that we believe are outstanding, and which are managed by outstanding entrepreneurs, and get them working with us on growing these brands over the long term in their space,” said Fabrizio shortly after Lauder announced picking up Rodin Olio Lusso and Le Labo, and shortly prior to revealing deals for Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle and GlamGlow. “Now we have capabilities. We cover 140 countries. We have great R&D capability. We cover travel retail. We cover online. So, we can give to the small brand access to opportunities they didn’t have before. And these will drive, we believe, outstanding growth over the years.” Driving that growth, of course, is not going to be easy. But GlamGlow has a few advantages that will assist Lauder. To begin, the brand has built its foundation on the facial mask, a trending product category especially popular in Asia. The significance of masks to beauty conglomerates was made obvious earlier this year when L’Oréal acquired Chinese facial mask specialist Magic Holdings.

“Acquiring GlamGlow helps Estée Lauder gain a more competitive footing in the facial mask sub-sector, not only here in the U.S., but also in Asia, an important growth market,” said Andrew Charbin, a Vice President at The Sage Group, an investment bank in Los Angeles that acted as GlamGlow’s financial advisor. Lauder has been trying to gain a footing in facial masks, notably with La Mer’s Intensive Revitalizing Mask. The company has noted that in the United Kingdom, nearly one-quarter of the units sold of that product were to first-time consumers, providing a glimpse at the potential GlamGlow’s buzzworthy masks could have to lure new customers to Lauder. Masks alone will not a success make. At the moment, GlamGlow has five mask-oriented stockkeeping units widely on the market. “Neither Glamglow or Rodin Olio Lusso is close to being considered a full skincare range, but Creme de la Mer was one product when it became part of the Estée Lauder portfolio. While the trajectory of these businesses will probably be very different the first stage of growth will most likely entail aggressive product development pipelines,” said Kelly Kovack, a partner in beauty brand consultancy Brand Growth Management.

GlamGlow is already pushing beyond its core treatment facial masks by releasing mud-to-foam daily cleansers, including Sephora exclusive SuperCleanse in 2015. The cleansers are merely the start of GlamGlow broadening its product portfolio. At CEW’s Beauty Insider Series on the West Coast in November, Shannon Dellimore, who co-founded GlamGlow with her husband Glenn in 2010, emphasized, “We have products in development through 2019. GlamGlow really lends itself to so many different categories.” The Dellimores and Estée Lauder declined to comment for this article. The Sage Group’s Andrew elaborated, “The mud mask has been the form for which GlamGlow is known, however, that’s not necessarily the be all, end all…I don’t think it would be fair to say that every product will be mud-based. It is going to become an all-encompassing skin care brand.” Products are only a single chapter in the book on GlamGlow’s expansion under Lauder. Distribution will play a crucial role in the growth story. Unusual for an upstart American brand, GlamGlow’s international revenues constitute 40% to 45% of its business. To help it reach across the globe, Glenn Dellimore told the CEW audience last month the brand leveraged 34 distributors worldwide. Lauder’s global infrastructure will undoubtedly replace the distributor network and elevate the brand’s profits. “There will be an opportunity for more of the distribution to be managed in a direct manner with retailers, and Estée Lauder has the ability to transition distribution to a more directly managed model,” said Sage Group’s Andrew.

GlamGlow has a presence in department stores with availability at Neiman Marcus, Harvey Nichols, Dillard’s, Lord & Taylor, Selfridges, Harrods, Bloomingdale’s and, beginning in January, Nordstrom. Still, the brand can piggyback on Lauder’s powerhouse position in department stores to thrust increased sales in those retailers. In addition, Andrew identified e-commerce and travel retail as major distribution opportunities. Travel retail, where conversion rates have hit 12% to 15%, is one of Lauder’s highest-growth channels. “We certainly are bullish on the travel retail business going forward,” said Tracey Travis, Estée Lauder’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in its first quarter 2015 conference call.

At home and abroad, GlamGlow’s appeal to young beauty consumers has been crucial to its success – and will be crucial to Lauder’s vision for the brand going forward. Its brand philosophy – being sexy, innovative and fun – is a respite from the seriousness of most of the skin care brands, and its Hollywood origins (it was a movie studio secret before it was publicly released) have resonated with consumers enmeshed in pop culture. Stephanie Wissink, a senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, described GlamGlow as “really strong in branding” and indicated that branding is vital to snagging Millennial customers whose shopping decisions are heavily influenced by messages that break through the digital clutter.

“Millennials are very different when it comes to discovery, trial and loyalty around beauty. They don’t walk into a department store and expect a salesperson to tell them what they need. They have done so much information sourcing in advance of the purchase. The ability to consume a lot of information and digest it is so different than what we have seen historically,” said Stephanie. She continued that Lauder is interested in acquiring upstart brands such as GlamGlow because, “we see a consumer culture now that is really driven by change and that notion of discovery. The consumer is going to be out looking at new brands all the time, and they are willing to trade in and out of brands.” Estée Lauder won’t be able to capitalize on GlamGlow’s promise of youth if it doesn’t integrate the brand properly. To ensure consistency at GlamGlow as it enters its new phase at Lauder, the Dellimores are staying on board, and the brand’s headquarters will remain in Los Angeles. Stephanie said that’s a change from the past when companies corporatized their acquisitions and essentially took “away the reason you bought the brand in the first place.” Hana Ben-Shabat, a partner in the consumer goods practice at A.T. Kearney, said the key to successful integration of acquisitions is “really giving these companies the right share of mind in a larger organization, and I think the way most of these [larger beauty] companies will do that is they tend to keep these [acquired] companies really focused. It is not that they are going to disappear because they are part of a bigger brand. There is going to be a dedicated management team, and they have to put the right marketing budgets behind these brands to make them flourish.”

A minor moon in the grand solar system of Lauder brands, GlamGlow won’t be making a material contribution to the company’s balance sheet in the short term. In the strategic goals it has outlined, Estée Lauder has expressed that it anticipates acquisitions accounting for 1% of sales growth over the next three years. Beyond its own sales and profits, Stephanie pointed out that GlamGlow could affect the business at Lauder by spreading its innovation and knowledge throughout the company. “They will start to talk about tests that they have run in their main brands that was the result of learning from their acquired brands and that is where you see the financial impact in the nearer term because GlamGlow itself is not going to move the needle just yet,” she said.

In the long term, Stephanie asserted Lauder will be a successful acquirer if one or two of the brands it has recently bought become multi-hundred million-dollar businesses. Kelly Kovack bets that Rodin will rise to the top. She said, “With founder Linda Rodin, they [Estée Lauder] have the foundation to build a luxury lifestyle brand that taps into an underserved demographic with expendable income.” GlamGlow could be in the mix, though it has a lot of work to do to become a La Mer. Stephanie cautioned, “That will take time.”