View from the C-Suite: Yves Rocher celebrates 60 years of clean beauty

The global beauty co.'s general manager of North America talks about celebrating the past while building a brand for the future.

Photo_Nathalia del Moral Fleury
The beauty industry in Canada, and around the globe, has undergone a major makeover in recent years.

The rise of young direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, from Glossier to Fenty Beauty to Kylie Cosmetics, that have reached millennials and Gen Zers where they are (on their phones) has meant older beauty brands have had to up their game to stay in the game.

Yves Rocher was started by its namesake in 1959 in northwestern France, and has grown into a global family-run company with 10 main brands, more than 600 million products sold annually and revenue of approximately $3.7 billion in 2017, according to its website.

Here in Canada, the beauty brand has about 60 stores, and in a similar vein to DTC upstarts, it also does most of its business online these days, says Nathalia del Moral Fleury, general manager of Yves Rocher North America. And like other legacy beauty brands, it’s moving away from mailing out as many print catalogues as it used to, she says, adding that it now chooses a mix of digital and physical channels for its customer outreach.

Earlier this year, Yves Rocher Canada posted a one-minute video on YouTube for its 60th anniversary, asking viewers to: “(Re)discover our brand’s signature values,” which it says revolves around promoting “authentic, compassionate, ethical beauty.” The video portrays a range of women from different ethnic backgrounds and ends with the tagline: “Act Beautiful.” Celebrating diversity in its ads, as many other beauty brands do these days (including M.A.C., Estee Lauder and even retailer Sephora), is intentional as the brand aims to reflect the diverse beauty of Canada’s population, says del Moral Fleury.

Strategy spoke to the general manager about how Yves Rocher is celebrating its 60th year in business this year, while also looking toward the future.

The Yves Rocher brand is 60 this year. How are you modernizing your brand for the next generation?

This is a big part of our challenge, but because we’re a brand that’s affordable we have a pretty good relationship with young clients… Younger people opt for the Yves Rocher brand because we are accessible, so they can afford their first lipstick, their first mascara, their first skincare product; so we have that good relationship. [Ed note: A tube of Yves Rocher's Rouge Vertige Lipstick Satiny, for example, sells for $18, placing it between brands like Cover Girl, which sell lipsticks for under $10, and luxury lipsticks like Chanel's lipstick, which often cost north of $40 each.] But what we’ve been working on is being more accessible through the channels millennials and Gen Zers [are] on, so being more in social media, being on Instagram, using influencers and making everything quicker, faster, easier… The goal is to go at the pace that the market is evolving.

Clean beauty is very trendy these days, but that seems to be part of Yves Rocher’s DNA?

Yes, clean beauty has been the essence of the brand since it started 60 years ago  it was about reconnecting humans with nature, so bringing women closer to the ingredients that could make you feel healthier and feel better, and it’s more and more important to do it these days since our lives are always changing and becoming more stressful. So we’re pushing and being very focused on our main essence, and keeping the focus on our health and our well-being. This is something that Yves Rocher himself was interested in well before it was trendy. When he started the company he was really connected with nature and had lived in the wood[s]; and he wanted to bring this to his company and we still do that through our products, but also through our services by always being connected to our clients.

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Yve Rocher recently participated in the Lolë White Tour in Montreal. Why did you use that event to bring the clean beauty and wellness messaging to life?

It was the first year we did this big event. We’re reinvesting in looking for events that are related either to well-being or woman empowerment that we can sponsor and be a part of, therefore the Lolë White Tour made a lot of sense because they have a great story about making yoga more accessible and taking the time to breathe and enjoy the moment. We helped by doing skin analysis for all the people who wanted to live that experience. If you have good skin and you treat it well, you will be healthier and feel better.

This interview is part of a series for Strategy C-Suite, a weekly email briefing on how Canada’s brand leaders are responding to market challenges and acting on new opportunities. Sign-up for the newsletter here to receive the latest stories directly to your inbox every Tuesday.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.