Lessons on Marketing from L'Oreal's Senior Vice President of Marketing

Kat Peeler, Senior Vice President of Marketing at L’Oreal, stands in front of 9 incredibly distinguished students hailing from all corners of the globe as she presents a case study centered on strategic marketing planning.

She first explains L’Oreal’s position in the global market as the leading cosmetic beauty group in the world with a presence in 130 countries. She continues by presenting them with one of the projects she worked on the previous year: revitalizing Mizani, a hair care product acquired in 2001 made for relaxing textured hair.

A market research study conducted showed a host of problems being faced by the brand. Respondents disliked Mizani’s lack of natural ingredients in favor of chemicals, its inability to reflect the current trends of wearing both relaxed and textured hair, and an overall outdated impression that threatened to phase the brand out completely with one saying, “It’s old fashioned. My grandma swears by it!”

Peeler then identifies the recommendations provided by the respondents: having natural ingredients at the core of the brand, a change in the formula to allow for both naturally textured styles with movement as well as chemically relaxed hairstyles, and a heightened sense of value. The overall ideal brand personality is set by her as one that is “more edgy, sexier, healthier, sleeker, and simpler.”

She then analyzes the competitors to give the attendees a sense of the current playing field. Affirm and KeraCare both bring appealing promise with key natural ingredients and imagery focused on attracting diverse clientele.

She poses a question asking which of the weaknesses is the most significant strategic imperative to repositioning and redesigning the brand as a whole.

Camille Kapaun, an undergraduate student at Cornell University, answers by saying, “I would focus on reformulation first and foremost but then couple that with communication through marketing. It seems that the competitive brands that are seeing the most success are the ones that advertise the key ingredients that stand out to consumers. If you can take out one chemical or synthetic ingredient and replace it with a natural one, that could resonate well with consumers.”

Varun Puri, a product marketing intern at Google, believes that three questions must be answered: “How do we create the story of modernity around our product? Secondly, how do we cater to haircare standards? And lastly, how do we include more diversity in terms of target audiences?”

After more input from the other participants, Peeler corroborates the great majority of their suggestions by describing the plan she actually undertook. She explains how she developed a strategic plan by defining the brand territory and target audience and then relayed it to all involved to stress the communication hierarchy necessary for the final product.  A comprehensive product development phase began, spanning everything from the improvement of the fragrance and texture to setting business objectives and strategies to address distribution challenges.

Peeler concludes her executive seminar by emphasizing that “marketing always has to change with the times. The only component that stays constant in marketing is having the consumer in sight and creating a territory for your brand. Everything else around it has to shift and change in order to remain relevant.”