L'Oréal adapts innovation model

27 April 2011

PARIS: L'Oréal, the cosmetics giant, is taking a targeted approach to innovation, reflecting the unique demands of customers across the globe.

L'Oréal invests approximately 3.5% of sales, some €700m, in research and development per year, and around 17% of the 5bn units purchased annually are items rolled out in the last 12 months.

Recent introductions include high-end offerings such as haircare line Elsève Volume, Maybelline's Superstay 24, a lipstick, and the fragrance Acqua di Gioia.

Alongside 18 laboratories focusing on R&D, the firm has 13 "evaluation centres" where it assesses the rituals and routines practiced by consumers.

These hubs house life-size replicas of bathrooms, tailored to match the layouts witnessed in each market, and yielding a view of how shoppers act at home.

The company even has machines allowing it to exactly test new techniques covering all aspects of its product mix, like shampooing and drying hair in a salon, or how seawater impacts beauty goods.

"We ask women to come with their beauty case and we observe," Patricia Pineau, L'Oréal's head of communication for research and innovation, told the Guardian.

Generating insights in this way demonstrated distinctive habits have evolved in different countries.

"A Korean woman uses 23 products and will spend 45 minutes getting ready," Pineau said, incorporating employing eyeshadow to "design a double eye to make eyes look more open."

Similar analysis undertaken in Mexico found women in Mexico City would ground down a contraceptive pill and add the powder to shampoo, which was believed to help hair grow.

This behaviour emerged because hair loss often results from the extreme levels of pollution experienced in the Mexican capital.

"What we do then is to try to come up with a modern alternative to their traditional products and substitute it into their beauty case," Pineau said.

Fairness cream Garnier Men PowerLight has also proved highly popular in India, where male consumers have become an increasingly valuable audience.

Data sourced from the Guardian; additional content by Warc staff