L’Oréal and being worth it (3)

I’m not just being neurotic, or a tyical knee-jerk anti-megacorp tree-hugging hippy lefty nutjob. Here’s what L’Oréal themselves have to say about themselves, and their Plans for World Domination.

Source:  L’Oréal: 100 Years of Celebrating Beauty. Looking back with pride, looking ahead with passion. Special advertising section, Advertising Age (2009-06-01). Retrieved from Branded Content: AdAge

Image links to the full text, PDF

 There was much here to catch the eye and raise the hackles. The most hair-raising and extreme-eyebrow-twitching bits, for me–YMMV as ever–follow below.

I’ve cut as much as possible of the repeated (and often hyperbolic) machospeak: leader/~ship, rankings, growth, acquisitions, strength, expansion, being no. 1, etc.:

L’Oréal: The name evokes the image of beauty. For most of the company’s 100 years, the name has been synonymous with the image of the quintessential Parisienne—upscale, exclusive and aspirational.


Over the last 25 years, that image has been expanding. Today, L’Oréal is recognized as the global leader in all aspects of beauty—for men as well as women, for the everyman and woman as well as for the upper crust. The company says its track record today reflects a quest for diversity to meet the needs of men and women around the globe and to make its products available to as many people as possible.

This transformation has occurred by implementing a well-formulated strategy of acquisitions and expansion geographically as well as into all distribution channels, while remaining true to the spirit on which L’Oréal was founded —that research and innovation should serve beauty and that product innovation should drive business.

With global sales of more than €17.5 billion in some 130 countries and 23 global brands as of 2008, L’Oréal claims leadership worldwide in the beauty market—hair care, hair color, skincare, makeup and fragrances—rising from an 11 percent share in 2000 to 15.8 percent in 2008. […]

The company’s well-known slogan “Because you’re worth it” started out as “Because I’m worth it” in 1973 for Preference hair color and was created by agency McCann-Erickson. “Although its roots were distinctly American, in 1996 ‘Because I’m worth it’ became the signature for the L’Oréal Paris brand around the world,” says Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, L’Oréal S.A. chairman, who is widely credited with masterminding the company’s globalization.

[Françoise] Lauvin [a financial analyst with CA Cheuvreux, Paris, who has been following the company for more than 20 years]  says such marketing and advertising prowess has been an important factor in the company’s growth. When “Because I’m worth it” was introduced, L’Oréal Paris had less than a 20 percent share of the U.S. hair color market. Today, L’Oréal Paris’ share of hair color in the U.S. stands at 44 percent.

L’Oréal over a long period has consistently invested huge amounts of money in advertising and marketing to develop its brands,and “with great success,”Ms. Lauvin says.

One such success, and light relief for anyone who might be fainting by this point from TMI, too many words, and brain-overheating: Patrick Dempsey in French.

Even in these past months of challenges for all marketers, L’Oréal has not held back. Jean-Paul Agon, CEO, L’Oréal S.A., told investors at the company’s financial meeting that in 2009 the intention is to further strengthen investment allocated to advertising and promotional resources and to take full advantage of a buyer’s market and sharply falling costs for media. “Overall, our firepower should thus clearly increase, helping us to develop the worldwide positions of our brands and our products,” he said.


The next major growth spurt came in the 1980s when then- CEO Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones set out to conquer the U.S. market and become a truly global player, since most revenue at that time still came from Western Europe. L’Oréal went on an acquisition spree and,by the beginning of the 21st century, had acquired or established licensee agreements with Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Redken, Maybelline, SoftSheen, Carson, Kiehl’s and Matrix.

The current decade has seen continuing acquisitions and geographic expansion, as L’Oréal undertakes socially responsible initiatives and increases its focus on diversity. Among the highlights: taking a majority stake in shu uemura Cosmetics, the namesake of the well-known Japanese makeup artist, and acquiring Yue-Sai Cosmetics, a leading company in China, and The Body Shop, with its commitment to natural ingredients and social responsibility. L’Oréal made what it considers an extremely important addition to its designer portfolio last July in signing a strategic alliance with Yves Saint Laurent, including the purchase of YSL Beauté.

