L’Oréal: Cooking up a storm
When “Team Epicphany”, comprising of Singapore Management University (SMU) students Jessica Lim, Tan Li Tong and Sharon Li, was unveiled as national champions at the 2016 L’Oréal Brandstorm finals in Singapore, it earned the right to pit its combined wits against representative teams from around 46 countries in Paris this month.
This year’s Brandstorm event, partnering with French pharmaceutical brand La Roche-Posay, asked participating teams to entice a new generation of consumers aged between 15 and 25 with an international recruitment blueprint, based entirely on digital channels.
Team Epicphany eventually came out tops from a pool of 132 students across 44 teams in Singapore.
The story behind L’Oréal Brandstorm
Roshni Wadhwa, HR Director of L’Oréal Singapore, says L’Oréal Brandstorm is an innovative and strategic recruitment initiative dedicated to spotting and selecting the best marketing talent available. Student-teams work on a given business challenge from a L’Oréal brand or distribution channel with guidance from the company’s executives.
Having been launched in 1992, Brandstorm has been running for 15 years in Singapore and has since attracted the participation of over 4,000 young talents.
“Throughout the competition, Brandstorm allows us to have a thorough, on-the-job evaluation of participants in order to identify and recruit young, marketing talents who are able to bring passion and innovative ideas into the company,” explains Wadhwa.
“It is a key pillar to our business strategy worldwide as it builds our reputation as an employer and provides a source of young, creative talents who nourish the business.”
Wadhwa says it is these talents who have enabled L’Oréal to grow into the largest beauty company in the world. They have also helped build its reputation for ethics and innovation.
“Our numbers speak for themselves – in 2015, we reported €22.5 billion (US$25.2 billion) in sales, plus 12.1% sales growth and €4.4 billion (US$4.9 billion) of operating profit,” she highlights.
Across the world, Wadhwa says between 150 and 200 Brandstorm participants are recruited each year for internships and full-time positions.
“In Singapore, we often recruit Brandstorm finalists into our local Management Trainee programme, with a handful of them having gone on to build international careers within the group,” she explains.
The mechanisms behind Brandstorm
According to Wadhwa, the Brandstorm journey has a global standard framework.
“The idea is to have a fair competing ground across the countries,” she says.
Every year, L’Oréal’s International team in Paris develops a unique business case study centred on one of L’Oréal’s international brands or distribution channels.
Teams of three are challenged to devise a thorough business strategy, taking into consideration all commercial aspects.
“Depending on the business case study, these may include the development of a product concept, design packaging, service models, distribution channels, and identification of key competitors,” explains Wadhwa. The teams are also expected to outline consumer expectations, needs, usage habits, and trends.
In Singapore, the organisation partners with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS) and SMU.
“Students from these universities are invited to apply in teams of three. The teams then go through a qualification round followed by a semi-final round within their campus. The winning team from each campus is then invited to compete at the Brandstorm National Finals,” she explains.
Wadhwa says this year’s challenge was based on real-life business issues involving digitalisation.
“It is well-known that the world is quickly becoming a digital one. The weight of digital in our 2015 sales was incredible – €1.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) or 5.2% of L’Oréal’s consolidated sales came from e-commerce,” she elaborates.
“Today, there are over 4.5 billion beauty queries on Google each year, over 15 billion views of beauty on YouTube per quarter, and over 160 million addressable beauty ‘addicts’ on Facebook.”
Wadhwa says teams were tasked to develop a digital recruitment strategy that would help the La Roche-Posay brand realise its key vision - to have at least one La Roche-Posay product in every home.
Scouting for talent
Due to the duration of the competition – it takes around six months from registration to the international finals in Paris – Wadhwa says Brandstorm allows the company to have a thorough, on-the-job evaluation of all participants.
“We frequently recruit not only from the winning team, but any student whom we feel has the right talent, qualities and fit for L’Oréal,” she states.
“This is a key objective of Brandstorm – to spot marketing talent in the journey.”
Moreover, Wadhwa stresses that the competition provides students with “a best-in-class platform to turn theory into practice”.
“Through the six-month journey, students are given the opportunity to work on real challenges and to experience state-of-the-art business and marketing thinking, including the latest trends in digital and retail. They take on the role of international managers in the world’s leading cosmetics company,” she says.
Just as importantly the students are able to experience life in L’Oréal through the competition, and are attracted by the thrilling experience and culture of excellence.
Brandstorm challenge in 2016
Teams in the 2016 L’Oréal Brandstorm competion were asked to analyse opportunities in the health and dermo-cosmetic (skincare) market. They had to consider the consumer path, online services and purchase channels, and plan online communications campaigns in line with the La Roche-Posay brand’s strong commitment to offering a better life for all types of sensitive skin.
“This year marks a new era for Brandstorm,” said Vincent Ong, General Manager of Corporate Affairs and the Professional Products division of L’Oréal Singapore.“The students were challenged to be more digital, more social and more entrepreneurial, and the results were impressive.”