James Kotecki (00:08): 

This is CES Tech Talk. I'm James Kotecki, bringing you one of my favorite C Space Studio interviews from CES 2024. I had a lot of great conversations in Las Vegas, and I know you're going to like this one, so enjoy. 

(00:24): 

Welcome back to the C Space Studio here at CES 2024. I am James Kotecki, and I'm very pleased to be joined by Han Wen, Chief Digital and Marketing Officer at L'Oreal. Thanks for coming to the C Space Studio. 

Han Wen (00:37): 

Thank you, James. Happy to be here. 

James Kotecki (00:39): 

L'Oreal is a big presence at CES this year. As we mentioned before we started rolling, you've been coming to CES for 10 years, so a lot of people here at CES probably know a little bit about you, but how do you define, especially as the marketing officer, how do you define the brand overall? 

Han Wen (00:53): 

Well, L'Oreal, we are very fortunate to actually have a large portfolio of brands. As you may have heard during the keynote, we really cover every aspect of the beauty need, regardless of category, regardless also of price point. 

(01:08): 

And so we have 38 brands within our portfolio, and therefore it allows us to really dial into every single consumer and what their particular beauty needs are, and it also allows me as the Chief Digital Marketing Officer to have a lot of different plans that I can play with. 

James Kotecki (01:25): 

Yeah. You mentioned the keynote, the L'Oreal keynote that folks can obviously watch. That's a significant event for L'Oreal to be keynoting, CES 2024. What does it mean to you to have had that keynote here at CES? 

Han Wen (01:38): 

It's actually a moment where we're really able to show off how much research innovation technology has been at the core of our company for 115 years. Very often when we are in this space that is about beauty, about makeup, and it's very fun, and I think that what is not very well-known is how much innovation research actually goes into that. 

(02:00): 

So we're really happy to show up at an event like CES and talk about how much of our DNA is really focused around innovation and how that's actually created a lot of impact in our consumers' lives through unveiling of the various new products that we, including the newest hairdryer that we're bringing to the market that is innovating on something that hasn't really been touched since it was invented in- 

James Kotecki (02:24): 

Well, tell us more about that. 

Han Wen (02:26): 

Well, I'm personally very, very excited for that. It's a infrared technology that is replacing the heat coils that actually, one, consumes a lot of energy, and two, also creates a lot of damage. And as someone who needs a hairdryer in my life, I can see firsthand, I've experienced firsthand the damage that heat can bring. So it is something that I think truly has a lot of qualities in terms of energy savings as well as really bringing a new technology to the market that helps women, men and anyone who finds a use for hairdryers to do it better. 

James Kotecki (03:03): 

So what is the actual experience of using that? If I put my hand in front of a regular hairdryer, I'm going to feel heat. Am I going to feel heat coming off of this infrared? 

Han Wen (03:11): 

Yeah. 

James Kotecki (03:11): 

How does that work? 

Han Wen (03:12): 

I think obviously there's no magic here then, so you know what [inaudible 00:03:17]. 

James Kotecki (03:17): 

Well, technology and magic can be a little bit overlapping here at CES. 

Han Wen (03:19): 

Yes. And I have to say that this is something that really needs to be tried to really understand the difference versus... And when we talk about the experience of a hairdryer, I think we all have something in mind, and it's very difficult to articulate towards how different the experience of using an infrared technology can be, so I really encourage everyone to test it out for themselves. 

James Kotecki (03:44): 

So you're mentioning that a lot of the significance of being here at CES is to showcase all the innovation behind your products. Do you think that's important for customers? Do customers get a kick out of that? So maybe they just buy a product and they use it and they feel like they look because of it. Is that good for you as you're building this brand for customers, for bringing more people into the fold to show the innovation behind the scenes a little bit? 

Han Wen (04:07): 

Innovation is incredibly important in the beauty category. And again, I think that for anyone who listened to the keynote speech, you understand that the foundation of this company is actually the ultimate innovation, which is allowing women to change hair color for the first time, and that was 115 years ago. 

(04:23): 

And since that moment, and if you can imagine how revolutionary that has been that since that moment, innovation and bringing out new patented formulas, new ingredients that allows us to achieve the different outcomes that we're looking for, whether it's skin care, whether it's makeup, is an incredibly important part of what drives growth in our category that also drives the excitement that consumers have for our category. 

James Kotecki (04:48): 

It's interesting, because it relates to, I guess, philosophical ideas around technology enabling choices in terms of one's identity or one's way that they choose to present themselves to the world. 

Han Wen (04:58): 

Yeah, absolutely. And we think about beauty in this way that sometimes is a little bit superficial. And what the CES conversation has allowed us to be able to really showcase is this idea that when we talk about beauty, it is an act of identity formation, community belonging that is as core to human nature as is the need to meet face to face and to gather. 

