Nathalie Gerschtein took on her current role as President of L’Oréal Consumer Products Division in March 2019, about a year to the day the nation became impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, Nathalie was President of Maybelline New York, Garnier and essie in the U.S., a position she held since August 2018. Nathalie started her career with L’Oréal in France in 2002 as Marketing Director for L’Oréal Paris. Over the years, she held roles that saw her lead marketing for Garnier in the European Zone; oversee L’Oréal Paris and Garnier brands as General Manager in India; and from 2015 to 2018 Nathalie served as Country Manager for L’Oréal Thailand. Here, Nathalie talks about the rise of DIY, the Mascara Index and the four guiding principles that is getting her team through this crisis.

Our brands went from being fast to very fast to meet the new needs of our customers. The consumer has always been at the heart of everything we do, and at the beginning of this crisis, the first thing our brands did was ask them what they wanted to hear from us. It became clear that they wanted to see beautiful content, makeup tutorials and access to education. We mobilized very quickly to provide the right content at the right time in the right places so that we could show up where our consumer needs us. Of course, we have a lot of content, but not all of it was relevant during this period, and we’ve been able to create newness in a very scrappy way. We even had some of our celebrity ambassadors produce content. You might have seen the video of Eva Longoria coloring her hair on her phone at home. That was her idea.

The fundamental need for hair color, from covering gray to creating individual expression, was clearer than ever. As a result, hair color is at an all-time high, and as the leader of the category, we are of course benefiting from it. We are also busy giving our new at-home hair color consumers the education and guidance they need. That is our priority. For the new at-home color consumer, doing this at home can be very intimidating, but we are giving them reassurance and making their hair color journey successful.

At the very beginning of this extraordinary time, I told the team that we have four guiding principles to lead us through this. The first is to keep up spirits and to stick close with each other. The second is to focus on what will make an impact, which includes what our consumers really need right now and how we can deliver on that. The third is that especially during this unprecedented situation, time beats perfection in our ability to pivot our plans. This has been tough for us, in a good way, because we are used to having everything perfect. But now, we see that if something is 95 percent to where it needs to be, we go with it. The last one is we are in this together and hold (virtual) hands.

Some of my most memorable moments over the past months is the humanity of our team and the fact that they have been able to come together in such a strong way. It happens every day, all day, whether it’s a virtual meeting, or if we are just there for one another. And, I am so very proud of our Garnier brand which has produced 2 million hand sanitizers for front line workers in the areas of the country that are most impacted.

I’m lucky to have a very strong management committee who has been able to cascade our transformations very quickly. Our team has check-ins several times a week and if anything, this crisis has brought us closer. It’s been a very intimate way to work together. I’ve met husbands, wives, partners, babies, and pets. Meetings have been from bedrooms and kitchen tables. We are respectful of personal commitments too, including our team members who are parents like myself. Like everyone, lately I have a lot of screen time; the same for my daughter. I think that’s the new normal for now. The concept of multi-tasking has taken on a new meaning. So, we encourage our employees to block out personal time throughout each day.

The Consumer Products Division is the biggest division of L’Oréal USA in the biggest market in the world. Yet, we’ve been efficient, nimble, and we have been able to keep up and act quickly to meet the ever-changing needs of our consumers. That is what makes me most proud.

We are learning every day about consumer habits and the categories they are engaging with, including skin care, hair color and nail, which have taken root in the new normal. We are very much in tune with the ‘conference call look’ as work-from-home makeup is the new conversion category. To that end, we are seeing a shift in products that hide fatigue and provide a healthy look, like with concealer, for example. Maybelline New York Instant Age Rewind Concealer is the number-one seller in America. Consumers are also looking for hydration benefits with products like lip glosses. Filler Instinct Plumping Lip Color from NYX Professional Makeup has been a bright star during this challenging time. With protective face coverings becoming our new normal, the focus on eyes is stronger than ever. One of the top searches is how to define brows at home. L’Oréal Paris Unbelieva-brow and Maybelline New York Tattoo Studio Brow have been great solutions. Lashes are another area where consumers are looking for new solutions. People who regularly get lash extensions are seeking products that offer a similar effect and as a result, products like Maybelline New York Falsies Lash Lift and L’Oréal Paris Lash Paradise are doing really well. Frankly, I expect the ‘Mascara Index’ to be a real thing. Before there was the Lipstick Index, but now with masks, women will probably be treating themselves more with mascara than with lipstick in the new normal. It’s going to be a trend that we will closely monitor.

Another big trend is the do-it-yourself manicure. The sale of nail polish has had substantial growth with the temporary closure of nail salons. This has been addressed with essie expressie quick dry nail color, a new and innovative quick dry line targeting the at-home user.

We are expecting that some of these new DIY behaviors will stick. We have learned that our consumers want education, and our brands in the Consumer Products Division have empowered them. This empowerment allows them this opportunity until they’re able to see the professional again if they choose to. And, I really think a lot of these trends are here to stay.

Ecommerce sales are up across the board for the Division. E-comm has become the comfort zone for the consumer during this new time. Our brands were already strong online, but they are becoming stronger, and our role as the beauty leader is to ensure our consumer really gets the best experience online and offline. People are turning to digital channels and virtual tools to explore cosmetics through new avenues – virtual try-on, shade finders and mascara quizzes. We’re answering the call in new ways ranging from virtual shop-alongs with our Modiface technology to YouTube livestreams with L’Oréal Paris celebrity makeup artists like Sir John and one-to-one hair color consultations with our New York Technical Center team. We expect our e-comm business to continue to grow in a very dynamic way for all of our brands. We are also helping our retail partners to really strengthen that omni-channel strategy because the shopper’s decision journey needs to be one seamless experience both offline and online, and it’s important to treat it as one seamless experience.

Since the beginning of this crisis, we’ve been preparing for the worst and at the same time fighting for the best. We really keep this mindset moving forward and try to look at things step by step, maximizing every opportunity. I think our teams have been able to pivot in a really strong way, not only for the short term but the long term. Everything we have been able to transcend digitally, whether it’s our social or our digital marketing, it’s the kind of consumer engagement that I think is going to be an asset for the future. I’m very confident, actually, for the months to come.