The expansion is paying off: Fifteen years ago, L’Oréal depended on Western Europe for 70 percent of its cosmetics revenue. Today, Western Europe contributes 45 percent, with 23 percent coming from North America and 32 percent from the rest of the world. Its business is increasingly diversified [sales stats…] Even so, geographical balance and brand diversity remain high on the to-do list. The company sees a lot more room for its products in new markets, especially its mass-market brands in emerging countries. [… back to Agon:] “seize all opportunities. [Our] model has to be adapted in a pragmatic way to take into consideration the reality of the crisis. The initiatives we are taking are initiatives that we’ve never taken before, and they are going…to help us adapt, sail through the crisis and pick up again after it.”

limitless expansion: or, the world’s the limit

“Enduring Partnerships: agencies reflect on their L’Oréal experience” section:

JOHN DOONER, Chairman-CEO, McCann Worldgroup: In 1973 we created L’Oréal’s “Because I’m Worth It” campaign, which evolved into “Because You’re Worth It,” which continues today. It’s much more than simply a communications slogan. It embodies the essence of L’Oréal, their commitment to high-quality products and reinforcing women’s confidence in themselves. There are very few long-running campaigns that have that kind of endurance, and those that do are successful at conveying the essence of the brand and the culture of the company and its people. I’m not surprised that “Because You’re Worth It” has enjoyed such a long run, and I’m sure it has many more years ahead of it.

When you have a chance to work with a company that really knows what they are and doesn’t try to be something else, you can do a lot of good things. That’s L’Oréal. They are very confident about the brand, their product offerings and their strong human values.

MAURICE LÉVY, Chairman-CEO, Publicis Groupe: Our relationship with L’Oréal started in the early 1930s with the founder of L’Oréal, Eugène Schueller, and the founder of Publicis, Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet. L’Oréal was at that time a midsize company, and Mr. Schueller was a great entrepreneur and remarkable chemist with a marketing vision. He was a great believer in advertising. With L’Oréal, Publicis has developed numerous memorable campaigns, great creative ideas and many, many firsts.

There follow some “great stories”–interesting choice of terms: given the “great history” of these two companies’ collaboration, and its part in the history of collaboration: 1930s French fascism, the Vichy régime of the early 1940s. All too often swept under the carpet in France, even today; or rewritten and unwritten through relativism and revisionism.

I digress. It’s *just* history; one man’s history, another’s story, history is just stories written by the victors after a conflict, etc.


truth matters


MATT SEILER, Global CEO, Universal McCann: we’ve had a very storied relationship with L’Oréal.

[What is it with stories, history, and their re-integration? I haven’t seen the two terms used so interchangeably since medieval Crusade propaganda, in a period when the two terms–beyond the well-known etymological relationship–are still semantically conjoined.]

During that time L’Oréal has grown from a limited scope of business to encompass almost everything in the women’s beauty space; and we’ve been delighted to grow with them. […] One of the things we’re all really proud of is the work we do for the causes that L’Oréal is committed to. When you are embedded in what it is to be a woman, as L’Oréal is, there are causes you find very natural to support [Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, Points of Light] […] We are always looking for opportunities to extend L’Oréal’s messaging and for synergies from each of our partners to ensure that the effort is organic and beneficial, and matches the passion L’Oréal has for its audience.

TIM JONES, CEO, ZenithOptimedia, North America: […] Beauty is a very elevated territory for a brand to exist in, and L’Oréal treats it with unerring passion.


We’ve moved from a push world of brand launch and awareness to a push-pull world where you also have to engage and involve consumers in the brand story through sponsorship and integration, or through digital programs, where you talk directly to consumers.


An exciting new definition of “ethics” and “culture”:

L’Oréal puts huge store by their ethics—what they describe as the “L’Oréal spirit,” part of which is a commitment to building strong and lasting relationships with suppliers. They really live that. They are committed to enduring partnerships. At ZenithOptimedia we have people who have worked on the account for a long time; they enjoy it and find it rewarding. When you work so closely side by side with a client, it engenders a winning culture.

Next section: “The Beauty of Green”

For real. No kidding. L’Oréal = green.

From earthworm tanks in India to a biofuel plant in Belgium, L’Oréal’s global efforts and long-term plan to decrease its carbon footprint are on track to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste generation by 2015.

