Recruiting in Style L’Oréal Brandstorm Competition

La Difference, the team of three ladies from Singapore Management University, clinched the top spot in this year’s L’Oréal Brandstorm 2006 (Singapore) – a prestigious marketing competition. Career Central takes a look at this unique platform to hire the brightest fresh graduates for the leading beauty company.

By Michelle Lim

A major function of a Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company is the building and growing of a brand. A lot of creativity, talent and work go into it, from scientifi c research, market research to packaging designs and pricing. The challenge is to continually stay ahead of competitors and predict what fi ckle customers want next. In many cases, FMCG companies create “needs”, and therefore profitable markets, that do not exist in the first place.

A case in point is the beauty regime of ladies in Singapore. In the 1930s, a lady washed her face with soap, dusted her face with a little powder and she was good to go. In the 1970s and 1980s, products like face creams, toners and moisturizers crept into the daily beauty regime. Now, ladies have to tone, prep, scrub, masque, moisturise, and pamper their faces with the latest facials and vitamin boosters to do their skin justice. These extra beauty steps are courtesy of the beauty industry which constantly churns out products that it tells us we need.

It is not a surprise then that many FMCG companies take a very serious view on recruiting fresh young talents and putting their money where their mouth is.

L’Oréal is one such company.

The Competition
Using competitions to recruit fresh graduates is not new. But not many companies can do it the way L’Oréal does it – with international coordination and participation, commitment from top management, and a whole lot of style. From the sleek fi nal award presentation in Singapore that includes the presence of VIPs, a fashion show and high quality multimedia presentations, it is clear that even more investment, both in financial and management effort will go into the planning of the international event.

L’Oréal Brandstorm is an international marketing game that allows students throughout the world to put themselves in the shoes of a L’Oréal brand manager. Attracting over 14,300 students since its launch, L’Oréal Brandstorm has participation from more than 176 schools from 31 countries, including Singapore, last year. Students, in teams of three, use their marketing knowledge and creativity to develop an international brand strategy for one of L’Oréal’s existing international brands, design new packaging and develop a real communication campaign with an international agency.

The brand featured in the 2006 competition is Lancôme. The winners are chosen based on their ability to transform marketing mix theory into a product development and launch reality. Creativity, originality, consistency in analysis, presentation skills and team spirit were among the judging criteria by the team of judges which includes industry and academic experts in the industry.

The winning teams from various countries then congregate at the L’Oréal headquarters in Paris for the final competition – The International Finals. The grand prize is a trip around the world worth EURO10,000, the first runner up gets a EURO5,000 trip and the second runner-up, a EURO2,500 trip.

The Company
With more than 98 years of experience in the beauty industry, L’Oréal is a true market leader with consolidated revenue of EURO14,535 million in 2005. L’Oréal employs 52,000 people worldwide and has in its brand stable a total of 18 international brands that are sold in 130 countries. Brands under L’Oréal includes L’Oréal Paris, Garnier, Maybelline New York, Vichy, Redken, Lancôme, Biotherm, Kiehl’s, Shu Uemura and Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren perfumes.

The Extraordinary Opportunity
The L’Oréal Brandstorm competition thus presents an unprecedented opportunity for both the company and the contestants.

For students
The realism and rigour of the competition affords students a unique opportunity to live the life of a brand manager. Everything they teach you in business and marketing class comes alive in the few weeks of the competition as you learn from real brand managers, a creative agency and in some cases, even real-life customers. The exposure for the winning team is even more extensive as you cross geographical boundaries to compete with other winnings teams in Paris. Most importantly, you get the undivided attention of the L’Oréal recruiters and some will secure a job even before graduation.

For L’Oréal
From L’Oréal’s point of view, their objectives are to recruit talent and make themselves an employer of choice among the universities. Side benefits include heightened branding and awareness of the company and its products. The competition is a high profile platform to select the best students the universities have to offer. The competition also allows L’Oréal to see the students at work in real situations – with real agencies and marketing managers. There is only so much you can infer about the quality of a candidate at traditional interviews and tests. Nothing beats seeing in reality how a person reacts to stress and whether he demonstrates the characteristics that are crucial to the success of the job. These are things you cannot assess from his résumé or a two hour interview.

The Results
L’Oréal is known to be extremely selective in its recruitment. The key is more of “quality” than “quantity”. In Singapore, 12 students have been recruited since the competition was introduced in 2002. These students are usually hired under the management trainee scheme.

The competition is relatively new and time will tell if L’Oréal’s efforts will bear fruit in terms of their revenue, profitability and products. Meanwhile, the L’Oréal name resounds loud and clear in the university campuses in Singapore. That, by itself, is already an achievement.

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