Laurent Kleitman’s to-do list might be the longest and toughest in the beauty business.

When the current Executive Vice President of Global Hair Care at Unilever starts his new job as Coty Inc.’s President of Consumer Beauty May 15, he will be charged with a number of tasks: resuscitating slumping sales at the expansive conglomerate’s largest division; cooking up breakthrough products at brands as varied as Rimmel and Clairol; shepherding makeovers of CoverGirl and Max Factor in fiscal 2018; enticing specialty-store-loving millennial shoppers to mass-market beauty aisles; and winning over employees who were captivated by his charismatic predecessor, Esi Eggleston Bracey, who is departing Coty after joining the company in October.

Laurent could deserve a raise before he even begins.

Coty chairman Bart Becht hasn’t sugarcoated the muddle Laurent is stepping into. During a first-quarter earnings conference call, Bart referred to the Consumer Beauty unit as Coty’s biggest challenge.

“Challenges include the positioning of some of the brands, the strength of the pipeline, the in-store execution, as well as the competitive pressure in the market. We have begun our work to address these issues,” he said, continuing with the positive addendum, “We might see some improved results in the second half.” In the three months ended Dec. 31, the consumer beauty portfolio generated slightly more than $1 billion in revenues, accounting for roughly 44 percent of the Coty’s total turnover for the period.

Wells Fargo associate analyst Joe Lachky contends improving the Consumer Beauty segment is key to stemming Coty’s revenue bleeding – and Laurent’s hire represents movement toward that end. In a March 7 note, he wrote, “With the change coming only five months post­closing [of the acquisition of a large chunk of Procter & Gamble’s beauty business], it’s a sign to us that the board and CEO Camillo Pane are clearly on the offensive to stabilize and turn around the Consumer Beauty business. However, we remain cautious on Coty shares given weak near­term fundamentals and integration risk in coming quarters.” He estimated the consumer beauty segment’s second-quarter retail sell-throughs were down in the high-single digits and organic sales growth plunged 19 percent.

Beauty industry expert Alan Mottus isn’t optimistic Laurent, who’s nearly quarter-century tenure at Unilever was interrupted only by three years spent as General Manager for LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in Russia, can revive Coty’s big-box and drugstore brands. Rival beauty players, such as NYX and e.l.f. Cosmetics, have been siphoning customers and shelf space from Coty’s mass cosmetics offerings with scant resistance. E.l.f. Cosmetics, for example, increased shelf space at Target by over 50 percent in the retailer’s recent reset at the expense of older mainstays, according to Wells Fargo Managing Director Bonnie Herzog.

According to Alan, Esi’s departure is surprising, to say the least.

“She knew the brands and had experience with them. My conclusion is that there have been so many management changes under Bart Becht that no one knows what’s up or down,” said Alan. “[Coty] brought in someone to replace her who has had little experience in U.S. mass, which makes no sense. CoverGirl has serious problems, while Rimmel and Sally Hansen have no direction.”

Certainly, Coty observers will be closely watching what adjustments Laurent has on tap for CoverGirl and Max Factor in particular. In Coty’s second-quarter conference call, Camillo outlined overhauls of the brands’ positioning, products, packaging and store displays that are in development. The time it takes to go from idea to launch for the brand’s merchandise, now regularly a year to 18 months, is also being slashed. And Droga5 has supplanted Grey New York as CoverGirl’s creative agency and is tasked with reenergizing the brand’s advertising.

But a big promotional campaign and rejiggered products won’t be enough to restore Coty’s ailing beauty brands to their previous glory. Karen Young, founder of namesake global marketing company The Young Group, argued they must replicate the dynamism of cosmetics upstarts to make headway. “These ‘mature’ legacy brands just aren’t as hip, cool, relevant and authentic as fresher, younger indie brands. They feel old and tired,” she said. “Traditional legacy brands in all channels of distribution are having the same issue. It’s why Lauder and L’Oréal are busy gobbling up so many young, fresh companies. It’s an evolutionary cycle.”

Bryan Goodpaster, Senior Creative Director of trends at brand design agency LPK, contended Coty should insist on its brands taking strong points of view to stand out in the beauty clutter. “CoverGirl, like Coty, hits on a wide range of segments. However, their attempt to be all things to all people may ultimately be diluting the brand,” he said, adding, “CoverGirl seems to be four steps behind everyone, constantly late and lagging on color trends. While CoverGirl and many of Coty’s brands are more approachable than something from L’Oréal, the trick is not just to leverage trends, but to do it in a way that fits what your brand is about.”

Bryan believes Laurent can be successful in his new post, but only if he hits on the right recipe for relevance. He advised, “You must always be in touch with the zeitgeist of fashion and beauty. And, further, always embody and enable the aspirational desires of women in a modern, culturally current way.”