Some people take matters at face value, while others carefully consider them in a much broader contextual scope. Vincent Nida belongs to the latter camp.
This story first appeared in the October 14, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Sitting in his office overlooking the Rue Saint-Honoré in central Paris, in the building that was once L’Oréal’s original headquarters, the soft-spoken executive, three years into his tenure as general manager of professional hair-care brand Kérastase, takes a holistic approach.
He has a rich culture to mine. For one, there’s his cross-border experience. The Frenchman lived in Japan for more than a decade, most recently as general manager worldwide for Shu Uemura cosmetics. Nida also snaps photographs, reads avidly and takes in dance performances—among a host of other activities—during his personal time.
They all feed into how he views the world and
his mission to bring 52-year-old Kérastase back to its roots and reestablish what it means to be a 21st- century luxury brand.
How is the salon channel evolving?
Plenty of new initiatives are sprouting here and there, but there is no big, major trend that’s gone worldwide. Even the blow-dry bars are a very American thing. Because it’s a micro-entrepreneurial channel, you don’t see major concepts that roll out around the world.
One trend we see is apartment salons, which are starting to exist a lot in France, for instance. They’re on the second or third floor, and are private and cozy. There are some funky concepts, too, like outdoor salons in Brazil.
More and more, I see new services in existing salons like bun bars or braid bars, as well as an integration of various beauty services. Salons have become a one-stop shop. You can get your nails done, a massage, a facial, sometimes even some light plastic surgery.
We’re also seeing the “Starbucks-style” salons, like in Korea. You can work there, they have a coffee shop. You can spend an afternoon in the salon and at the same time, work. Everybody is connected 24/7 and multitasks, so being able to do various things during one period of time is a major requirement from the consumer.
What are the biggest challenges?
I see more opportunities than challenges, because hair is really perceived as a very important element of women. But at the same time, the hair-care beauty market is still underdeveloped. It doesn’t come top of mind to say, “I should go and get a hair treatment.” We have to explain and show better what can be done. There are amazing professionals in the salons who really know hair, and that is undermarketed and undercommunicated.
There is also a lot that can be done to o er a better retail experience in salons. Today salons focus much more on the service part than on the afterservice, which retail hair care is about.
[Another] challenge is the transformation of the distribution. Between the salon, online, the Sephoras and Ultas, you see a lot of new retail channels that are growing. It’s a challenge for salons because they don’t really know how to cope with it. We have to help them keep their edge and difference.
There are also a lot of new things that will disrupt the salon industry. Glamsquad or Priv—all these on-demand beauty services—are examples, because people want to be able to have [services] whenever they want, wherever they want.
Kérastase sees itself as a facilitator. We are here to help the entrepreneurs and support those who have great ideas, to help them go further and expand, and also help the ones who are struggling to adapt.
How are people evolving in terms of what they are looking for and how they buy?
What is evolving is our customer’s expectations in their relationship with the brand. There’s a lot of love around Kérastase. If you go on our Instagram account, people say, “You’re amazing, you’re fantastic. You make my day every day.” There is something very emotional in the relationship that consumers have with the brand. In return, they expect that we give them as much attention, that we have a much more authentic and closer relationship. That’s very much the spirit of the new way we speak. We want to be very personal.
In the way they expect the brand to communicate, there is a need or an expectation for more authenticity, maybe something a bit less dramatic. Women today expect to see something a bit more real…something that’s closer to who they are.
How is Kérastase building its social media platforms?
We don’t see [social media] as being a mass diffusion of a lot of things. It is a way to interact in a closer way with our audience, who is looking for content and wants to know what’s happening behind the products and the brand. We aren’t trying to get millions of followers whose questions we won’t be able to answer when they ask. We prioritize quality over quantity and engagement over reach.
We still have a long way to go in the use of social media. We are not on all [platforms]. There is a lot of work to do in terms of consistency of the image we project, tone of voice, the way we answer questions. We are doing it in a very progressive way because we want to make it right. A lot of the work is really listening, answering all the comments or queries that we have and learning from that what the interests of our consumers are, then creating the content that’s going to make them happy.
What works well on social media for the brand and why?
It’s not always consistent. What has worked amazingly well is the “hair language” campaign, because it’s something that women can relate to. It’s authentic. It wasn’t just a marketing idea.
Every time we post a product in a nice environment it’s successful and generates some conversation. It is very di cult to predict what’s going to be successful. You just have to always be on the watch, and you have to listen and be very humble because it’s always surprising. There is no magic recipe.
How is Kérastase’s retail strategy evolving, and what is its potential?
The sky is the limit because even though Kérastase is the biggest professional hair-care brand in the world and growing every year, when I look at the units sold per salon there is much more that we can do.
When I see our results in travel retail, basically [we’re] selling in one day in one store what we would sell in a month and a half or two months in a salon.
We will keep working with the salons to help them make their space a much more interesting retail environment. There is a huge opportunity for salons. They have to grab it and we have to help them grab it before the retail starts moving somewhere else.
What geographies hold the most growth potential?
The U.S. and Asia, and Africa, too. In the U.S. we still have a very small footprint compared to the size of the market. We are in an exclusive distribution, and even sticking just to the very top of the top salons we still have a lot where we can go. Asia is just such a big market. India is developing at incredible speed—you have a huge population and the luxury market is progressively emerging. Even if you touch 0.1 percent of the population, the 0.1 is growing every year. And it’s from 0.1 to 0.2 on a growing basis, so it’s exponential what you can do. In China, the sky is the limit. And Africa, we’re just going to start. It’s still an untouched market.
How do you glean inspiration for your work?
I’m like a sponge. I get it from everywhere. It can come from going to the opera and seeing ballet. It can come from my daughter commenting on something. It can come from my wife, from reading. It’s [about] just keeping your eyes open. I am always on the watch. I don’t shut any doors. I really value and enjoy diversity—of country of origin, race, sexual preference, gender. People are what inspire me most.
What drives you?
At the end of the day it is trying to do good in whatever I do, making sure that it’s going to make a difference in people’s lives. It can be a small difference…it’s better to have a small contribution than none.
I like things done well. I am a perfectionist, so when I start something, or if I recruit someone, I feel that I have a responsibility in making sure that they’re happy and giving them the right advice if they’re not.
Of course I’m ambitious, of course I am happy when I get promoted, of course it’s exciting to get a new challenge. But it’s even more exciting when you see people who you worked with and trained or coached and you see them grow. It’s like, “Wow, I contributed to that.” When you see them being happy, it’s fantastic.