How L’Oreal is balancing data and consumer trust

For L’Oréal USA vp of marketing, Sivonne Davis, data is the most exciting part of the modern marketer’s job — but it begins with trust.

“There is a huge opportunity to have a customized, personalized, data-driven conversation that has to start with trust,” she said.

Davis, who spent 12 years at Kraft Foods on consumer giants like Kool-Aid and came to L’Oreal in 2012, said that there is an art to understanding customer preferences in a real time way.

Digiday’s sister site, Glossy, caught up with Davis at Advertising Week New York on how industries are changing the way they approach business through data-driven techniques, what she’s learned along the way and where she sees brand marketing going in the future.

What do you think the biggest marketing opportunity is right now for L’Oréal USA and across the beauty industry?
It’s not just what’s happening at L’Oréal quite honestly, but across the board more generally — brands need to be able to tap into that digital experience, that unique opportunity to personalize the conversation and create a relationship with their consumer. For us, it’s about how do we connect with our woman in a one-to-one manner, so we’re trying to create a strong story with what engages her through what she has shared with us and connect based upon what our brand truth is.

What do you mean by brand truth?
L’Oréal USA has a number of brands that all have a unique role in the portfolio, but the brand truth overall is about women and empowerment through beauty.

How do you decide if something is more about brand awareness or about an actual sale?
It starts with where the consumer or the potential consumer is on their journey. First of all, you have to think about if they are familiar with the brand: Have they tried the product? Are they positive to the brand? Are they sharing the product with others? Are they recommending it or reviewing it online? And most importantly, are they coming back to you for the product? When we think about these strategies, there has to be a deep understanding of where the customer is in that buying journey and also, you have understand within their profiles what their existing frustrations and needs are that are not being met. Then it’s about what can the brand do for this consumer that addresses those frustrations and needs.

If she is just at the beginning of getting to know your brand, then you may have to funnel more of your efforts to brand awareness and focus dollars and resources there. If she is further along from awareness to actually purchasing and re-purchasing, then we evaluate her and message to her in a totally different way.

You mentioned being respectful — how do you toe the line with marketing and make sure you are being communicative, but also not over communicating?
It’s a fine line. Being data driven is critical to this entire conversation. If your customer is providing data and providing information, she is expecting for a brand to utilize that information. She wants customized content that is about and for her. However, in the same regard, she can limit what she is telling you, so that’s also telling a brand when it is too much and what may be intrusive. Looking at how often she communicates with a brand and leveraging that to your advantage is incredibly important.

We’ve seen somewhat of a resurgence of “brand purpose” with Nike and Colin Kaepernick. How does that work for you?
It comes back to making sure the brand is authentic and real in what it stands for. You also have to show how a brand has committed to a certain cause in the past. You have to think about what the mission or partnership is on both sides and decide on the channels to communicate that — social, product packaging, print, for instance. There is not one way to do it, so you have to have a clear understanding why a brand is taking up a cause in the first place.

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