Interview to Erin Cast – Marketing Director at L’Oreal Paris
Brief Profile: After completing her MBA at the McCombs School of Business in 2003, Erin Cast worked as Assistant Marketing Manager and then as Associate Product Manager at Frito Lay. Recently, she was promoted to Marketing Director at L’Oreal Paris where she has been working since March 2006. She has vast experience in Brand management, Consumer insights, innovation, advertising, portfolio strategy.
What are you accountable for in your organization? What are those specific activities or tasks associated with your job?
As a marketing director on the L’Oreal Paris skincare team, I am responsible for developing innovation, advertising, and support plans behind the Revitalift and Age Perfect brands. My key accountabilities include developing an innovation vision that is aligned with our global innovation team, leading advertising development and testing across both new launches and our base business, partnering with our consumer insights team to identify new opportunities and validate launches, and collaborating with our sales planning team to activate in-store. In addition, I lead a team of 5 marketers across the Revitalift and Age Perfect teams.
Which skills do you consider are the most important for a successful career in marketing?
I think that different skills become more important as you develop your marketing career. As an assistant or associate manager, it is critical to have well-developed project management skills, including the ability to effectively manage a cross-functional team and actively manage a timeline, as well as strong analytical and organizational skills. As a manager and senior manager, it is important to develop creative, insights development, and presentation skills, while also learning how to become an effective people manager. At the director level, developing a vision, motivating a team towards a common goal, and creating an environment that stimulates creativity is critical to success. Across all levels, a passion for the products that you are marketing is a key element of becoming a successful marketer.
From your experience at L’Oreal, how would you characterize the consumer behavior of women? How has it been changing recently?
Due to my focus on anti-aging skincare products, my consumer target includes primarily Boomers. As our consumers age, they tell us that they feel 10-15 years younger than their actual age. In addition, they think that diet, sleep, reduction of stress, and exercise can improve the way they look and feel, but they do not always have the time or the willpower to follow a strict diet, sleep, and exercise regimen. These consumers are inundated with advertising messages and have a high level of skepticism regarding product claims. As a result, they are seeking product validation through sampling, recommendations from friends, and unbiased product reviews.
One of the key changes among women in their 40’s and 50’s is that their attitude toward aging is much more positive than their mother’s attitude was toward aging. This is the first generation of women who feel good about reaching their 40’s and 50’s, and these women are surprised when the way that they look doesn’t match the way that they feel. They are seeking “peak” experiences, and the benefits and process associated with using a product are more important to them than the material aspect of owning a product. These women are much more likely to work than their mothers were, and they have higher disposable income than previous generations. In addition, because women are having children at an older age, many women are both raising children and caring for aging parents at the same time.
How do you think these changes will affect current marketing strategies of companies targeting women? How have these changes impacted L’Oreal’s marketing plans specifically?
I think that the changing attitude toward aging has had a powerful impact on innovation and marketing communication targeted at Boomers. The number of products addressing the needs and wants of Boomers has increased dramatically over the past 5 years. The tone of communication is more positive and empowering, and magazines such as More have successfully grown while targeting the specific interests of women 40+. In addition, spokeswomen over 40 are used more frequently to support brands targeting a broad age target. Madonna has been a spokesperson for H&M, Mia Farrow has been featured in recent Gap ads, and Sharon Stone represented Christian Dior.
L’Oreal has addressed the changing needs of the aging population by launching innovation that specifically addresses the needs of the Boomer population. We launched Age Perfect Pro-Calcium and Age Perfect foundation in 2006 to meet the needs of women with mature skin, including restoring radiance, hydration, and support to the skin. The textures of the products are very luxurious and the packaging has a premium look to meet the desire of our target consumers for a superior product experience. We also signed Diane Keaton as a spokesmodel in 2006, and advertising featuring her across our skincare, cosmetics, and hair color businesses has been tremendously successful.
What would you recommend to an MBA student that is about to start a career in marketing?
I would recommend that an MBA student who is about to start a career in marketing attend company presentations, conduct thorough research on-line, and reach out to alums to gain a better understanding of the culture and key differences among different companies as well as different marketing roles. In addition, I would recommend that they tailor their resume to highlight skills applicable to a marketing position, including project management skills, analytical skills, experience managing a team, and experience identifying an opportunity or growing a business.
Prior to completing an MBA at McCombs, I would highly recommend taking a marketing strategy, marketing communication, innovation, and consumer insights class to gain a broad understanding across marketing. In addition, the entrepreneurship classes offered at McCombs really helped develop my approach to identifying an opportunity and growing a business, key skills necessary to become a successful marketer. Finally, I would recommend that they start reading Adage, Brandweek, the Wall Street Journal, and www.gmasmartbrief.com to stay up-to-date on recent innovation, key trends, and advertising and marketing campaigns.