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A Celebration and a Lesson

Jeff Falk
  • Consumer testing has always been a priority.
  • Consumers recognize quality, and always choose products that provide something extra in terms of performance, results and satisfaction.
  • The interaction between the brands’ marketing departments and the labs is significant.

GCI: In what ways was marketing in 1909 similar to marketing in 2009? What do these similarities tell us about deep-seated consumer habits?

L’Oréal: It’s been said that beauty is universal and that the quest for innovation and quality is limitless. Throughout the past 100 years, L’Oréal has worked diligently to meet the aspirations and needs of different cultures around the world, which has helped broaden the concept of beauty and made the company what it is today. We’ve developed a creative approach where we observe and understand the markets, and seize opportunities by listening to consumers and trusting our intuition. In addition, research and development has always been the foundation of L’Oréal, and, together with the marketing teams, has produced amazing innovations in beauty. Unquestionably, the best successes in marketing come from our diverse teams who are passionate about beauty.

Whether marketing in 1909 or today, one goal remains constant: to supply consumers with the products necessary to fulfill their needs. In order to fully understand consumer habits, L’Oréal works with consumer focus groups on an ongoing basis. We are the experts in consumer testing, which has always been a priority for us throughout our history.

GCI: How does the company balance its portfolio of iconic products with the search and execution of the next “big” product launch? How do you support the products that helped make the company what it is while fostering new launches?

L’Oréal: L’Oréal is always looking to the future in terms of product development in order to enhance its current portfolio of 23 international brands. The L’Oréal model is based on being able to sustain brands that cover every sector of cosmetics in every distribution channel. At the same time, our company has always demonstrated a rigorous scientific approach to product development. L’Oréal’s teams are constantly developing new formulas by using state-of-the-art technology. With R&D a priority for the company and evaluation centers in key geographic zones—including the U.S., Japan, China and Brazil—L’Oréal has acquired a deep pool of knowledge that enables the company to anticipate and meet the needs of consumers all over the world. The ultimate aim of our innovation is the products’ efficacy, and [how that benefits] consumers worldwide.

GCI: As L’Oréal became a company recognized as a long-standing leader in beauty, was there an inherent risk of being taken for granted? What are the challenges of being successful?

L’Oréal: L’Oréal’s goal has always been about more than being an industry leader. We continue to seek out new opportunities in beauty. Consumers recognize quality, and always choose products that provide something extra in terms of performance, results and satisfaction. Obsession with quality and a passion for innovation are two trademarks of L’Oréal that will never change.

But in addition, we also strive to be a good corporate citizen and an environmentally responsible company. To that end, L’Oréal is involved in a number of philanthropic projects such as its L’Oréal/UNESCO For Women in Science program, Hairdressers Against AIDS and, through the L’Oréal Foundation, a number of other projects that give back to communities around the world. In addition, L’Oréal has set significant environmental targets for its factories and warehouses from 2005–2015 to cut greenhouse gas emissions, water use per unit of finished product and waste generated per unit of finished product. This is in addition to other strong performances in these areas, all focusing on corporate consumer responsibility.

GCI: The company’s centennial celebration recognizes the vision of Eugene Schueller and his development of the first permanent hair color using an oxidation process. How does that early innovation impact how the company approaches product development and innovation today? Does it continue to shape the company?

L’Oréal: Eugene Schueller’s work ethic, commitment to excellence and innovative vision have remained with L’Oréal throughout its history. Always challenging, reinventing and striving to improve, the company believes that for a product to be a success, it must be useful, effective and of the highest quality in all aspects. The fundamental belief that science drives product development is supported by the fact that L’Oréal reinvests about 3.3% of total sales back into R&D, and the interaction between the brands’ marketing departments and the labs is significant. Every step in the life of a product is carefully orchestrated, from the laboratory to customer sales.

GCI: In a recent fiscal report, Jean-Paul Agon, CEO, said: “To weather this [current economic] crisis and indeed emerge stronger than before, the group is implementing five main strategic thrusts: developing accessible innovation to broaden the consumer base, opening up new product categories, accelerating globalization, ensuring sustained advertising and promotional investments, and lastly reducing costs.” Has a closer eye on costs, in fact, made the company more innovative? Has it forced a closer look at products, R&D and markets that will actually strengthen the company?

L’Oréal: L’Oréal has always pushed the limits of scientific knowledge and innovation. This has been part of the company’s DNA and is ongoing. We will continue to enlarge our consumer base in all categories with innovations such as the Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Anti-Puff Eye Roller, Lancôme’s Genifique, and SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF, to name a few. For L’Oréal, new market conquests began early in the company’s history and continue today. Geographic expansion has profoundly enriched L’Oréal’s expertise, expanding its horizons, sharpening its approaches and refining its offerings. With brands that are present in 130 countries and with 60 subsidiaries, the company will be opening new subsidiaries in Egypt, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Africa.

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