Beauty is cultural, and few companies understand this as well as global cosmetics and beauty giant L’Oréal. In a 2012 interview, L’Oréal Group CEO Jean-Paul Agon explained: “For a Brazilian woman, hair and body are the most important. For a Chinese woman, it’s facial skin. For an Indian, it’s makeup. Our approach is the universalisation of beauty, that is, globalisation without uniformisation.” That approach has worked. Established in 130 countries across five continents, L’Oréal is the world’s largest beauty and cosmetics group. Look around in any hair salon, pharmacy or airport shop and you will see L’Oréal-owned brands, including major household names such as Shu Uemura in Japan, Maybelline in the US, Jade in Germany, and The Body Shop in the UK. Not surprisingly, L’Oréal’s international marketing model is analysed and taught in business schools all over the world.
Right now, everyone is watching how the giant navigates its nascent digital strategy. L’Oréal’s cosmetics company has long been a heavy advertiser in above-the-line media, perpetually gracing high-street billboards and the glossy spreads of premium women’s magazines. Now the group is increasingly taking bold and innovative efforts to ratchet up its digital marketing strategy. A notable example is the L’Oreal Paris Makeup Genius app. Downloaded more than 11 million times to date, the app uses advanced face-mapping technology that lets women use their smartphones as a mirror to try on makeup virtually. The L’Oréal Group is also the world’s first beauty player to hire a Chief Digital Officer last year.
In Malaysia, the group’s drive to digital is just beginning. L’Oréal Professionnel, the group’s professional hairdressing brand, currently dedicates a small portion of its annual marketing budget to digital spending. The challenge in pushing for including more digital in their mix is the lack of good digital marketers in Malaysia, L’Oréal Malaysia’s former digital director Emily Lim has said. Last year, L’Oréal Malaysia appointed Lion & Lion, where Emily Lim is now managing director, to head the company’s digital strategy over all its 17 brands, including L’Oréal Paris, L’Oréal Professionnel, Garnier, and Lancôme. In this post, we ask L’Oréal Professionnel Malaysia’s senior product manager Hannah Low to share how the professional hairdressing brand plans to evolve their marketing mix in light of the group’s over-arching push toward digital marketing.
What are the biggest challenges of marketing in Malaysia?
Competition is hitting us from all angles. We have to stay relevant and on top of the latest trends. We constantly have to evolve quickly to adapt to consumer needs as well as create demand and desire.
How has L’Oréal Professionnel managed to stay competitive in Malaysia?
We have stayed competitive in Malaysia through our quest for innovation. Our science is our DNA. We stay relevant to our consumers by translating local knowledge into research. We garner local insights and maximise this knowledge to give the best to our loyal customers. We pay very close attention to international trends to explore more opportunities and be a pioneer in the beauty industry. Our philosophy is to universalise beauty as a global phenomenon.
How has L’Oréal Professionnel’s marketing and advertising strategy changed over the last 5 years?
Our marketing and advertising mix comprises traditional media, digital, trade, and consumer connection and outreach activities, customer relationship management (CRM), etc. We currently allocate a small portion of our budget on digital media, while traditional media still makes up most of our media investment. Over time, this mix is evolving from the scale and strategy of traditional media to digital media. In conventional media platforms, our content needs to have a more educational angle. Digital is a new segment for us tap into and will let us explore more opportunities to achieve our goals at a faster pace. We aim to be really fast in the digital realm to reach more consumers and to stay the number one beauty brand.
Where does L’Oréal Professionnel advertise?
At L’Oréal, we have big dreams and marketing objectives. We strategise with different media to maximise our success in penetrating different consumers segment to reach our goals. Every month, we work and collaborate very closely with the top players, especially media brands such as the Blu Inc Media Group, Astro Publication, Nanyang Press, trade magazines, television channels, radio stations, and so on.
What are your views on traditional media?
There are still a lot of consumers who love to hold a magazine, flip through it, and keep the parts they feel they would like to check out again in the future. That said, traditional media will need to evolve to stay relevant to consumers. In terms of speed, pace, and virality, digital is definitely ahead of the game.
What do you think of companies that invest solely on digital advertising? Are they missing out?
Yes and no. The world is turning towards digital platforms, and we will be left out if we do not take a step into this new vehicle. But it really depends on the company’s objectives, goals, and direction.
Any advice to smaller companies on composing their marketing mix?
Study and analyse your consumer segmentation and their future direction. At the end of the day, as a company, you need to see which type of advertising best suits your needs to achieve your goals!
Ultimately, our main takeaway from this is that nothing will replace a careful mix of marketing across real and digital realms. Even the group’s Chief Digital Officer Lubomira Rochet has said so herself. “Nothing replaces a great event where you can connect to other beauty junkies and other makeup addicts, and then of course they will take lots of pictures and put them on Instagram, so it works both ways,” said Rochet in an interview. “So for me online and offline are not opposite at all, they are complementary.”
[Edited 28/03/2016: An earlier version of this blog post did not make clear that Hannah Low is an employee of L’Oréal Professionnel Malaysia. Hannah speaks for L’Oréal Professionnel, not for other L’Oréal-owned brands. An earlier version of this blog post also cited Emily Lim as the current digital director of L’Oréal Malaysia. Emily Lim is no longer at L’Oréal Malaysia; she is now the managing director at Lion & Lion, L’Oréal Malaysia’s appointed digital agency. We regret the errors.]