(05:27): 

So when we think about what the need is for beauty products, this is something that allows us to be able to have a much more substantial conversation that goes beyond just the fun of blue metallic nails, which is a thing. 

James Kotecki (05:40): 

Those are also fun. 

Han Wen (05:40): 

Yes. 

James Kotecki (05:41): 

Your title is Chief Digital and Marketing Officer. Why those two titles? Why is it important really to highlight digital right in the title there for you? 

Han Wen (05:48): 

Yeah, it's a great question because I think the digital element of it, I think a CMO is pretty well-defined in terms of what the role is. And of course, that is a very large part of what I'm responsible for within L'Oreal USA. 

(06:07): 

And on the digital front, I think there is this idea that our marketing funnel is always being reinvented and it's being disrupted and there's new channels to consider, and we need to think about it more and more, and especially given everything that I've seen at CES this week, that there's more and more of ourselves that what will be digitized, that will be virtual versions. And I think this is something that we must pay attention to in terms of what our consumers are going to be looking for. 

James Kotecki (06:37): 

So for you, to kind of summarize that, it's not just about all the digital aspects that go with maybe a more traditional marketing campaign and many of the things we're talking about here in the C Space Studio, but you're also getting into things like VR, AR, kind of what has been called the metaverse kind of stuff, all those different ways as we talked about, how you present yourself, how you use technology, again, it goes right back to that core idea, how you use technology to change or present yourself in ways that you choose to be seen. 

Han Wen (07:02): 

Exactly. And I think the reason why we make that distinction is to make sure that we're paying attention to what is new and what is important in terms of identity formation and how we choose to represent ourselves regardless if it's in a real setting in real life or in a digital setting. 

James Kotecki (07:20): 

In a press release I read about when you took this role, it talked about leading the digital transformation of the company. Digital transformation, a great buzzword. Obviously there's a lot of real meaning behind that. How's it going? What have you learned? What's coming up next? What does digital transformation mean in this context? 

Han Wen (07:37): 

Yeah, I think the key word there actually is around transformation. And the reason why that's important is because we're very cognizant of the ways in which our lives are constantly being disrupted by new technologies. And therefore, one of the key elements that I pay attention to is to make sure that we are a very talented marketing organization, our people are some of the best in the world, especially in our category. 

(08:03): 

And my role is to make sure that our workforce is ready for what comes next, and they're ready to deploy the latest technologies in a way that is not about chasing the new shiny object or about being part of a hype cycle, but it's really truly bringing value to our consumers' lives. So that's the piece that I am very, very attuned to, which is the readiness of our organization. 

James Kotecki (08:26): 

Is that such an ongoing challenge, to keep folks focused? As you're seeing all kinds of noise and influx around like, "If you're not doing X, you're already falling behind," it must be really challenging to stay focused in that environment. 

Han Wen (08:35): 

Absolutely. And this is why I think, again, I'm very fortunate to be part of this organization that has a true sense of purpose around what it is that we do and what we don't do. And our sense of purpose is really around developing the best beauty products that meets every single consumer's needs. 

(08:54): 

And I remind myself of that every day and I remind my teams of that every single day. And when that is our core mission, it's very easy to separate what are the things that we really need to pay attention to, what's hype and what's real, and that really helps me to help our organization prioritize. 

James Kotecki (09:10): 

Do you have any predictions about the future that other people might disagree with or find implausible, but from where you sit, make a lot of sense? 

Han Wen (09:18): 

No one has a crystal ball, and I certainly don't proclaim that I do. I think for me, regardless of what technologies are going to come in and out of our lives and how we think about our virtual selves or real selves, I think the idea that we want to own how we present ourselves to the world will always be true. And so regardless of the setting, that is something that I think is part of human nature, as we said. 

(09:46): 

So I think there's a lot of discussion around, "Okay, well, what happens when we have all this amazing technology where we never need to leave our rooms and where we can really build our virtual avatars to be something that is completely different than what we would imagine today?" 

James Kotecki (09:46): 

Maybe non-human, right? 

Han Wen (10:00): 

Maybe non-human. However, there's still an expression there of our choice for what our identity means that I think that there's an essential role that L'Oreal is always going to play. 

James Kotecki (10:11): 

Well, Han Wen, L'Oreal, thank you so much for joining us here in the C Space Studio today. We really appreciate it. 

Han Wen (10:15): 

It's a pleasure. Thanks so much, James. 

James Kotecki (10:18): 

Well, I hope you enjoyed that conversation from CES 2024. That's our show for now, but there's always more tech to talk about. Hit that YouTube subscribe button. Leave a comment, follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeartMedia, or wherever you're getting this show. And get more CES at ces.tech. That's C-E-S dot T-E-C-H. I'm James Kotecki talking tech on CES Tech Talk. 

 

 

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