Nikita Mishra
Sep 27, 2022

'Legacy brands must constantly innovate to stay ahead': L’Oréal marketer

The 112-year-old French beauty giant has bounced back to pre-pandemic level sales while the SAPMENA region will be the key 'growth engine' for its future, according to its consumer products division general manager.

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

L’Oréal’s newly created SAPMENA region—South Asia-Pacific, Middle East and North Africa zone—headquartered in Singapore is not only diverse in demographics, but also forecasted to witness a sharp growth of new business over the next decade.

The SAPMENA zone registered a 15.8% like-for-like sales increase and 18.7% in reported terms to the tune of 681 million euros at the end of the second quarter in 2022. After 2020’s pandemic closures, a strong rebound globally in makeup sales was expected. However, ecommerce and digital channel sales in SAPMENA is a big reason for L’Oréal’s outperformance.  

The group is quick to recognise the power and potential of the zone: 43% of the consumers here are younger than 25 years of age, nearly a third are tuned into social media, and with 4G and 5G internet penetration in the market, the possibility of digital business growth is immense.

Campaign Asia-Pacific caught up with Manashi Guha, the general manager of SAPMENA, Consumer Products Division, to understand how the brand aims to stay ahead of the curve in this demographic.

Manashi Guha, CPD general manager, SAPMENA, L’Oréal

Tell us about your role at L’Oréal?

I’ve been working in the beauty industry for the last 15 years in Asia. Today, I head the Consumer Products Division for L’Oréal’s South Asia Pacific, Middle East and North Africa (SAPMENA) zone. This is home to 40% of the world’s population, three billion people, 35 markets for L’Oréal.

SAPMENA is an incredibly diverse geographical zone whether it's consumer behaviour, consumer desires or market maturity. How do you cater to these differences?

Yes, consumers in our part of the world are very diverse in their beauty ideals, desires, needs and traditions. So, you have the Moroccans aspiring to European beauty ideals, the young Indonesians in love with latest trends from Korea. The most important thing is, while the beauty ideals are different, the common factor is the rise of self-empowered women—more educated women, more women into the workforce, more women in beauty.

According to your research, what are some beauty marketing trends in SAPMENA?

Our research shows the top three beauty trends in the region. The first is digitalisation. In SAPMENA, 43% of the total population is younger than 25 years. Consumers choose brands that reflect their vibrancy and values, and most of their interaction with brands is digital. More than 60% buy online every week and beauty is among the top categories bought online, after mobiles and fashion.

With almost a quarter of their day spent on social media, the youth are more plugged in than their counterparts in parts of the globe. This is leading to an impetus in the adoption of social commerce led by advocacy and peer-to-peer recommendation. You could say advocacy is the new door-to-door commerce of this century. Consumers are tuned into video recommendations from influencers—this ensures consumer trust and leads to online purchase.

Secondly, we are are shifting from beauty care to healthy beauty. Beauty consumption habits have changed towards healthier and more sustainable choices. Consumers demand greater safety, efficacy, and transparency from brands. This was earlier relevant only in skincare but now it has taken over our makeup choices too. Trends like 'skinification'—incorporating skincare into makeup and hair products are on the rise and we see a strong desire in consumers to know about the source of ingredients and how they work.

Then, there's a shift towards sustainable choices in all aspects if our life. Be it in ingredients, packaging or disposal—we are committed to protect the beauty of the planet by fighting climate change, managing water sustainably, respecting biodiversity and preserving natural resources.

How has marketing for L’Oréal changed in the last few years to keep pace with the evolving industry?

As new-age marketers, we have seized the latest technology trends like AR, VR, AI, 5G networks, and social commerce. Exciting in-person events like the annual Cannes film festival, L’Oréal Paris Defilé are shared simultaneously with millions through online livestreaming and social platforms. Last year, our brands did more than 10,000 livestream sessions worldwide, while today we do almost eight to 10 hours of livestreaming a day in many countries. This is an exponential jump and is a result of constant marketing overhaul in content, approach and structure.

Ecommerce has been a huge shift. SAPMENA region makes up one-third of social media users worldwide and the adoption of social commerce—alongside better connectivity—has sparked and sustained the need to offer consumers live and interactive experiences from brands, ambassadors and beauty influencers. Platforms like TikTok make it easier for consumers to engage with brands and to buy with a single click.

Gaming and the meta-world are new buzzwords where Maybelline is launching a range of co-branded SuperStay Free Fire lipsticks where you can have your avatars wearing the same lipstick as you.

Every brand’s digital interest and investment has scaled up in the last two years. How did you pivot your business and brands?

Our digital prowess is part of our transformation to make beauty even more personalised and connected for our consumers. So, we will stay ahead of the curve and keep innovating on experiences as much as in products.

So, whether it is an online or offline consumer experience, we have beauty technologies that can serve to advise and inform transparently with before-and-after results, ingredient efficacy and sourcing. And over a period of time, we see this is able to drive higher engagement on our brands and also increase consumer loyalty.

Even in a category like sustainability action, we take a digital view. In Indonesia, as part of the Garnier Green Beauty initiative, we’re working with eRecycle and the Indonesian government, where on an app, you can list your packaging waste including plastic, glass and paper. eRecycle collects it from your home in Jakarta and recycles the plastic waste into pellets for reuse.

How is L’Oréal improving its DEI quotient?

It's important to create beauty that moves the world—so our business, people and products must be aligned for all. We strive for diversity across our products, services, brands, algorithms and the way we advertise ourselves. For example, L’Oréal Paris Shade Finder offers 48 different skin shades, while Maybelline Fit Me & Poreless Foundation is available in 40 shades. Our team members and suppliers also reflect the world’s diversity. In SAPMENA, 6,800 employees from 81 nationalities work together. We take pride in that 43% of SAPMENA leadership positions are held by women.


The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

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