L’Oreal experiments with new marketing model to bring men’s grooming brand to Europe


By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

May 30, 2018 | 5 min read

L’Oreal is bringing its men’s grooming brand Baxter of California from the US to Europe, and in the process is experimenting with a new marketing model for the group.


Baxter of California launches in the UK

The Baxter brand was founded in 1965 and acquired by L’Oreal in 2013. Unusually, rather than being managed independently - and reporting into the CEO - responsibility for the brand was given to the chief marketing officer for L'Oreal USA, latterly Marie Gulin-Merle, but since her departure in February Gretchen Saegh-Fleming now oversees its operations.

Speaking to The Drum, Baxter’s global general manager, Yann Joffredo, described that move as a “bit of a laboratory experiment” for L’Oreal as the CMO took the learnings from running a digital first, direct-to-consumer brand to others across the group.

For L’Oreal, Baxter of California was a brand doing it right. A challenger brand to the likes of Clinique Men and Jack Black in what it dubs a “premium accessible sweet spot,” Baxter is now among the fastest growing grooming brands on the male market in the US. Though Joffredo won’t break out exact figures, he said Baxter sales have grew in the double digits last year and L’Oreal wants to triple the size of the business by 2020.

To do this it needs to expand beyond the US market, where 80% of its turnover is made, and into Europe.

Setting up shop

Taking the West Coast company to the UK will not require a convoluted marketing strategy; Joffredo believes that if it’s to succeed in its ambition to be a global brand, then having a single tone of voice is step one.

“Everything is connected so we’re not going to create a big shift in the UK. We’re just amplifying what’s being done in the US and making sure it resonates here,” he said.

It’s looking to create a “an alternative model” within the L’Oreal group where it will have a regional hubs to represent the whole of Europe, US or Asia but management will still come from its LA headquarters.

“I don’t want to create subsidiaries in every country, it doesn’t make sense when Baxter is mostly digital so we’re trying to create a first in L’Oreal of using UK as a hub for the whole of EU,” he said.

“I’m using H&M or Zara as template; they have a hub that services everywhere in a region. We’re testing that from July this year.”

It will look to make several hires in marketing and PR to fuel this ambition.

Exporting the ‘Cali-cool’ factor

Its expansion plans come at an interesting time in the male grooming market. Earlier this year, Unilever-owned Dollar Shave Club arrived in the UK. The brand's boss told The Drum that - unlike the Baxter approach - it didn't want to "slap the US proposition into the UK market". Instead, it put marketing budget behind a pop up shop in East London, alongside a TV and influencer marketing campaign.

To date, Baxter’s marketing strategy in the US has firmly focused on positioning it as a “lifestyle brand" and this will be what it brings to the UK.

It will continue to invest heavily in digital and content marketing that steers away from focusing too heavily on product, or even beauty as a sector. Its biggest campaign to date is a video series, currently running with the tagline ‘Life Lived True,’ which explores what modern masculinity means through profiles of different ‘creatives’ from Los Angeles.

“From a distribution point of view, it’s very different than [other brands] in the L’Oreal ecosystem. We’ve taken the approach that you want to be where the shopper is, so it’s completely omnichannel with a very smooth online and offline experience.”

It’s working with an agency called Exposure, which counts Adidas among its clients. That it chose an agency with no experience of working with brands in the beauty and grooming sector but has a sports brand on the roster is not coincidental.

“To talk to that generation of young men, you don’t want to talk grooming and beauty. You need to talk lifestyle. It’s really important for us to tell real stories with real people.”

Exporting this strategy across the pond, and eventually into Europe, will now also fall under Exposure’s remit.

“For me it’s important to have one brand, one voice. It’s important to embody California so the content will still be created by Exposure," he said.

Digital will continue to command much of its ad investment. He declined to give exact figures but budgets will be “tripled” this year to fund the expansion.

Collaborations with other companies, such as Levi’s or Bono’s Red charity, have also been a core pillar of the brand’s growth in recent years and in time it will look to forge similar partnerships with European brands.


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