Canada’s art and fashion forays influence HQ’s global style

'Canada is a great country for testing new things,' says Dominique De Celles, who's VP and CMO for L'Oréal Canada - and, in fact, the only CMO worldwide. De Celles has been with L'Oréal since 1985 and CMO since the position was created a year and a half ago, and reports directly to the president of L'Oréal Canada, Javier San Juan.

‘Canada is a great country for testing new things,’ says Dominique De Celles, who’s VP and CMO for L’Oréal Canada – and, in fact, the only CMO worldwide. De Celles has been with L’Oréal since 1985 and CMO since the position was created a year and a half ago, and reports directly to the president of L’Oréal Canada, Javier San Juan.

It seems testing new things is what De Celles does best. With Best of Show and Media Sponsorship wins from the Sponsorship Marketing Awards for the brand’s 360° approach to L’Oréal Fashion Week freshly tucked into the trophy case, De Celles explains why Canada is leading the charge at L’Oréal worldwide.

Luminato is an example. ‘Being linked with a festival of arts and creativity is entirely new for us,’ she explains. ‘At this stage, the [rest of the corporation] is looking at what Canada is doing in terms of arts and culture. This is a potential new platform for other countries to associate themselves with a property, where the model [allows us] to activate several of our brands [at once]. And frankly, that’s countercultural to L’Oréal.’

In fact, De Celles and her team were faced with questions as to whether this was a good fit for a corporation that is extremely sensitive to each of its brands’ individual positioning, marketing and distribution strategies. As such, she says, ‘The [L'Oréal] group is looking at this property, watching the results and how we’ll be able to build our brands in the Toronto market.’

As against the grain as it may appear to be at first, Luminato is a natural fit for the L’Oréal corporate brand. De Celles says that’s because of ‘an alignment of values. It’s a celebration of arts and creativity, and creativity is a key word that completely resonates with us. Because Luminato is all about the diversity of the city, the artists and accessibility, and we are aligned with that.’

With the partnership now in its second year, De Celles is looking to deepen the company’s relationship with the 10-day annual fest. Last year, 1.1 million people attended Luminato – and the 10 L’Oréal brands that participated in the festival nabbed the opportunity to reach scores of potential new customers.

To attract even more festival-goers (young ones too), this year’s festival sees a multi-channel approach involving heftier participation in online social networking groups like Facebook, YouTube, Blogger and MySpace. There’s also a mobile component consisting of alerts, contests and interactive voice recordings designed to bring the various installations to life.

Those involved in this year’s Lancôme photo exhibit have certainly contributed to the networking aspect. It’s also a good example of how the brands tie programs into festival content. To celebrate the city’s artists, designers, musicians and more, Lancôme worked with French artist Pierre Maraval to create Toronto’s Mille Femmes, a photo exhibit capturing 1,000 Toronto-based creative women.

‘It’s all about the network of human landscape and the connection between individuals,’ explains Caroline Fraser, communications manager for the brand. ‘We approached 500 women in Toronto, and they had to then approach a protégé to join them.’ Fraser says the project was a symbolic passing of the torch from one generation of female artists to the next. Lancôme will be donating $10,000 to the Ontario College of Art & Design in their honour.

Prior to sitting for a portrait with Maraval, each of the women had the opportunity to interact individually with the brand at a Lancôme makeup station. Mille Femmes participants included design guru Lynda Reeves, former

governor-general Adrienne Clarkson, brand spokesmodel and GTA native Daria Werbowy and actor Cynthia Dale, among others.

To prolong the brand experience, the participants each received a gift card driving them to Holt Renfrew on Bloor for a skin care product sample and consultation, as well as another gift card to purchase products online at lancome.ca. Online executions include a dedicated microsite on lancome.ca and another page on the festival site that will drive users to the microsite. There were video clips revealing ‘making-of’ footage at the event, as well as banners and signage. And while the photo participants were immersed in Lancôme product – and may well become brand ambassadors – overall the approach was to keep things relatively understated.

‘It’s a work of art that we’re supporting,’ says David Aubry, interactive marketing manager for Lancôme. ‘We want the women to be the focus, so we don’t want to be too prominent. When you see the logo for the exhibit, you’ll see the Lancôme rose. So while [the brand presence] is there, it’s subtle.’

It’s likely Luminato’s diversity that drew De Celles to the property in the first place. The festival enables L’Oréal to showcase each of its brands in a relevant way, as it does with L’Oréal Fashion Week. That initiative helped cement the link between fashion and beauty for the other subsidiaries across the globe.

In fact, De Celles says L’Oréal’s fashion and beauty connection ‘is now a worldwide directive from the international marketing group out of Paris. And they’re using Canada as the model for best practices.’

To further leverage her unique role here in Canada, De Celles is currently looking to establish internal learning forums for the various marketing teams, so that they can share the best practices of each brand.

The next frontier for De Celles is a CRM project. ‘Right now, all of our initiatives are very brand specific,’ she says, ‘and we’re looking at ways to be more intelligent in how we communicate with our customers.’

After all, there are those scientific roots to live up to. PW