Marie Gulin-Merle was named chief marketing officer for L’Oréal USA in June 2014 after spending 14 years working her way up through the parent company’s marketing ranks and across the ocean from her native France. Her very first role as a L’Oréal “webmaster” accurately foreshadowed many of the new-age accomplishments Gulin-Merle achieved as CMO, which included a bevy of early-adopter work in digital media: rolling out the award-winning “Makeup Genius” mobile app, staging a Snapchat campaign for Maybelline during Fashion Week, becoming the first beauty advertiser on Pinterest, creating a virtual reality education program for Matrix, and launching beauty services on Facebook Messenger.
But it has also encompassed strategic efforts that made a more lasting, fundamental impact, such as the unique training program she spearheaded with digital learning specialist General Assembly to get all L’Oréal marketers up to speed on best practices, or the development of the beauty company’s first in-house content studio — a state-of-the-art facility dubbed the “Beauty Terminal” that was designed to get new consumer engagement concepts to market at competitive-advantage speed.
Those achievements have been recognized by numerous media organizations in the last few years (Ad Age, WWD, Business Insider). More importantly for her, it was noticed by PVH Corp.’s Calvin Klein, Inc. business: This spring, the fashion house lured Gulin-Merle away from L’Oréal to expand both its brand voice and its global marketing platforms.
CGT recently sat down (virtually) with our CMO of the Year to get her take on the digital past, present and future of the consumer goods industry.
CGT: What digital tools have you found to be most effective in improving consumer engagement? Are there any that are particularly good at directly driving sales?
In general, personalized content providing the right message for the right consumer at the right time is probably the most effective ‘tool’ today.
CGT: How important has technology become to the modern marketing department? Are marketers sufficiently tech-savvy?
Marketers are never tech-savvy enough. The landscape keeps evolving and it is fundamental to stay current. I am always in up-skilling mode.
CGT: Please talk a little bit about the “GMAT for Digital” training program you oversaw at L’Oréal.
The program was done in partnership with General Assembly as an assessment of fundamental skills and knowledge in digital marketing. (Editor’s note: Thousands of L’Oréal marketers have taken the training, which now is also used during the employee recruitment process.) I am now partnering with General Assembly as a member of its Marketing Standards Board to develop the same certification for marketing in general.
CGT: Are you a fan of marketing automation? Why or why not?
I am absolutely a fan, because it will enable greater pace in personalization. But intuition will keep playing a huge role in our ability to connect with consumers and define the right messages.