My guest today is Pauline Brown, longtime leader in luxury goods and former Chairman of LVMH North America. Pauline is renowned around the globe for acquiring, building, and leading some of the world’s most influential brands.
In her groundbreaking book, Aesthetic Intelligence, she shows businesspeople how to harness the power of their own senses to create products and services that delight their customers and build businesses that last. Her book is based on a course that she designed and taught at Harvard Business School.
I invited Pauline to be a guest on my show to talk about The Business of Aesthetics. I wanted o learn about “the other AI” - Aesthetic Intelligence and why it’s important. And finally, I was curious to get Pauline’s POV on why taste matters.
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Hi, I'm Joelly, your Branding Badass, and welcome to my new podcast, Branding Matters. My guest today is Pauline Brown, longtime leader in luxury goods and former chairman of LVMH North America. Pauline is renowned around the world for acquiring building and leading some of the world's most influential brands. In her groundbreaking book aesthetic intelligence, Pauline shows business people how to harness the power of their own senses to create products and services that delight their customers and build businesses that last. Her book is based on a course that she designed and taught at Harvard Business School. I invited Pauling to be guest on my show to talk about the business of aesthetics. I want you to learn about the other AI as she describes it, and why it's so important when it comes to branding. And finally, I was curious to get Pauline's point of view on why taste matters. Pauline. Welcome to branding matters.Pauline Brown:
Thank you for having me.Joelly Goodson :
Well, I appreciate you taking the time. I know you have a lot going on, though. I appreciate you taking the time to come on here today and talk about the other AI so let's get right into it. I love how you describe it is that what is the other AI?Pauline Brown:
Well, so AI normally when people hear the word AI, they think of artificial intelligence. I wrote a book that came out about a year ago called aesthetic intelligence. And I always say aesthetic intelligence is the one thing that humans will continue to do much better than robots any other skill that I think of whether it comes down to things like speed and processing power, and you know, data management and so forth, we humans are very quickly out run by technology comes to aesthetic intelligence, technology isn't even close. So what is aesthetic intelligence, this other AI as I call it, so first I'll describe for your I'll define for you what is aesthetics. aesthetics, people often think of is beauty. They think of it as designed, those elements are certainly part of a good aesthetic experience, but they don't define it. aesthetics comes from the Greek word aesthetic ghosts, which means perception of the senses. So an aesthetic experience is really about elevating the senses. The word aesthetic is actually related to another word, we commonly use an anesthesiologist. That person's job is to numb your senses. And as that elevates the senses, and when I talk about senses, I'm talking about all five senses. So that's why I don't reduce greatest things to just visual elegance. It's about how things feel. It's about how they spell. It's about how they, in the case of gustatory, delight, you know, how they taste. And aesthetic intelligence is really the capability that people have to describe what feels and looks good to them. You know, word aesthetic intelligence is taste good taste. Right? Right. It's discrimination. It's the ability to not only know what you like, whether it's in the form of how a textile feels, or how fragrance smells, what you like, but why you like it, and how you might recreate it or refine it, and making the kind of connections between the sensorial experience and the emotional response. Someone with good taste doesn't have to be an artist or creative, but they have to be highly discriminating people who are statically intelligent or highly discriminating as well, to revert back a little bit.Joelly Goodson :
You talked about just visual aesthetics. I think that's the common misconception is a lot of people do think when when I first heard about your book, and aesthetic intelligence, I really just thought beauty, I thought it was a beauty book. And it was really great to read it and learn and how you talk about all five senses. So what makes someone aesthetically intelligent?Pauline Brown:
Aesthetics doesn't even have to be beautiful. aesthetics has to be pleasing. So there's a great term I wrote about it in the book called God laid the French people use it often to describe a beautiful woman's face. Jolie in French, or in English is the French word for pretty you're Canadian, you know this and well,Joelly Goodson :
My name is Joey. So I'm listening go on. Oh, I love the way you pronounce that.Pauline Brown:
Doesn't have laid in it, but late is the French word for ugly, and that when the two words are put together, shall they lay pretty ugly. It actually means beautiful, because there's something in her face that's a little off. It might be a mole or a gap in the teeth or something that makes her that much more beautiful because it makes her interesting. And so I often say greatest statics is about memorability. It's about distinction. It isn't just about something that is purely harmonious and sort of pleasing in a bland way. And and you can think of other things like um, people who like really spicy food, I mean, that is not pleasant. That's a form of shall be laid. It kind of hurts your tongue right? Or if you love to ride on a roller coaster, it's scary as hell you think you're going to die when you're going down that first drop. And yet there's something so exciting about it. These are ecstatic experiences. And that's why I do stay away from the word beauty, which is not only subjective, but also a bit tepid, related to the kinds of things I like to talk about.Joelly Goodson :
You know, you talked about beauty being subjective. So are you saying that joy and lead or aesthetic intelligence, that's not subjective?Pauline Brown:
