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Coty Moves With the Pace of Change

Beauty firms today are challenged with an "unprecedented level" of behavior change between younger and older generations.

Coty wants to “challenge every major status quo,” when it comes to digital, according to Jason Forbes, chief digital and media officer at Coty Inc.

“When we think about our mission, it’s to celebrate and liberate the diversity of your beauty…in digital, it’s using that purpose and understanding and what that means in terms of infinite choice. Obviously with digital, being able to personalize nearly everything allows us to reimagine what diversity means for every single consumer in the marketplace,” Forbes said.

Simply put, Coty’s goal, in addition to becoming the global leader in beauty, is to use digital to personalize every aspect of the customer’s shopping journey.

“That sounds like a very bold statement,” said Forbes. “I want to unpack it for a second.”

He wants to move away from stereotypes and norms, and one of the ways Coty has begun to do that is by better understanding what the consumer needs. He admitted that many large beauty companies have not had direct relationships with consumers because historically, these large organizations “aren’t wired the right way” and aren’t equipped with the know-how to communicate with shoppers on an ongoing basis.

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He cited an “unprecedented level” of behavior change between generations — from his mother to his digitally native young son — that are driving a sizable group of companies to experience a brand volatility that never existed before.

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“In 10 years’ time, 40 percent of companies on the S&P 500 will no longer exist, based on historical data that we’ve seen so far. The pace of change has never been greater. The level of brand volatility has never been greater. It terrifies us and fascinates us — the idea of brand irrelevance,” said Forbes.

He noted that a one-size-fits-all approach to business will continue to fail, and many companies are able to cope with the level of change they’re being confronted with in terms of customer behavior.

“The companies that are doing best and taking consumer data and turning it into behavior insights are outperforming peers by 85 percent in sales and 25 percent in gross margin,” Forbes pointed out.

For him, harnessing consumer data means Coty and its portfolio of brands becoming less reliant on “old school” channels. An example he gave was Beamly, a data-driven, digital marketing and technology agency acquired by Coty two years ago (Forbes was the chief executive officer of Beamly before the acquisition) that’s helped in providing insights with respect to understanding consumer needs and behaviors. Forbes maintained that this data has helped Coty create targeted content and messaging.

“We can test different images and different videos with different consumers to make sure it resonates with consumer and audiences in that markets. That’s what it’s all about; it’s taking consumer data or insight and using it to inform the types of creative, the types of content, video, and imagery we develop…and use that to inform the types of media we activate,” Forbes said.

With Beamly, it’s active across all major channels on social — including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and programmatic as well. From here, that data and customized content is taken and activated on platforms where she “spends her time.” And if this is done well, Forbes contended, the result is a qualified audience that stems from reaching the right consumer with the right content on the right platform coming to both one’s own brand and retailer sites.

It’s also complemented a traditional, physical in-store retail channel with digital channels, and the power of the latter, according to Forbes, is that it can offer a far richer selection of choice in content and products across online and digital. This allows for far greater interactivity than was previously possible.

As a company, Coty and its brands are getting “smarter and smarter” at connecting these dots, which also unlades a four-pillar model of sensing (“All around better understanding the consumer”), storytelling (“All around the creative”), surrounding (“All around the media”) and selling (“All around omnichannel”).

Forbes then turned his attention to augmented reality.

He believes this to be one of the biggest “fails to date” because of the friction it’s created. A number of augmented reality apps have failed to meet expectations, Forbes noted, crediting disappointment in the space a result of brands expecting customers to download an app for one brand.

“Sephora is hugely successful but brand specific apps most typical fail. You’re asking consumers to do too much,” said Forbes, offering up creating mobile-based augmented reality experiences as a solution because consumers don’t need to download an app. “Lets do away with the app graveyard.”