TFOL Talks To: Ed Holmes, General Manager, L’Oréal Australia

L’Oréal Luxe’s portfolio of brands can lay claim to some of the beauty industry’s most prestigious and desirable names; Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani and Lancôme to name but a few. Naturally The Future of Luxury jumped at the chance to talk to Ed Holmes, General Manager of L’Oréal Australia to find out about the group’s approach to innovation as well how the increasing influence and integration of tech is changing the nature of the industry at every stage.

Which social platforms do you focus your attention on at L’Oréal?

With so many brands in the L’Oréal group, from consumer, professional to luxury; L’Oréal really has a presence across all social platforms with particular attention on the usual audience-driving platforms of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as well as product review platforms on our websites and retailer sites.

In my division L’Oréal Luxe, we’re responsible for the beauty category of wider global brands and work very closely with the international teams in Paris and New York as well as various designers to align our message and dialogue with the audience. We want a Ralph Lauren consumer to feel the whole Ralph Lauren experience and not  just one fragmented part. To avoid this we work hard to create one or two shared platforms to engage consumers with.

Which industry figures do you most admire?

Samsung – for having a go back at Apple.

Renzo Rosso, founder of Diesel is an inspiring story – for selling jeans out of the back of his car, for never giving up and creating a very powerful brand & culture

My Dad, he started his communications and design business from a garage and built it into a successful listed company. When he moved on from that he totally re-invented himself and now has created a business mentoring and coaching finance execs. He continues to work tirelessly and has instilled a very strong ‘never give up’ work ethic.

Other than that, I have huge respect for Paul Lyonette at YuMe. A trailblazer in mobile and making it easy for clients to get involved, a true pro.

What do you consider the most innovative digital campaigns that L’Oréal has been involved in?

I still love the Diesel, Fuel for Life launch that was my first digital project. We created a story around prohibition and the idea that the emotion the fragrance created was so good, so powerful, that while some people loved it others wanted it banned. The anti-Fuel for Lifers were lobbying for it to be banned on Facebook, while the pros wanted it released immediately!

We complemented the digital platform with real life activations, we dropped crates into store containing the product wrapped with caution tape until the launch date. We ran teaser windows that evolved from being wrapped up and taped over until the full launch reveal. We even gave away anti-FFL t-shirts and badges on the streets! It was fun and worked as we became the biggest ever fragrance launch since the iconic CKOne launch 15 years prior.

What did you particularly like about this campaign, what made it successful?

It was a story everyone could engage with – from retailers, consumers to staff. It wasn’t your typical launch, it grabbed people’s attention. That’s why I love Diesel, it demands that you do things differently. As Renzo says, ‘If you do what you always did, you get what you always got’.

What are some of the most exciting innovations that we might see in coming years in the luxury beauty market?

Anything that innovates around the service and experiential aspect of luxury beauty. In order to give consumers a reason to purchase in-store there needs to be an emphasis on the ‘total experience’. This means amazingly trained beauty advisors, luxury environments using luxury materials, scents and technology as well as incredible aftercare service.

Another innovative trend we’re likely to see more of is ‘Scalable Personalisation’ – i.e. a cream or make-up product personalised for your exact needs following a full consultation.

Technology is starting to make its presence felt in the retail environment, particularly fashion, do you see the beauty and fragrance markets adopting this approach?

The world of mobile is the main opportunity. Investment in expensive technology at point of sale, although useful, isn’t the next big thing. Mobile technology will be the future. Stores will continue to act as retail spaces but crucially, also as galleries to view products and brands, purchases made via mobile can then be delivered wherever needed.

Retailers need to accept the massive challenge that mobile poses and prepare for omni-channel selling. In-store and online purchases will feed each other, we must be careful to not repeat the mistakes of the music industry and pretend it’s not going to happen. It’s happening now and the faster we get ready, the better we’ll be able to cater to changing consumer behaviour and demands.

What, in your opinion, is one of the most innovative developments L’Oréal has been involved in recently?

I’m always incredibly impressed with our skincare technology and scientific advancements. L’Oréal’s Yves Saint Laurent Forever Youth Liberator skincare range is at the very pinnacle of skin research and innovation. We’ve collaborated with the top universities and professors in the world to work on developing ingredients that activate glycans in order to replump the skin and have a positive effect on the signs of ageing. The work done in this area has attracted 7 Nobel prizes and has been studied for 100 years but now we have an opportunity to take this knowledge and put it to work in our prestige skincare. It’s quite incredible to see how advanced our skincare technology and research team is. Not only does this knowledge contribute to the progress of cosmetics but it also has benefits that can be used in other areas.

Where do you weigh in on the discussion about Social Media for brands and ROI? Does Social always need to directly drive sales?

Not always but it would be nice, although it’s clearly an influencer of brand experience and sales. There used to be a certain amount of security in the ‘stick it on TV and watch the sales roll in’ approach but this now needs support.

Social is a complete conversation that we use as a retail driver, consumer research tool, customer feedback platform and brand awareness vehicle. The challenge with social however is to provide relevant content that engages and then balance this with a campaign that drives sales.

What’s impressive is the influence of the new generation of famous bloggers and social commentators. A well placed tweet or blog can create a massive spike in sales and create fantastic brand awareness. In the past, Marilyn Monroe did something similar for Chanel No.5, the modern day equivalent would be a ‘celebrity’ blogger.

Complete the following, ‘The Future of Luxury is…’

In the mind of the creator.


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