The company has long been a supporter of safety, health and environmental issues. L’Oréal introduced its waste and recycling efforts in the late 1980s when it created its first environment department, pioneered by Marcel Lafforgue, former exec VP-operations until 2006. The first research on sustainability and contact with nongovernment organizations that hold com- panies accountable in this area began in the mid-1990s. In 2002, the depart- ment became the sustainable development department. […] In fact, the company was named one of the Global 100 most sustainable companies in the world by Corporate Knights and Innovest for 2008 and 2009. […] L’Oréal aims to fulfill its mission to produce high-quality products in an ethical manner by minimizing its impact on the environment and guaranteeing the safety and health of all of its employees, customers and the communities in which it is located.

Noting: no mention of animal and human–labour, worker, fair/equal trade–rights.

Communication is an important part of L’Oréal’s sustainability strategy as well. [Pierre] Simoncelli [director of sustainable development for L’Oréal] says it’s easy to communicate its conservation efforts to experts because there are key performance indicators that alleviate misunderstanding.
He says it is very important to build credibility with consumers, and L’Oréal has been able to measure consumer response at the brand level.
“There is a real growing demand from consumers for greener products using less—or no—controversial chemicals. Also there is a huge interest in organic ingredients [and] fair trade ingredients. It is a very deep trend, and every year we see the market share of these products increasing.
“To be quite frank, it is not difficult [to make these changes]. The people in the company are absolutely enthusiastic. We all know what’s going on. There are billions of people who [perhaps] won’t have access to clean water. People want to work for a company that is doing the right thing. I don’t believe any normal person wants to work for a company that doesn’t care about the environment.”

“The Beauty of Diversity” section: I’ll cut to the finish, and another exciting new development in ethical theory:

Last year L’Oréal created an internal global diversity council and appointed a diversity executive in South Africa “to lead the charge there,” [Ed] Bullock [VP-diversity & inclusion for L’Oréal USA] says.

“It is important that we all recognize that this is a journey,” he says. “We all can make progress in this area. It is critically important for organizations not only to understand demographic shifts but also to embrace and respect those differences within our demographics as a competitive advantage— which is critical to innovation.”

“The Beauty of Giving”:

The foundation of L’Oréal’s corporate giving is part of its heritage. L’Oréal founder Eugène Schueller was, first and foremost, a scientist. As his company grew, he made it a personal and corporate crusade to use its products to improve personal hygiene in France—even handing out shampoo and soap for Clean Children Days. And he recognized the role beauty specialists could play in effecting social change.

1935: that’s him in the middle. Ah, a man in a lab-coat: scientifically and historically proven to make ladies swoon and believe anything you say. For a more recent example, see L’Oréal collaborations with Grey’s Anatomy and the use of Patrick Dempsey in L’Oréal For Men ad campaigns.

Yes, that’s everyone’s–or, Everywoman’s–favourite Nazi. Talk about “glossing over” and rewriting history… More perversion follows: like we’ve just seen with ethics, everything is a tool at the service of the principal goal: Being Number One. It’s only loosely “ethical” in an “ends justifying means” sense.

L’Oréal’s 100-year history as not only the dominant beauty company in the world but also as a leading corporate citizen in its local markets and on the world stage.

To be fair: L’Oréal’s ends being the justification of Women in Science has produced beneficial results–a case of the ends justifying the means, if L’Oréal becomes the “means” for a woman from the developing world. Five laureates a year, each awarded $100,000; fifteen international doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships a year, in conjunction with UNESCO, plus further national fellowships; the Look Good … Feel Better programmes; Opération Sourire with Médecins du Monde; soup kitchens and hygiene kits for the homeless in France.

“These programs resonate with L’Oréal employees and reflect the values of the company,” [Jennifer] Campbell [L’Oréal director of philanthropy and partnerships and secretary-general of the L’Oréal Foundation] says. “They show that using cosmetics isn’t something meaningless and futile. The way you look is very important. It affects how you feel and how others look at and react to you.

“These programs bring this home in a very serious way.”

the ends justify the means

Image at top: L’Oréal / Advertising Age 

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