Q&A: Georges-Edouard Dias, L’Oreal

Georges-Edouard Dias, senior vice-president, digital business at L’Oréal, speaks to Lucy Handley about the importance of digital marketing and social media in reaching different markets around the globe.

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Georges-Edouard Dias, senior vice-president, digital business at L’Oreal

Marketing Week (MW): What are the big issues facing digital marketers now?

Georges-Edouard Dias (GED): I think there is a need for marketers to think about what their customers need more than ever before. I often meet marketers from very different sectors and we tend to share the same types of questions.

Things don’t stop when customers purchase a product, which is the way we behaved before. Now, purchasing is the point when you can start to have a conversation with them.

So we believe in social media because the most important phase for digital marketing comes after someone has purchased and experienced your product.

MW: How do you monitor social media?

GED: In the US, we get about 250,000 posts every day about our brands, of which about 20,000 are relevant insights you can dig into. We see it as a free source of information. We try to screen all the tools available on the global market because the brands and countries [L’Oréal operates in] expect us to look at all the providers and work out which is best.

It is also important because we want to have a consistent vision at the global level. If you have different [monitoring] vendors in different countries, it starts to be very difficult. It doesn’t always mean that we will have global vendors.

So in China we use [media monitor] CIC, which is purely Chinese. Understanding the language and culture in China is very important. If you have people analysing social media from a desk in London, I am not sure it would be as accurate as using people in Shanghai.

MW: What do you do with the insights you gain from social media?

GED: One of our tasks is to be able to report our social positioning in the market to our chief executive. So we look at share of buzz and share of voice, as well as share of search – when someone is typing a word that is relevant to our category, we look at what our ranking is. Then we put key performance indicators together, so we have consistency.

MW: Are there financial rewards for using social media?

GED: We have seen cases where brands have been very active socially but we didn’t get the [financial] result we expected. And the reason was because it wasn’t the right product or country. Italy is very social, but Germany is the opposite, for example.

This takes us back to the roots of marketing, which is about intuition, intelligence and feeling the market, not about reading or statistics or replicating best practice. It forces us to be more accurate and acute about anything we are doing and makes my job much more interesting.

MW: You said in a presentation at a Forrester conference last year that beauty is inherently social. Can you explain this?

GED: People use beauty products to not only please themselves when they look in the mirror, but it affects how they present themselves to others, and the way they are recognised in the eyes of others is very important.

For example, we have a brand in the US called Vichy Dermablend, which is for people with burns. The fact that we are able to provide a tool that conceals makes them feel comfortable and it will transform how they feel in their social life.

They might be willing to deliver a keynote speech at an event, for example, that before they couldn’t do, so you see the social role of beauty. That is an extreme example, but for each of us, the way we present ourselves is very important.

MW: L’Oréal has a new strategic marketing function; can you explain more?

GED: This is [chief marketing officer] Marc Menesguen’s idea. It made sense to create some synergies between brands because we had different customers for different products. Yet some customers of [L’Oréal’s upmarket skincare brand] Lancôme are also sometimes Garnier customers [an everyday brand].

Our way to develop a business doesn’t mean that everything looks alike. On the contrary, we understand where the synergies are and from that we can preserve our brands. Leveraging the [potential customer base] is important, but it is not done to the disadvantage of the customer.

It is also about the compromise between global and local, creating metrics where everything is intersected. Having a chief marketing officer position has helped us harmonise our metrics.

Also [it is easier to have] discussions and understanding between our big network partners at a global level, working with big clients such as Tesco, Walmart and AS Watson, which is a very important group [it owns Superdrug in the UK and numerous beauty retailers in Europe and Asia].

One of the roles of the chief marketing officer is to make sure that each L’Oréal employee is trained on the new vision, on the new focus on the customer and the customer lifecycle.

MW: Are you doing any online activity to cross-sell your products?

GED: Yes. In China, for example, we partnered with publishing house Women of China to produce a website called eLadies. That is a name that doesn’t sound right in the UK, but for China it is. There, all our brands explained their contribution to beauty in their own way.

