NEW YORK — In certain beauty circles, Eric Thoreux is referred to as Coty’s Renaissance man. And the title may just fit the bill: As soon as Thoreux joined the beauty company 10 years ago from Procter & Gamble, he aimed to disassemble its existing workforce to institute a corporate strategy that would be far different from how Coty had ever operated.

Back then, Coty was called Benckiser Beauty, with Coty operating as a division of that company comprising a collection of recently acquired beauty brands with, at most, regional distribution. The company’s strength lay mainly in capturing a trend and translating it into a fragrance. Vanilla Fields, which became one of the successful fragrances of the Nineties, showed how well a trend could be captured in a bottle.

Thoreux’s plan aimed to switch the division’s habit of thinking in this way, and instead build big, strong global brands. He aimed to build teams across the country that would result in long-term brands with clear equities. He wanted these brands to help build their respective categories. He also wanted to inspire the impulse of employees to enter new categories, such as specialty bath, color cosmetics and deodorants and antiperspirants. In inspiring this creativity, he hoped risk-taking and entrepreneurship skills would emerge, giving Coty a competitive edge in understanding lifestyle trends and in partnering with celebrities at the right time.

“Employees were used to working and focusing only on concepts. That had to shift to brand-building,” Thoreux said.

The strategy was a four-year undertaking, and in some cases is still being realized. The refocus included streamlining 15 color cosmetics brands down to three. Rimmel cosmetics, now one of Coty’s top four brands, is still replacing older, smaller lines as it now enters new markets, such as the Netherlands.

Thoreux’s plan affected the entire company’s makeup. Take Coty’s product categories and percentage of sales, for example. Five years ago, approximately 85 percent of Coty North America’s sales were generated from fragrances. Today about 55 percent of sales come from fragrances, while 30 percent is generated by specialty bath and toiletries and 15 percent by color cosmetics.

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