Anupama Sajeet
Aug 9, 2023

Younger consumers are expecting brands to play a role in society: Zeenia Bastani

In a chat with Campaign India, Maybelline New York & NYX professional makeup's GM, shares insights on how tech is changing the beauty game, what younger consumers expect from brands, and more.

Younger consumers are expecting brands to play a role in society: Zeenia Bastani
In a first for a cosmetics company, Maybelline New York has partnered with Microsoft to introduce AI-powered make-up filters for people participating in a Teams meeting. 
The new filters could be accessed through the Maybelline Beauty app integrated with Microsoft Teams to enable users to get ‘ready-in-a-click’ for video calls, with different virtual make-up styles for diverse tastes. 
The Maybelline Beauty app in Teams uses AI-powered functionality enabled by ModiFace, an augmented reality technology for the beauty industry owned by Maybelline's parent company L’Oreal. 
In a conversation with Campaign India, Zeenia Bastani, general manager, Maybelline New York and NYX professional makeup, L'Oréal talks about how beauty tech- the intersection between technology and the beauty industry—is taking the sector beyond its ‘one-size fits all’ using AI with the goal of democratising makeup personalised for every consumer.
Edited excerpts:
What was the intent behind such a collaboration of Maybelline with Microsoft Teams?
At the end of the day, the core of what we do is empowering our users’ self-confidence, be it in real life or virtually at work. So it's like a great extension of what we do for our consumers in real life. It's a great collaboration that allows people to express themselves when they are online, experiment with different looks, and adjust their style very quickly and easily. 
It also offers our consumers a very low barrier way to sort of experiment with looks that maybe otherwise they wouldn't have. It’s also helping us democratise makeup and of course, empowering people to make these experimental choices if they want to get a real makeup look as simply as in one click.
How do you expect this Maybelline Beauty App integration with Teams to impact the consumers’ experience? 
It's adding an element of fun and creativity to their virtual meetings, so it's a great engaging user experience. This can very much transform customer experiences because what it's allowing for is a very seamless interactive virtual try-on experience, and what is so great about it is that it's not just happening during a shopping journey, but it's happening as part of a consumer's life where she can experiment with different looks to put her best foot forward at work. 
So in that sense, it's transforming this experience of using a virtual meeting space. And by helping us to give them a great experience on Teams, it's allowing us to engage with a whole new user base while allowing us to engage with our consumers, beyond just a shopping journey.  
This feature was rolled out last month. How has the feedback from consumers and the industry been at large? 
The initial response has been very encouraging. Users have expressed a lot of appreciation for how easy it is firstly, and secondly, the variety of virtual makeup looks that one has and also for the fact that it's very adaptive to different skin tones, different styles and different looks of makeup. 
Of course, there's always scope for improvement, and we're listening to our consumers' feedback on how we can further improve.
Do you think with the opening up of the post-pandemic world and coming back to the physical world, you see users still inclined to dress up for virtual meets?
As you rightly pointed out, I think we can all thankfully say that the Covid period is over, and life is coming back to normal, consumers are moving back to the office and that's great.
Today, although most people are back at work, many industries, companies and a lot of people are still in a hybrid work model. The idea is essentially for Maybelline to support her and empower her to be her best self, whether she's online, at home, at work, at a party or wherever she may be. We are well on our mission to bring innovation to the consumer to be the makeup advisor to India.
How is Maybelline planning to leverage this brand integration, if you could elaborate a little more on the marketing? Is any campaign in the works to maximise its reach?
The usual awareness-driving across social media, with influencer partnerships is what we're going with. Then of course, there’s a lot of organic curiosity that's coming from the industry, the press, etc., and that's the extent to which we're promoting this. For us, it's extremely important because it's a powerful promotional platform that will increase brand adoption, and enhance brand love.
With the changing digital landscape, 'MarTech' is gaining more and more prominence. How bullish are you about the role of emerging tech and digitisation as a medium for delivering impact for brands such as yours?
We are quite bullish about the current and future role of these emerging technologies and digitisation because it helps us to deliver a very customised experience for our consumers. It allows us to personalise our interactions and as technology continues to evolve, there's going to be tremendous potential to leverage it creatively to engage with our audiences, to drive brand loyalty and stay at the forefront of the beauty industry.
