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L’Oréal Travel Retail Luxe Worldwide’s 2023 Beauty Adventures
Baptiste Beau, GM, Interviewed

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Introduction by: Peter Marshall

You always recognise when sparks fly in any interview you conduct. In Baptiste Beau’s case, it’s only in a highly positive way. His passion for the business oozes out of every pore in his skin and there is little doubt that the 2023 achievements that are laid out in this feature are very significant milestones for the company. And there’s the promise of a lot more to come!

Peter Marshall(PM): Baptiste, I was singularly impressed with the many presentations that L’Oréal Travel Retail gave at the annual media event at TFWA Cannes. You were first up and walked us through your key brands. When we spoke earlier this year you said “wait, there will be significant movement on our brands” and now it’s quite clear that you have delivered. Just take me through them one by one and let’s start with the flagship brand, Lancome.

Baptiste Beau (BB): Thanks Peter. Happy to start with Lancôme. As you know, it’s a brand close to my heart. And it’s the number one brand of our L’Oréal Luxe portfolio – a French brand with a French heritage. And I mentioned the iconic visual that you saw when you entered our exhibition space which showcased the unique collaboration between Le Louvre and Lancôme.

PM: Let’s get to that quite extraordinary project later.

BB: OK. So, what I presented here was interesting because I went through something that goes beyond products, which is the global brand equity. Why? Because a leading brand always needs to be one step ahead, always embracing all of customers’ expectations. And, with that in mind, we decided to reinvent, recreate a new retail expression for the brand. And it’s called ‘Rose Agora’.

PM: It looks fabulous.

BB: Thanks! You can see that we are paying tribute to the emblem of this brand, the rose, that is expressed in a modern way and where we try to also express this combination of heritage and modernity. It’s exciting but challenging also because we need to have one unique voice for the whole brand – through this unique rose pattern. And, at the same time, express each category’s voice. Because we are leaders in skincare, make-up, and fragrances which is, by the way, quite unique in terms of positioning.

And each category has its unique territory. Science and tech for skincare. Make-up is all about innovation, playfulness, colour, impact. And, with fragrances, it’s about elevation and being in tune with its time. There is a notion of culture here that is important to remember.

PM: So, with Rose Agora, are you expecting more retail space to be allocated by the retailers?

BB: Ha, ha!

PM: …or is it going to be replacing other parts of your product portfolio?

BB: No. Rose Agora – it’s about revamping, refitting, modernising our current expression. So, of course we hope, and we aim to convince retailers to give us more space to go through this unique experience. But we’ll also go through the implementation of this new retail expression in the different current spaces that we have.

PM: But it does reignite the brand.

BB: Yes, I really think so. I’m not totally objective because I was part of the creative team when I was working for Lancôme.

PM: Now you just hinted, not so subtly, that there could be something on the fragrance side of Lancome because, as we know, there’s not been much activity on that side since the launch of La Vie Est Belle, which is ten, eleven years old now. So, what can you say about that?

BB: What can I say? First let’s not forget Idôle that was launched a few years ago and managed to be ranked in the Top 20. For La Vie Est Belle, it’s fair to say that you have discovered a brand-new communication with new ambassadors such as Aya Nakamura, the famous urban music French singer and one of the most streamed on Spotify. And through this new communication we also want to show to the world that happiness is even more relevant and important today.

So, in answer to your question: do we have new olfactive initiatives? The answer is yes! But, for me, it will be too narrow minded to only think that fragrance is about new, every time new. I think that fragrance is also about consistency. Only a few great products like La Vie Est Belle can be icons that resonate throughout the years. And that’s very important.

PM: Understood. Let’s go back to what you mentioned earlier, the Louvre project. What does it represent and how is it going to be executed and how meaningful a project is it to the company? 

BB: It’s a first-ever partnership, an unprecedented collaboration between two French icons – the most popular and well-known museum in the world and a leading beauty brand that aims at empowering women. It’s quite important, you know, there is a big cultural resonance behind this. This collaboration pays tribute to our French heritage in a modern way. What is interesting is to have this dialogue, I would say, between art and beauty, with a very powerful statement: beauty is a living art. We really feel that it’s a movement that cannot stand still.

