Amidst the global economic downturn, France's cosmetics giant L'Oreal corporation outperformed projections in the first ten months of 2010. With the first three quarters earnings exceeding +11% in sales revenues, the L'Oreal Group continued a strong trend following € 17.5 billion consolidated sales in 2009, with 23 global brands in 130 countries, and 674 new patents. Innovation has kept L'Oreal's market position in front of its competitors, and the company has upheld its promise to stakeholders and its 64, 600 employees alike to continue as the world leader in cosmetic products. Insight into L'Oreal's rare success in a moment in crisis is revealed in the Company Mission Statement,
"At L'OREAL, we believe that everyone aspires to beauty. Our mission is to help men and women around the world realise that aspiration, and express their individual personalities to the full. This is what gives meaning and value to our business, and to the working lives of our employees. We are proud of our work."
Corporate citizenship is at the forefront of the L'Oreal vision, and customer and employee equity is recognized as priority to a company well recognized as an innovative leader in cosmetics; converging scientific knowledge with local manufacturer and supplier partnered trade. Under Chief Executive Officer, Jean-Paul Agon the corporation's distinctly 'French' vision precludes standardized theories on management as discussed by North American scholars, in that the firm has historically relied upon 'psychology and culture' not only at the consumer level, but in the operational relations of L'Oreal's various national markets. Recent application of those change management principles where fresh impetus was given to strategic agreements in emerging markets in Asia, Agon's leadership style and his role in the development of those markets for future growth make relevant the type of talent that is characteristic of L'Oreal's presence as a multi-tiered, luxury product company.
A chemist by trade, Eugene Schueller invented the first synthetic hair dye in 1907, and by 1909 had established L'Oreal or Aureole (French for "aura of light") (Hoovers). Expansion of the company was immediate, and the efficacy of mass advertising introduced consumers to beauty as a "necessity" and product concept. Radio announcements of L'Oreal's products commencing in 1920s into the inter-war period placed Schueller's business on the map and served to intensify demand for distribution of licensed products, internationally upon the close of WWII (Hoovers). In 1963 the company went public, and since then, how effective L'Oreal has been in selling a 'better you' to consumers is recorded in its performance in the competitive landscape, illustrated in Table 1.
KEY: Best of Group. Companies listed are Top Competitors.
Annual Sales ($ mil.)
Market Cap ($ mil.)
Gross Profit Margin
Pre-Tax Profit Margin
Net Profit Margin
Source: L'Oreal. Hoovers, 2010. Web.
Critical analysis of L'Oreal's position within the market may optimized by way of Porter's Five Forces, where the: 1) Nature of Rivalry; 2) New Entrants; 3) Substitutes; 4) Strategic Partners; and 5) End Point (buyer power) are put into consideration toward continued sustainability at L'Oreal. The foregoing essay looks at how L'Oreal's emphasis on product innovation impacts the model of management. The potential of Porter's Five Forces as a benchmark to L'Oreal SA's market potential is illustrated in Table 2.
1. Nature of Rivalry
Optimizing task environment and operational procedure through change management practices. Reaching consumers better than competitors, and accountability of competitor' vision.
In the case of product line companies, research and design is of critical importance in response to annual design changes on the cosmetic manufacturing market.
2. New Entrants
Extent by which it is easy or difficult for L'Oreal to enter into a new market niche. It is at this stage that L'Oreal will want to offer value added incentives in an attempt to stop customers from 'switching costs' or hopping from one brand to another.
Response to this criterion may result in substantially lowered profits.
Where new entrants are concerned, a profit loss is typical.
Strategic planning and close attention to material and labor expenses are traditional methods of mitigating those costs, and by increase in market share upon release of new strategy or product.
The challenge of creating price or 'psychological' blocks to alternative products advertised to be substituted for existing offerings from L'Oreal.
Where there are fewer available substitutes the greater the profits.