L’Oréal as a group is not a beauty company, it's a ‘beauty tech’ company. So you will always see the creation of beauty tech, the adoption of beauty tech first and foremost from the house of L’Oréal. Embracing this emerging tech is going to enable us to stay very relevant to our consumers and help us continue to innovate and be very consumer-centric.
Can you elaborate a little more on the beauty tech part, what exactly do you mean by that?
Beauty tech is the intersection between technology and the beauty industry—taking the sector beyond ‘one size fits all’, to a world of beauty-related tech innovations. So, for instance, we have a partnership with ModiFace which provides the technology behind this collaboration with Microsoft Teams. What it's essentially doing is, it's allowing users to see themselves in different makeup looks or with a different hairstyle or with a different hair colour in real-time using their photo or using a live video feed.
This is one example of beauty technology that L’Oréal was the first to partner with and bring to the consumers. A customer comes in with a full face of makeup. She may not want to remove it and try on a product but she can do it virtually standing right there in the store as well. L’Oréal has always been at the forefront of beauty tech, and this is the kind of innovative tech that you'll continue to see from the group.
In general, how receptive do you think Indian marketers are to using innovative martech for driving impact for brands?
The industry and marketers understand the importance and significance of leveraging technology. First of all, from understanding their consumers better and then from the point of view of being able to personalise the experiences, or driving impactful campaigns I think marketers today know that it can help one to stay agile. 
It can help one to adapt to changing customer preferences and create more connections with their consumers. The way we do marketing campaigns in itself is completely different today from what it was 10 years ago. And as technology evolves and as digitisation becomes even more rapid, I think brands and marketers will have no option but to embrace the new way of marketing.
You've spent 14 years at L’Oréal. How has the company and the beauty industry in the country at large evolved in this period?
The Indian consumer is, first of all, evolving at an extremely rapid pace today. She's inspired by the West, but she's holding very true to her Indian values. And I've seen this shift in the formats of beauty products that she uses, in the way she's choosing her beauty products, and I've seen a shift in the things that a consumer expects from a brand.
Today a consumer is not only expecting to find a great product at a value-for-money price, but she's also expecting a brand to give her a great consumer experience through the journey while she's shopping. A big shift that I see is, today younger consumers are expecting brands to play a role in society. They expect brands to have a voice and a point of view on issues. And that's why at L’Oréal, some of our brands have such a strong and deep sense of purpose.
Today even her beauty requirements are becoming more nuanced, she's adopting a more nuanced skincare journey, and she's ready to experiment with newer and bolder shades. These are all shifts that I've seen in the last few years.
How would you define India as a market for Maybelline? Is it just the metros and urban India or is it even the tier 2, tier 3 towns that you see the interest from?
Today Maybelline is a big brand and we're available outside of just the metros. While the product mix could be slightly different, the truth is that the young Indian consumer today is wanting to use makeup and experiment with her looks, whether she is from Mumbai, Delhi or Lucknow or Nagpur or an even smaller town. She wants to use different shades and she wants to evolve her makeup routine, and she's also looking to the West and the metro cities for aspiration.
So certainly at Maybelline, we are catering to this, we have an offline presence across metros and tier 1, and tier 2 cities and today with e-commerce there is no limitation on pin codes. E-commerce is delivering across the length and breadth of the country, so we are available to consumers anywhere in the country and consumers from everywhere are buying. 
What would you say are some of the challenges in the domestic beauty industry that the brand faces currently?
The challenge is that the Indian consumer is evolving fast, and is demanding and difficult to crack. Consumers want everything at a price which is great value for money. So, of course, delivering on all of these parameters with a great offering, which performs in the easiest possible way is a challenge. India's specific challenge comes from this very fast-paced evolution of the consumer. 
We also see a huge proliferation of new brands that come in. And e-commerce provides a platform for very new, very young brands to reach a consumer which in the years gone by was not possible. You needed to be a big brand like Maybelline to have a massive setup and massive reach which today the competition doesn't have. So from that perspective, the market is dynamic and the market is changing. So it's a new world of marketing and it's a new world of doing business today and it requires brands to be extremely adaptive, extremely agile, and extremely capable of riding through all of these waves.
Campaign India

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