Oh, it is very subjective. Yeah, I can tell you this. People often ask me, you know, well, is there such a thing is good taste? Hmm. And I say no, absolutely not. But there is such a thing as bad taste. So the way I would describe it in very simplistic terms. So let's take music as an example. There are people who love opera. There are people who love punk rock, there are people who love classical music and people who love folk music. I happen to love folk music, I would never go so far as to say just because I love folk music that someone who loves punk music has no taste. They have a taste. It's different than mine. But there are certain sounds that the human condition will find very unpleasant, like a jackhammer, like you go by a construction site. Nobody ever said when they heard that jackhammer. Oh, that is music to my ears. And you could say the same thing about tastes and smells, and so forth. There's certain sensations that are just universally very offensiveJoelly Goodson :
And nails on a chalkboard. Right?Pauline Brown:
Not a good thing. No wonder. Yeah, but the important point is not to create this hierarchy of what is good taste in the form of music or sound or anything, the important point is to understand what feels good to you. And then within that genre, how to continue to refine it. So if I going back to the music example, love folk music, but there's good folk music, and there's bad folk folk music, there's good voices, and there's voices that should not be in front of a microphone and your ability to decipher and to understand the difference and to understand if you're even a musician, how can I elevate my game? That's where I go with this. And then the other point I want to make people often ask, well, aren't you just either born with this skill or not? You know, does Can anyone learn aesthetic intelligence, and I always say, some people are lucky to be born more gifted than others. great chef, like Alain Ducasse was born with I'm sure a stronger palate, then most of the population, and it led the way for him to create masterful culinary experiences. However, kind of like a muscle. Everyone is born with more capacity than they use, and and then they know and I would say, when it comes to developing your aesthetic intelligence, it's a little bit like getting in shape. There are people who are Olympic athletes, the vast majority people never will be, but 100% of the population, if given the right diet, the right routine, the right discipline, the right time, and patience, the 100% of population would be healthier in a month than they were a month ago. And so when it comes to developing one's own aesthetic intelligence, it's a matter of having the right practices, the right attention, the right patients, the right consistency. And yes, you too, can really, really elevate your abilities. So you can it can be cultivated, then, if you're not born with it can be cultivated for sure. Question? No question. I mean, nobody's born as a sommelier. Right? That is,right.Joelly Goodson :
right. and you always have been and, and you're a single mom as well. Yep. So um, well, me too. So I look, I look up to you. And I admire you. And I have so much respect, especially for single moms, because it's tough out there. And it is. And so you know, give yourself a pat on the back, I'll give you a virtual Pat and hi fi and a high five. So knowing what you know, now, if you could go back in time to 18 year old Pauline, what would be one piece of advice that you would give yourself?Pauline Brown:
Actually graduated into this world where everyone around me we had professional identity, and we have personal identity, and they really were incredibly divorced the two sides of who we are, as an analogy, like when I think about my gold closet, when I was in my 20s and 30s, I had my work clothes, my workwear, you know, which were suits and things that were deemed professional. And I had maybe my weekend wear or my date, wear whatever it was, and I don't live that way anymore, I think it is very hard to have that kind of separation. And so the more overtime In my case, and I wish it had happened earlier, that I could bring together who I was uniquely, when I wasn't working into my work. And to sort of integrate the various cells, I think, not only would it have taken away some of the strain of being, sort of, eventually a working mom and, and all the other challenges, but I also think it would have just brought more joy and more fun into both spheres. And then the second thing I would say is a lot of young people, and I would say this was true of me, I think it's even more true of young people today, they're in such a rush to arrive wherever whatever that means to arrive. Like like life happened in between making those plans. And I think I would have early on recognized that there was sort of arguably more value in things that I was doing, not because I thought they had value, but because I thought they were just purely interesting or enriching, or fun and allow for things to happen organically, because that's generally what the way the best things happen. Anyway, eventually I feel looking back that I kind of arrived at those insights, I wish I would have arrived there sooner, I think it would have taken away some of the strain earlier in my my adult life.Joelly Goodson :
That's great advice. I think we can all look back and save sort of similar things in that respect. Well, thank you again, for taking the time to be here today. It's been such a pleasure. And I look forward to seeing you again soon. Hopefully, when everything gets back to normal.Pauline Brown:
Thank you for reaching out and for, you know, sharing your enthusiasm and the concepts. You're very, very good interviewerJoelly Goodson :
Oh, thank you. I appreciate you saying that. While you're easy to interview, I love what you have to say. And I didn't mean what I said by the way, I do think that you know, single mom, I know how challenging it is. And you've done incredible things with your professional life. So I that just as an extra kudos to you too. So well working on it doing the best we can, right. All right, I'll let you go. I'll talk to you soon. Bye. Okay, bye. And there you have it. I really hope you enjoy the conversation and maybe learned a few things to help you with your branding. But most of all, I really hope you had some fun. This show is a work in progress. So please make sure to rate and review on whatever platform you listen to. And if you want to learn more about the branding badass, that's me. You can find me on social media under you know it, branding badass. Thanks again. And until next time, here's to all you badasses out there.