L'Oreal is challenged to offer exceptional quality products to stay ahead of its competitors.
Lead in all segments of the market requires that weak products or product lines are supported by other factors such as promotions.
4. Strategic partners
Collaboration of L'Oreal' stakeholders at all subsidiary entities, suppliers and employees are critical to the equity equation which enables the company to maintain its competitive edge and financial solvency.
Regulatory partners impact price through research and development, and in ongoing operations. Integrated management practices, that give attention to compliance at each stage in the company's logistics ensures long-term benefits that may be passed on to consumers in lower than 'full cost pricing.'
The increase in cost of new technologies to maintain those resources has inserted higher overhead into the internal manufacturing picture. L'Oreal also emphasizes its 'local' relationships which enable the corporation efficiency in distribution and manufacturing, as well as cost savings.
While change management can do much in this area, other external forces indicative of third term legislative policies (i.e. 'responsible management' of chemicals) that have placed an enormous force upon the foci of the company's decision making, and with it L'Oreal's strategic planning and social responsibility as a core objective to its 'sustainability' platform.
5. End point (Buyer Power)
Consumer leverage informed by 'equity' in marketing, transformation of L'Oreal's identity as an iterative process in change management strategies, as the company is forced to shift according to product and competition.
Trends may fuel fiscal flows, and Identity control critical to portfolio management toward determinant of fiscal performance.
Protection against copy of proto-type products here, as competitors may curtail planned expansion through 'corporate espionage,' or unwanted press.
The efficacy of identity management as an expression of L'Oreal's commitment to sustainability as a reputable and trusted manufacturer of luxury cosmetics will be the primary basis for buyer' discernment between their products, and those of competitors.
Table 2. Porter's Five Forces: L'Oreal SA, France.
In the 21st century, transformations in global operations and flexible capitalization have increased the need for new approaches to measuring market strategy. L'Oreal is committed to integrated chain management of its products from inception at the stage of R+D innovation, to the point of retail distribution. Metric measurement of those processes enables the company to execute a highly imaginative and effective strategy in consideration of all elements mentioned in the Porter's Five Forces analysis. Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) underscores the importance of measured metrics known to Six Sigma analysts as "leveraged" or capacity-building strategies (Edgeman). L'Oreal's prospectus is no exception. The cosmetic company is constantly looking for ways to harness limited resources and advance increased market share. Apportionment and 'cause-and-effect' are central to the Company's reporting instrument, and capture of macro systems based outcomes seen in Pareto Charts and trend analyses of the industry. From the point-of-departure of business development, metrics allow L'Oreal executives to interpret the relationship between segment sales and the internal expense of marketing on a particular product segment. The cost-benefit analysis of the relationship between consumer segmentation and product sales can then be determined by mid-level analysis.
Where improvements are fostered, of course, is in the savvy apprehension of L'Oreal as a flexible, global corporation. The willingness of Agon and the Company's executive staff to change management practices across the board in order to attract venture capital to new enterprises within the Group clarifies the vision of the strategic model as a corporation dedicated to the idea of futures; where Science meets trend. Organizational analysis of L'Oreal in a Six Sigma tool, a modified SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis (Edgeman) is illustrated in Table 3.
Criteria Strengths Weaknesses Recommendations
Comprehensive Strategic Plan based on reasonable estimates of finance and costs.
Effective global approach rather than restructuring plan; meets downturn with an integrated model of cost reduction.
Variety of stakeholders in chain of operations will impact consistency, and at times efficiency which is part of the overall goal.
Seek measures to adequately account for horizontal operations, and support strategic plan as acquisitions influence chain management practices
The 'local-global' concept is provides the framework to the infrastructure of regional distribution, manufacturing and sales.
L'Oreal's French-international image adds value to projects where local cultural knowledge and strategies are incorporated.
The main drawback to the decentralized model of L'Oreal's oversight is in the area of product accountability, and also management of fiscal allocations.