Online Exclusives

Lessons from L'Oreal

By Nancy Jeffries, Contributing Editor | December 1, 2011

CEW panel shares brand-building insights.

How does social media drive a brand? How is a global brand identity established? Insights into these and other subjects were shared by a panel of L’Oréal leaders as part of the Women in Beauty Series, presented by Cosmetic Executive Women on November 30, 2011, at New York’s Harmonie Club.

“As one of the leading brands in the cosmetic industry, L’Oréal never stops amazing consumers with their new products and innovations," said Carlotta Jacobson, president of CEW. "We are privileged to have the opportunity to hear from these iconic leaders about their experiences, inspirations, and journeys to success.”

Moderator, Jenny B. Fine, Beauty Inc, led the discussion, which ranged from the growth of prestige and mass in today’s environment, to localizing global brands.

Brand Insights and Strategies

Galfo, who implements global marketing initiatives and leads US specific product development, such as the launch of Color Design Palettes by Lancôme, noted the strong growth she has observed in prestige makeup, skincare and fragrance. “Innovation has kept us strong in prestige,” she said, citing growth in skincare, with Visionnaire’s Advanced Skin Corrector. “Newness in eye makeup and our fragrance business continue to give us strong positioning in prestige,” she said.
Nathalie Kristo, senior VP, L’Oréal Paris (left), with Silvia Galfo, VP, makeup and fragrances, marketing US, Lancome shared insights at CEW’s Women in Beauty series presentation.
Nathalie Kristo, who brings strategic vision to the world’s No. 1 beauty brand, oversees all marketing efforts for the L’Oréal brand across four categories, cosmetics, skincare, hair color and hair care, and with her team manages a portfolio of brands including Preference, Feria, True Match, Revitalift, and Color Riche. “Similarly, in the mass market we’ve seen growth in color trends manifested in lip and face makeup, and we’ve brought Ever-Sleek sulfate-free technology to hair care. We’ve also noted success in the cosmetic and mascara business, in particular with the volumizing fibers mascara,” said Kristo.

In tackling the question of how to make a brand successful, Kristo said, “We are evolving with the changing consumer. As the digital realm explodes, we’ve offered more than the 30-second spot. We’ve had strong 30-second spots as well as launches on Facebook, which has changed the way we market. It’s keeping us on our toes, but if we do it right, it pays off.”

Galfo added, “Today’s customer can get all the information she wants, so for us it’s important to know what will make her come back. We’re selling the benefits of the product, as well as letting the customer know we have a relationship with her.” Fine noted that 70% of women buy their beauty products at Walmart, to which Kristo responded, “Our business with Walmart continues to be strong, but we definitely tailor our business with the Walmart customer. For example, we reach out to the Hispanic market to extend the consumer experience. We have marketed around the novela experience, which is popular in the Hispanic channel, and we try to customize our efforts for our customers.” She noted that their customers are getting their products at different channels, saying, “We want to ensure that we adapt our L’Oréal product mix according to the market.”

Frugal Fatigue

When moderator Fine introduced the concept of frugal fatigue, when customers tire of constant frugal purchasing and decide to splurge a bit, Galfo responded, “Women are smart shoppers and they will search for great products. They are multi-channel shoppers. There’s no limit on where and how they will shop. At the end of the day, she shops where she gets the best experience and best value.”

Implying that value is not necessarily a price proposition, Galfo suggested that products with benefit and performance get results.

“The Visionnaire success, as the number two serum for women on the market, has been a big success for Lancôme, is a technological breakthrough and a multi-tasking product. The claim it has, that one out of two women will postpone surgical procedures after using the Visionnaire serum, is a strong claim. To really see strong, clear benefits for any skin tone, with high technology and high performance in a comfortable texture, is something that works for the consumer,” said Galfo. The product, which was sampled among Lancôme’s most loyal customers prior to release, got great feedback, with efficacy one of the major drivers of the product’s success.

Regarding the use of social media to strengthen a brand, Kristo said, “Our customers can go online and engage in a social conversation with each other to discuss L’Oréal’s products. They can advocate for the products they like and share their views on a platform where they can discuss trends and product knowledge. This is an important place to develop advocates for your brand.” Galfo concurred, saying that Lancôme had been doing social media conversations since 2007 and is on Facebook and Twitter everyday, with something different happening daily. “It’s really creating a different level of conversation. The first goal is not to sell products, but to participate in the life of the brands,” she said.

Kristo said, “We have 30 million video views, 300 million impressions, and our digital activities are tied to our consumer touch points. We have the greatest success when we tie offers to our products, and use QR codes to provide more information on our products, as well as to measure consumer response.”

Galfo concurred, saying, “We try to measure the customer’s interaction with the brand. When we launched our eye palettes, for example, customers came to the Polyvore site, a beauty and fashion community, where users can engage with challenges, win prizes, and interact. You have to be simple, immediate, and fast to capture their online attention.”

Localizing and Globalizing Brands

Kristo affirmed L’Oréal Paris’s position as the #1 beauty brand in the world, noting, “This absolutely affirms the sophistication of the brand among consumers. It is the flagship brand of L’Oréal, and in keeping with its slogan, it celebrates the value of the consumer,” she said, recalling the 70’s, when “Because I’m worth it,” became a well-known catch phrase.

“This started in the US and has been translated around the world,” said Kristo. It resonates in India, Kenya, and China. That’s really the global value of the brand. Locally, we have an absolute commitment to creating products that meet the specificity of the local markets. We have innovation centers around the world and celebrate the global heritage of the brand; and at the same time celebrate the beauty that is close to the American market’s heart.”

Galfo emphasized the elegance of the French brand.

“French elegance as well as the right texture and the right product are all important. You don’t want to lose the dream. It is French elegance combined with the products, shades, and textures that women want around the world. For women of color, including the Hispanic andAfrican-American markets, shades and products have been researched, as well as how to talk to diverse markets with appropriate conversations. This is also the same thing for addressing the aging population. It is important, and interesting, to make the right assessments,” said Galfo. “With Visionnaire, it’s definitely a cross-cultural product. Any woman of color concerned about wrinkles or texture, will get the benefit of the product,” she said.
The presentation concluded with words of advice from the panelists, who both emphasized embracing challenges and new experiences. “Live in un-comfort zones. It’s here where you’ll learn the most. I left Canada and went to Paris. It was a different country and culture and I didn’t realize how enlightening it would be. Tapping into and gaining an appreciation of diversity is enriching. I say to look at the experience and embrace the un-comfort zones. That’s where you’ll develop professionally and personally,” said Kristo.

Galfo agreed, “Be brave. Don’t be scared. Follow your conviction and be open-minded. It’s interesting to see things going on around you.”

Jill Scalamandre, chairwoman, CEW, and CMO, Strivectin, thanked the presentation’s sponsors, including Givaudan, mark., Shape, Haute Look, BeautyInc, Script to Screen, Catalina, Kaplow, Consultancy Media, and, and introduced the panelists, Silvia Galfo, Vice President, Makeup and Fragrances, Marketing US Lancôme, and Nathalie Kristo, Senior Vice President L’Oréal Paris.

Additional information about CEW and its programs and initiatives may be found at:
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