PM: So when will we see the product?

BB: First you will see this new communication everywhere, including the airports of course. For example, if you depart from Charles de Gaulle now, as we speak, you will see these beautiful visuals in the out-of-home media. Second, through amazing animations that you will discover till the end of the year. And, yes, to also answer your question, we have crafted nine pieces of limited editions with them, paying tribute to nine masterpieces of Le Louvre – all with a history behind them and always connected with feminism and inner strength. I can give you an example – the limited edition of Génifique showcases Hygieia. She is the goddess of health and science.

PM: So will this straddle the brand?

BB: The skincare and make-up collection, yes. All have a different look and feel.

PM: It’s an extraordinary move and brilliant in its conception as a marketing move. Is there going to be a price premium attached?

BB: It’s going to be a limited edition, part of a collection, so yes.

PM: This will become collectable.

BB: Exactly.

PM: Let’s move on to YSL. Now, you’ve just introduced a fashion-driven, hot, sexy, iteration for the brand with Austin Butler. And delighted to have had the commercial first featured on trunblocked.com. Give us some background to the product and what your expectations are –  because you’ve already got a huge success story with other fragrance launches, notably Libre and, of course, Prada Paradoxe. Let’s just get to YSL MYSLF.

BB: What I presented is a powerful vision of beauty. It’s about the new facets of masculinity. With MYLSF, YSL opens the way to a new masculine representation. Because, today, being a man is to have the freedom to be yourself. And freedom – as you know – is a YSL matter. Going beyond stereotypes, being able to be whoever you want to be – no matter what!

When we decided for this launch to release this new brand ambassador – Austin Butler – we knew we had the right person: he authentically embodies the new masculinity.

And you have it also even through the olfactive notes. It’s a woody fragrance, but twisted with orange blossom flowers, which is not that common for a masculine fragrance.

PM: It’s a particularly nice fragrance and resonates really well.

BB: True! Our field teams are telling us that it immediately attracts consumers smelling the juice instore. And also because it’s about a fashion brand. We designed a fashion-inspired silhouette for the fragrance and a refillable bottle.

So far, we are more than pleased, we are above expectations with the first weeks of the launch.

But let’s stay very humble: we are building an icon – as we have been doing with LIBRE over the last 4 years. It takes time, not just a few months.

And you will have many opportunities to discover it – there will be many initiatives, many podiums in different airports in the world.

PM: There’s another important development within the YSL brand portfolio, isn’t there? 

BB: Yes, Le Vestiaire des Parfums ! The ‘’haute parfumerie’’ by Yves Saint Laurent. A collection directly connected to the roots and the history of the fashion house. Why? Because we pay tribute to the most iconic pieces of the Saint Laurent wardrobe – Tuxedo, Caban, Saharienne, Trench … each one of them is a duo of iconic ingredients together.

Le Vestiaire des Parfums is a very strategic collection for us, it’s presented globally in our major Yves Saint Laurent beauté counters. A very selective offer for perfume lovers, because we see that our consumers are increasingly “connoisseurs”.

PM: So, moving on, just like YSL, Prada Paradoxe has been a storming success, but here in Cannes we see Prada Beauty for the first time. This is really a radical departure for you.

BB: Yes, definitely! And 2023 is really a new milestone. After fragrances, we want to now rethink makeup and skincare. Let’s just remind ourselves what is the positioning of Prada, the fashion house. First, it’s one of the hottest fashion brands as we speak. Not according to me but according to the Lyst Index. And if we try to summarize the core values of the brand, I would say: sophistication, avant-garde, with a touch of eccentricity. And we had to integrate that in the way that we wanted to develop this new code of beauty, being highly disruptive in our approach.

So, concretely, what does it mean? When it comes to lips and eyes, we really wanted to push self-expression to help explore all the shades of you, thanks to fashion-inspired colors and smart textures inspired by the fashion fabrics.

