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Alex Keith Succeeds Patrice Louvet at P&G Beauty

Keith will serve as president of the company's global hair-care business and will lead the overall beauty business.

Alex Keith is succeeding Patrice Louvet as the head of Procter & Gamble’s beauty business, WWD has learned.

In her new role, Keith, formerly the president of P&G’s global skin and personal-care division, will now serve as president of global hair care at P&G and will lead P&G Beauty overall, effective next month. Markus Strobel, currently the vice president and brand franchise leader of SK-II, will take over Keith’s current role. Strobel’s successor will be announced at a later date, according to a company spokesperson.

It was announced last month that Louvet would be leaving P&G to become chief executive officer of Ralph Lauren Corp., succeeding Stefan Larsson.

Keith’s promotion is coming on the heels of a reinvigoration of sorts for P&G Beauty, which began with its divestment last year of the bulk of its portfolio — 41 brands went to Coty Inc. for $11.6 billion. What remains is a streamlined proposition of 12 brands falling under four categories — hair care, skin care, personal cleansing and deodorants. There is now a tight focus on P&G’s core brands, including Olay, Pantene, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Vidal Sassoon, Secret, Old Spice, Ivory, Safeguard, Aussie, Rejoice and SK-II.

Reenergizing the core business is already under way, and a main challenge going forward will be mass skin care — particularly Olay — which according to IRI data tracking the last 52 weeks ending May 14, is down in the facial antiaging, cleansers and moisturizers categories. One retailer who spoke not for attribution noted that Keith’s major challenge coming into her new role will be similar to the challenge she’s faced while overseeing the Olay business —  a “changing customer set without innovation or fun for younger customers entering the market.” Olay competitors such as Kao, for instance, have tracked impressive growth this year with trend-driven items like Bioré’s charcoal cleansers. And the same issue is pervasive in mass hair care — the brands driving growth are Garnier Whole Blends, which tout superfood ingredients, SheaMoisture and OGX, both of which are ingredient-driven lines. To that end, Herbal Essences relaunched earlier this year with a tighter focus on good-for-you-ingredients, though it is too early to tell how well it is doing numbers-wise.

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But there have been some wins — Head & Shoulders is up after a new marketing campaign launched in the beginning of the year. Under Louvet, P&G has posted six straight quarters of growth, though much of that success is attributed to SK-II under Strobel’s reign. The brand has seen success here and in Asia, where it originated. “P&G’s beauty business is a bit more streamlined than it was and the results have been a little bit better,” said Stifel analyst Mark Astrachan in an interview with WWD Beauty Inc in April. “It’s not the massive underperformer that it was five years prior to the Coty split, but it’s still not performing as well as it could or should.”