Q&A with Bennis Othmanos, Global Chief Digital and Marketing Officer at L’Oréal Paris

Leadership – How do you ensure your purpose and values shape your organizational decision-making?
What societal issues do we need to take a clear and consistent stance on? 

L’Oreal defines itself first and foremost as a feminist brand. This we combine with the tension to pioneer in terms of science. L’Oreal Paris is a brand for every woman who wants to experience the quality of a luxury brand at an affordable price. At the end of that day, we want to be both accessible and ambitious. Our goal is to democratize beauty.

Our signature ‘I am, you are, or we are worth it!’ is our ‘north star’ to drive those values across the whole organization. We try to be exemplary in any way we bring that to life.

Our president, Delphine Viguier-Hovasse, is passionate about what the brand stands for; she really lives and breathes our message. Under her administration, we have a diverse leadership team of strong women and men, accompanied by both new and seasoned brand ambassadors like Kendall Jenner and Jane Fonda. Some of our ambassadors have been in the role for decades now, which also says a lot about the loyalty and the long-term relationship building capability of the brand.

There are two societal issues that we take a particularly strong stance on. The first is inextricably linked to our signature because all women are worth it and deserve to express themselves confidently and own their rightful place in society. This we have used to embrace diversity and inclusion, where much advancement has been made but where there is more work to be done. Our campaign ‘Stand Up’ addresses the real problem of street harassment. Our aim is to support people in arming them with tools to deploy when witnessing this type of harassment. So far, we have supported 2 million individuals across 43 countries.

Bennis Othmanos
Global Chief Digital and Marketing Officer, L’Oréal Paris

Ecosystem –
How do you seek to continue innovating and outpacing competition constantly?
How does your brand connect the dots across your ecosystem?
What is most challenging in creating a joined-up brand ecosystem? 

We are passionate about science and being pioneers for women in this space. Our in-house R&D Facility is working relentlessly to invent new molecules, textures and pigments, bringing the very best of beauty to all women.

Not many organizations like ours invest in their R&D function, preferring to purchase formulas from a third party. I think the level of investment made to produce groundbreaking products like Elvive Bond Repair Shampoo, Telescopic Mascara or Revitalift Clinical Serum 12% Vitamin C demonstrate our commitment to innovating for our consumers.

We, first and foremost, want to connect effectively with our consumers. It is no surprise that we receive some of the highest number of views on Tik Tok. We were early adopters and invested heavily in that channel. This early adoption continues in our use of other new ways to consume media, from connected TV to ads on Netflix.

Multi-layered connectivity is incredibly important to us. Our customers expect us to communicate with them in a way that reflects their life on many levels. Take our recent event at Paris Fashion Week – L’Oreal Paris Le Defile 2023, held under the Eiffel Tower. A fashion show featuring incredible women, the likes of Kendal Jenner, Eva Longoria, Helen Mireen and Andy McDowell all being captured live and responded to by the most fabulous and influential social media creators. We then immersed the experience within Roblox to allow the virtual gaming community to experience it in their own way. We are creating a multi-layered means of communicating and allowing our customers to experience our brand the way they want to – unchained.

In terms of challenges, we are creating a cohesive brand experience, not just in one geography but globally. What is aspirational for European women is not what is aspirational for other cultures. This adds complexity that we must navigate to ensure all women find the brand relevant to them, their personal complexion, hair and beauty specificities. However, we can’t shift our focus too local as we will lose in terms of agility, what is critical is to remain globally iconic whilst addressing local aspirational needs.

HyperFocal: 0

Experience –
Which parts of the customer experience are most valuable to your customers, and which are the parts that are most challenging to get right?

If we think in terms of touchpoints, the digital experience we give our customers is by far the most important.

What is incredible is that in this digital world of social media, influencers and creators, our customers actually experience our products in an extremely authentic way. Hearing first-hand comments, reviews and suggestions.

Then, in terms of qualitative experience, our website is one of our most powerful tools, showcasing our products, and most specifically, the science and technology that enhance the experience. You only need to view our skin analyzer – ‘Skin Genius’ to appreciate the informative and entertaining experience people have with our brand in this space. You can assess the quality of your skin, try a new make-up or hair color, and even diagnose your personal hair care requirements.

Offline can seem far more challenging today: we are unable to adapt and evolve as quickly as we can online despite expectations increasing for consumers regarding their physical retail experience. Ensuring we maintain the seamlessness takes a huge amount of coordination, but it’s essential.

In this fast-paced consumer-centric world, we are a data-driven company consuming data-rich feedback constantly. Our consumer insights teams in-particular, have had to evolve rapidly. It is critical that we are ahead in terms of trends, spotting the rising influencer and responding to evolving human truths to ensure we are in the right place with the right product at the right time.

Asset – How are you keeping tabs on your brand value?

We keep track of where we are in two key ways.

Externally, we follow the most recognized industry surveys and rankings like Interbrand’s Best Global Brands, and we read them very carefully, making sure we know exactly how we are perceived by independent bodies we respect. Internally, we perform a rigorous consumer survey process across our top 40 countries. Year by year, we keep largely the same questions and focus on the consumer targets that interest us the most. How do we fare with Gen Z ,Gen Alpha, millennials and genders. That approach we know is a bit more classical but still proves very efficient. 

Then, in some of our most advanced countries. We use tools that can extract all the visual content that consumers are exposed to via an image cloud and extract a word cloud about all the consumer sentiment about the brand, what they say about us on all social media, and so on. It helps us quarterly monitor and constantly improve the way we are perceived and the image that we’re giving to the consumer so that we remain the most valuable beauty brand in the world. 

Identification –
How do you make sure that your brand identity stays inclusive?
How much do new trends inform your work?

We have critical moments for our brand, and at those points in our calendar, we choose to showcase the passion we have for diversity and inclusion. In years now gone, these temple moments would have been witnessed by very few people; today they can be viewed and experienced by all of us. I find that incredibly interesting and exciting to experience.

If brands wish to survive, their products are important, but their purpose is essential. Successfully communicating your brand’s purpose and it resonating with your consumers, particularly younger consumers, will be critical to a brand’s ability to thrive.

We have three different approaches to trends.

Long-term structural and scientific trends – for example, identifying the most appropriate molecules and technologies for the future. We can respond to global warming 10-15 years in advance by formulating products with the most advanced UV filters.

Mid-term beauty trends – identify our products 3-5 years out.

Short-term trends – shape our content; they capture events like Rhianna at the Super Bowl featuring a specific look that we need to respond to conversationally via our influencers and product placement.

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