PM: I think that’s an important point because the colourways are really very different. It’s not just that, it’s the actual physical texture of the lipsticks in particular that stand out. Some feel like leather, even look like leather.

BB: Exactly! And, for foundation and skincare, we are aiming to see skin in general through the lens of adaptation as the new performance. Why? Because we aim at helping skin adapt faster than the environmental changes. With instant and over-time care.

And all this was done with refillable products, which is so important. And not at the expense of the user experience!

PM: But are consumers actually taking to refillable products? Because, you know, they buy the brand, and the refillable product is maybe 15% less in retail terms for them. They are more sustainable for sure, and that’s great of course. But refills cost you money as a business. How do you balance sustainability and profitability?

BB: For me it’s very simple. As a leader, it’s our responsibility to work on the sustainability approach of our products. And it’s also what consumers expect today.We design products that are interesting for the consumers, with the right user experience as I mentioned, and, of course, doing it in the right way for us.

And this journey should be a collective journey. I mean … working with the retailers to develop the refillable business, because it’s important for the impact on the planet.

PM: So the retailers are going to have to create new space for you, for sure.

BB: If you refer to Prada, new spaces are already being created. The first one is in the home of Prada, in Milan Malpensa, with our first Prada Beauty counter in Travel Retail. And it’s just the beginning.

PM: One of the other brands that is showcased here in Cannes is Maison Margiela, which is a brand that is not really talked about a lot, but actually has got a lot of space to grow its own dynamic. Tell us more about the background to this brand and how you see its future in terms of your overall strategy?

BB: Thanks for the question. It’s certainly one of our best kept secrets, but when you look at the figures, Maison Margiela is already experiencing amazing success – especially in Asia. This brand has quite a unique position. And if you refer to the fashion house, what is interesting is that they have been able to design some men and women’s silhouettes in a disruptive way and merging, mixing the codes. And we decided to have the same approach – a sophisticated and disruptive approach in Perfumery –  by creating the ultimate avant-garde exception fragrances with the ‘Replica’ collection.

When you are in front of a counter, it’s self-explanatory, you are directly immersed in something that is related to memories and emotion. We used to say that the Replica fragrances capture memories that we all share.  Each fragrance, with its name: by the fireplace, beach walk … the perfect collection to discover the different facets of your memories and emotions through different locations in the world and through different moments of your life. Hence, very connected with Travels … and each fragrance with exquisite ingredients.

That’s why we are very ambitious in Travel Retail with this brand. And, as I said, it’s already a great success in Asia, with top rankings in the high-end fragrance business.

PM: But it’s selective distribution right now. 

BB: Of course.

PM: You’re obviously looking to broaden the base, to expand the brand’s distribution.

BB: We aim at expanding the brand, but not at the expense of the brand equity. We are quite demanding on what we need to express the brand.

PM: No, not you, surely!

BB: Ha, ha. This brand deserves to be demanding!

PM: So, it’s early days I know, but looking forward to the first and second quarters of 2024, what can we look forward to, what are our expectations to be, because you have a habit of delivering at the back end of the year. What’s going to happen in the first half?

BB: You are very curious Peter! What I can say is that 2024 is going to be a ‘grand cru’ of innovation. We are going to come with many initiatives, many launches as we used to call them, in the different categories and the different brands.

A ‘grand cru’ to keep on leveraging the great and complementary portfolio of brands to address all customers’ needs. With one obsession: beauty for all travelers.

In Skincare, we will rely even more on our advanced science, especially for our iconic franchises, such as Génifique or Clarifique.

In Make-up, the market is bouncing back and needs to be shaken up after few years impacted by COVID, let’s face it. And now people are willing to put colour in their lives even more!

In Fragrance, we will have several initiatives. I just spoke about MYSLF, which has been recently launched, but I also want to mention the premium fragrance category, from Maison Margiela Replica to Armani Privé, to YSL Le Vestiaire des Parfums to name some of them.

2024, like 2023, will be special.

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