André Branch, MBA ’99: Luxury Cosmetics Executive Loves a Challenge
The same day André Branch, MBA ’99, joined The Estée Lauder Companies in March 2020 — tasked with the tall order of transforming and turning around the then-declining business — COVID-19 pushed the United States into lockdown.
Undaunted, the father of two drew on his passion for conquering challenges and got to work, leading a number of strategic projects to help Estée Lauder navigate the pandemic. From the kitchen table of his home in New York City, he called key stakeholders and began building relationships, connected virtually with his team, and prioritized next steps for the transformation.
Eight months later, Branch was named senior vice president and general manager of Estée Lauder’s luxury cosmetics brand M.A.C North America.
“We're still No. 1 and we've put some distance between ourselves and the competitors,” Branch said. “M.A.C has launched a ton of great innovations to the marketplace. We've also retooled the way we go to market and how we interact with consumers, which is something we needed to do. In 2022, Beauty Inc. awarded M.A.C Cosmetics the Prestige Beauty Brand of the Year. The future is very, very bright for the brand.”
Pursuing a lifelong passion for business
Branch’s success is deeply rooted in his family’s entrepreneurial spirit. He grew up in Baltimore, and his grandfather, who owned a candy business, inspired Branch to start his own money-making ventures. As an undergraduate student, Branch excelled. He had an aptitude for math and studied economics, with a minor in accounting and finance, at the University of Maryland.
After graduating, Branch took a position at Deloitte & Touche but knew he wanted to continue his education and pursue an MBA. He reviewed MBA program rankings and the resulting data inspired him to explore the Ross School of Business. Visiting campus and talking to students and staff sealed the deal.
After graduating from Ross, Branch worked in a variety of leadership, marketing, and brand management positions at Kraft Foods, multinational alcoholic beverage company Diageo, dietary supplements manufacturer The Nature’s Bounty Co., and cosmetics powerhouse L'Oréal before he was recruited to join Estée Lauder.
“Estée Lauder Companies reached out to me as they were undergoing a transformation and wanted new leaders who could provide fresh perspective,” Branch says. “I had spent the last 10 years of my career in transformation roles and quite liked the challenge of such business opportunities, so I found it to be an appealing offer.”
Ross had a ‘profound impact’
Throughout his career, Branch has advocated for racial equity by sharing his success story with schools and organizations, serving on the board of New York-based Partnership with Children, building diverse teams, and contributing as part of the Inclusion, Diversity & Equity committee at Estée Lauder.
Branch said the diversity of backgrounds and intellectual excellence he experienced during his time at Ross had a profound impact on his career trajectory.
“I just loved the fact that there were so many different players from different industries,” he said. “We always had great conversations. You were always in a different group. You're always mixing it up. All those experiences benefited me in my career and continue to benefit me today.”
Branch said Ross also taught him how to be strategic about prioritizing what gets done, trusting his team, and making time for his mental and physical health.
“We all want to be successful,” Branch said. “But it's also really important to have success in your personal life with your family, your friends. I think it's important to be there. You have to pour into those people, those relationships, because business is fickle. On your darkest days, those relationships are going to be the things that sustain you.”
Optimism for the future
Branch said he is optimistic about the future, both personally and professionally. He predicts a successful year for M.A.C, although he had to keep the specifics under wraps, and will continue to return to Ross as a guest business speaker. Outside of work, he is focused on raising his children to be great citizens of the world and becoming a skilled outdoor survivalist.
“I just love learning new things and always pushing myself in new ways,” Branch said. “If you build resilience in your personal life, it carries through everything, particularly into business. How you do anything is how you do everything.”
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