We’ve also recently created a club in the US, for the Hispanic population in partnership with [TV network] Telemundo. It’s a deal to create content for our brands on TV for [Spanish soap opera shows] telenovelas.

People are crazy about these series, so we created the Club de Noveleras website, which organises events for viewers to meet their favourite actors and get some sort of reward.

MW: How could you apply digital techniques to developing countries such as India?

GED: We try to serve our customers as best we can and try to understand why they are doing things. For example, we know [in the Western world] that using a sachet of shampoo isn’t the most pleasant experience, so there is no reason why it would be different for an Indian guy. So you have to understand why people are behaving differently from you.

Part of using sachets is the price point [some Indians are paid weekly rather than monthly so they are more affordable] and their big concern is not to waste it or use too much. Of course they want a more pleasant experience but in their mindset, it also gives the exact dose they need.

So the idea is to find a way that we can make the sachet affordable for them, where they can have a [physical] bottle but pay as if they were using sachets. They can pay by instalments, for example, perhaps via their mobile phone credits. In India, there are more mobiles than computers or TVs, and it’s is the best way to secure your money.

Applying technology to an established market is the best way to secure your market share.

CV

2001 – Dias is promoted to senior vice-president, digital business and is responsible for digital at L’Oréal globally
1999 – Dias moves to the US to become vice-president of new media at L’Oréal
1996 – Becomes vice-president of internet development at L’Oréal and is responsible for loreal.com
1984 to 96 – Dias works in various marketing roles within L’Oréal including product manager at Garnier and vice-president of marketing at Vichy International
1983 – Dias completes MBA at HEC in Paris

Dias’ Priorities

Marketing Week (MW): What’s your focus for this year?

Georges-Edouard Dias (GED): Digital is a strong enabler to aid the development of our brands and if we do it right, we can really push our growth. There is huge potential for our brands because of new markets and new types of expression.

Digital allows for a direct link between the brand and customer, which means you learn because you have feedback and you can grow your relationship with customers.

MW: How do you make sure you keep up-to-date with emerging trends?

GED: Be curious and keen about making discoveries, then you keep up with things. Also, the network of people you know can alert you [to trends].

Discover things that people have not looked at before. For example, I wanted to understand the [digital business] model in Africa. In South Africa, I met a company called RLabs, which practises ‘re-insertion’ through digital. It takes people who might have been using drugs and helps them find a legitimate occupation, which might be a new business enabled by technology.

I met someone from Orange at The Africa Council [who said] that in Lagos, Nigeria, they have 4G [rather than the slower 3G], so don’t suppose that in Nigeria there is [only] old [mobile] equipment. You must understand that you view the market through the eyes of the western guy. If you aren’t curious, you will always be taken by surprise.

Digital 3: Georges-Edouard Dias sets out three big digital tips

  • When looking at social media, consider your social estate. Look at each brand, what your customers think, where they are. For example, skin and haircare brand Kiehls was created in 1851 by Dr John Kiehls in New York’s East Village. He wanted to serve local people around the pharmacy, so it was about neighbourhood beauty. The brand now focuses a lot of attention on locality advertising, such as Facebook Places or Foursquare, so it translates well because of the original mission of Kiehls serving the community. It is the fastest growing brand at L’Oréal.
  • My first concern as the global guy is about being consistent. Each brand should find its path in the digital world. Each has its own ways and there are countries that are very social. So, for example, in Italy, the people are very socially active. In Germany, they are less so.
  • Technology makes people smarter. There is a real power in using digital as a source of different thinking. We have to focus on who our next billion customers will be and where they will come from. Africa is going to be much more important. But only 1 billion people have a credit card in the world and only 1.6 billion have a bank account. So when we are talking about serving the next billion customers, we have to think about people who are ‘unbanked’. But those people who are unbanked have something in common/ they own a mobile phone. There is a higher penetration of mobiles in South Africa than in the UK. Mobile is the most personal link you can create with your customer.

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