L'Oréal is building a marketing team for specialist marketers rather than ‘jack of all trades’

L’Oreal is building a marketing team for specialist marketers rather than ‘jack of all trades’.

Marketers of the future will not only need to be a specialist in their field but they will also play a critical role in connecting the dots throughout the organisation, argues L'Oréal's brand boss in the UK.

It’s a view that goes against the popular notion that marketers must be more like Swiss army knives with a rounded set of skills. Yes, a generalist is indicative of the need for a breadth of digital experiences but marketers cannot be “jack of all trades” anymore, claims the cosmetic giant’s chief marketing officer in the UK and Ireland Hugh Pile.

So much so that L'Oréal is reorganising its marketing team around specialists who work together and integrate with the business. Several months in and the business is already benefiting from a leaner, faster and more agile marketing department, claims Pile. “It’s given my guys more empowerment,” he says ahead of his appearance at today’s (8 March) ISBA conference. “It’s still early days but we’re already seeing people from the team say ‘I know clearly where my role stops and someone else’s stats. And that sense of moving away from a jack of all trade notion to specialists that collaborate has liberated them in their roles.”

Roles have and are being reassessed and reallocated, whether that's CRM, social media, data or even AI, something Pile likens to rebuilding the marketing department “from scratch”. Having that clarity has allowed his team to develop L'Oréal's first chat bot, which will offer women the sort of service they’d normally get from its customer care line. Due soon, the AI will run alongside the company’s live chat and telephone services as well Facebook Messenger.

“We brain-dumped everything a modern marker would need to do but made sure there were no constraints to what that is so in the case of AI we asked where would it sit and felt customer care was a marketing skillset and so put that on the table,” he explains. “We then started to reallocate that around where we felt it should be bucketed and that then ultimately led us to a place where we started to form up clarity on those roles and responsibilities.”

Being able to track performance across these roles is just as important as having them. Rather than expect each marketer to be able to master one of the myriad of marketing platforms at L'Oréal's disposal, it has built its own tool to “clarity the KPIs that certain marketers will live and die by”. Pile calls it the “visualisation portal” that sits over every single one of “these quite complicated tools” the business employs and can “visualise” what’s relevant for that individual.

“Finally technology is allowing us to harness the complicated and view it in a simple fashion and that’s when the marketers really fly,” he explains as to how the initiative stems from its redefinition of roles. “They’ve always been good at analysiing data but what haven’t been able to do is aggressively train every single person on the tools and tech needed to truly understand what’s going on.”

For example, a social media manager at the business might have KPIs like ‘what is my share of all earned mentions online against my top 100 influencers’. The tool then plugs into the data spewing from the various social networks it's on and shows L'Oréal's share of earned mentions on a pie chart. Much like a “market share report”, the document lets marketers see what posts or what influencers were driving that score that day, week, or month – “a very user-friendly way of getting under the skin of digital e-commerce”.

Far from diminishing the role of marketing generalists, Pile’s approach champions clarity of responsibilities within one of the fastest moving departments in any business. “We’re realising that you need a level of specialism to collaborate effectively in a fluid organisation that allows collaboration to produce the best results,” explains Pile. “It’s a very different way of thinking as a marketer and brings with it new challenges to autonomy, empowerment, roles and responsibilities and more.”

Mindful that a focus on specialists could push people further down careers they may not want, Pile argues that the structure at L'Oréal can adapt to the individual. “What’s critical along with someone’s career path is that you recongnise that you don’t just drive someone down on specialism or down a single path with no exit,” he says. “Actually you upskill through collaborating with other parts of the business…you ensure that everyone continues to learn and continuously grow so that they can move their careers in new directions rather becoming potentially just another SEO specialisim.”

Marketers have been asking themselves ‘what should I do’ since the dawn of their discipline. The dilemma has only intensified in recent years because there are so many subsets of marketing. Specialising can help propel an individual to new roles but the more senior jobs will require a broader skillset as Pile demonstrates. The former Diageo marketer talked at length to The Drum about some of the industry’s most pressing issues, spanning viewability to online media transparency, showing his ability to take a broader view of the discipline.

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