‘Technology can be seductive’: Why Coty wants to be the best rather than the first

Coty, which owns brands inlcuding Max Factor, GHD, Rimmel and Bourjois, is trying to take a consumer-centric approach to technological innovation, looking at where it can add value for the consumer rather than jumping on the latest trend.

Beauty is getting technical. As the industry tries to keep up with increasing consumer demand for services and dynamic retail space, makeup, hair and skincare brands are looking to tech innovations.

Coty is one company looking to do just this. Whether it’s with a Bourjois blended-reality Magic Mirror that shows users what different colours of lipstick would look like on; Wella’s augmented reality (AR) smart mirror that projects different hair colours on people using facial recognition; or virtual reality headsets that enhance shoppers’ perfume experience.

But despite these innovations, Tariq Khan vice-president of Coty’s in-house tech agencyBeamly, warns “technology can be seductive.”

He explains: “Augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are industry buzzwords and you’ll get a lot of column inches for doing it but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re actually helping the consumer and using technology as a facilitator.”

This cautious attitude is why Khan, urges his teams to “to aim to be the best rather than first” .

“It’s really important that we’re taking the time to understand the consumer. It’s about trying to understand the problem that you’re solving first and then looking at the tools you have in your box to be able to satisfy those,” he explains.

READ MORE: L’Oréal CMO: Companies that just sell products will not be successful

He adds: “Previously in certain [brands] it has started with what they’ve wanted to do but with Coty we’re trying to start with what people want.”

Coty, which owns brands including Max Factor, GHD, Rimmel and Bourjois, bought Beamly  in 2015 and has been using the social content and digital accelerator hub to work out how its brands can make the most of new tech.

Beamly works closely with marketing teams and to the same KPIs but Khan says there is still more work to be done to avoid silos.

He explains: “The martech space is a bit of a weird space at the moment. There are people that are very good at technology and then there are people that are very good at marketing. The people that can cross that language and speak about both, there’s more of them coming into the market but it’s been historically a place where companies have relied on agencies more to bring in people.

“Now there’s starting to be a bit more evolution of that skillset where people are able to speak from a technology point of view and understand how that overlays into marketing objectives. If you’ve got a common language, which is understanding the problem, it means you can try and work together and make sure the marketing objectives align with what we need to do from a technical point of view.”

The key to this alignment is what Khan dubs “psychological safety’, citing a study from Google which found that ensuring people are unafraid to voice their own opinions leads to a more successful working environment.

“Basically no one should be afraid to say ‘ I don’t understand’, ‘I don’t know’ and that’s not just a marketer understanding technology but also technology understanding marketing,” he says.

Structuring teams to help digital innovation


Despite being in-house, Beamly operates as a separate agency within Coty in order to avoid bureaucracy and remain agile.

“We really benefit from being part of Coty but also being a little bit separate as well. We try and work as a separate entity which allows us to be a bit more agile and a bit more nimble so do things in a slightly different way to Coty while getting all the benefits from that as well,” says Khan.

Khan joined Coty last year as part of new cohort of hires and as the company looks to align more with digital. This investment is around one of Beamly’s four pillars which are marketing sciences, which is around data insight, creating content, media, and products and engineering, which is where Beamly sits.

Khan says his biggest challenge is being agile because while it is a term that gets thrown around a lot it is “easy to say much more hard to do. For me what is really important is the faster you execute the more quickly and the more precisely your direction of travel needs to be.”

Much has been written about the future of retail but Khan argues that digital is the key to getting consumers back into stores. He concludes: “Technology should be used to enhance the in-store experience rather than replace it. For us, it is about building consumer experiences. For example, if Boots is selling a £5 lipstick what we want to do is sell a £20 look.“

Coty’s Tariq Khan will be speaking at the Festival of Marketing, which this year takes place on 10 and 11 October at Tobacco Dock, London. To find out more about the event and to book tickets, visit www.festivalofmarketing.com