Pandemic speeds up digital transformation in the Professional Hair Care industry 1

Pandemic speeds up Digital Transformation in the Professional Hair Care Industry.

I interviewed Christoph Kaul about the changing environment in the Professional Hair Care market, which is projected to be worth 26.2 billion by 2026.

First of all, I wanted to get an understanding of Christoph's experience in the industry to see how well qualified he was to comment on it. It seems he is very qualified.

Pandemic speeds up digital transformation in the Professional Hair Care industry 3
Pandemic speeds up digital transformation in the Professional Hair Care industry 4

Christoph Kaul has been in the industry for 13 years

He started his career at L'Oréal, in the Professional Division, in various marketing and sales roles for the L'Oréal Professional brands and Redken.

After almost five years at L'Oréal he moved to Henkel where he spent four and a half years at Schwarzkopf Professional in the global marketing team.

In 2017 he moved to LA and worked as Vice President of Marketing for Henkel Beauty Care's Kenra Professional brand, and he has been Global General Manager for Kenra Professional and General Manager for Authentic Beauty Concept US since April 2018.


Responsibility for the Sales & Marketing Strategy

As General Manager he is responsible for the whole marketing strategy, go-to-market, branding, pricing, design, and channel strategy, which means he has marketing managers coming to him with their ideas on a regular basis.

I wanted to know how marketing managers successfully share their ideas with him. Christoph told me:

You have to be able to sell me the idea in 20 seconds. If you can't explain it in that time, then it's likely not fully thought through yet.

He breaks it down into touch points i.e. the first time you pitch the idea and then the follow-up pitch:

  1. First Pitch: You should be passionate and fully convinced about your idea. You must be able to convey the uniqueness and market need.
  2. Second Pitch: You should come with a solid business case and all of the details.

I always have time to brain-storm and contribute to ideas, but my expectation is that you have your own opinion. Never expect me to give you all the answers.


Think "Stylist First"

I asked Christoph what Marketing & Sales strategies are working in the industry.

You need a 360-degree marketing package, with a strong focus on digital. And for Professional brands it's key to use a "stylist first" approach.

He says that it's important to involve stylists from the first idea. Stylists are professionals and they have different expectations and usage requirements to end-users, but he says the royal discipline is to develop products that appeal to stylists and end-users.

He believes the product has to address the unmet needs of a stylist to be a successful Professional brand. And that brands should focus on functionality, ease of use and building an emotional connection.


The Influencer trend during the pandemic

I wanted to know about the shift in marketing strategy during the pandemic. I think we've all noticed the shampoo adverts with celebrities doing their own hair colour from home. And I have to say, this did more to convince me than the usual ads.

So, I asked Christoph if he thinks this new wave of marketing - and not just celebs, but social media influencers too - is here to stay and whether it's the demise of big brand campaigns.

First of all, Christoph told me that Influencers like to be called "creators" these days. He goes on to say that while they can help to raise brand awareness, educate, win new accounts and sell products, the right fit between brand and creator is important. The creator's interest and advocacy for the brand needs to be authentic, or the relationship won't work.

He believes in joint campaigns where brands work very closely with their co-creators and develop relationships that last beyond one or two social media posts.

I don't believe that Influencers (creators) are the demise of big branding campaigns. They are a vital part of such campaigns.

Christoph made a valid point that the use of creators is platform-dependent. Where you may see more creators in social channels, like Instagram, you are less likely to come across them on a brand's website or their eCommerce platforms (yet).

As far as he is concerned, there is still a role for tentpole, brand-equity focused campaigns, like the one we did for Kenra Signature Style.

Digital transformation in buying and selling post COVID-19

I wanted to know if the pandemic will have a lasting effect on how Professional brands sell, and how salons buy, in the future. 

Two to three years' worth of digital transformation happened in two to three months.

Christoph told me that salons in the US are still very cash-driven and prefer to buy from the store, rather than online.

He says that the hairdressing industry is all about personal interaction and relationship building. It's why there is so much face-to-face selling from Professional brands to salons. It's just how they communicate. 

But the pandemic and social distancing has forced a change in the direction of eCommerce, which, according to Christoph, has a very low adoption rate compared to other industries. But is catching up.

Henkel SalonLab™ at CES 2018
3D Salon Visualisation

How Professional brands sell

  • Pre-COVID-19 sales reps would visit the salons and host their sales meetings in-person.
  • Post-COVID-19 sales meetings are taking place online, as are educational programs.

How Salons buy

  • Pre-COVID-19 stylists would go to the store to buy their products.
  • Post-COVID-19 stylists are still going to the store, but they are also using curbside pickup and click-and-collect alternatives.

The pandemic has increased the focus on digital strategies, making them even more important, as brands try to meet consumers' individual needs through online resources. Professional brands will have to respond to the accelerated rise and acceptance of digital platforms, by making changes to their sales and marketing mix.


Innovative digital solutions that elevate your brand

Schwarzkopf Professional, a Henkel brand, is already known for its innovative digital solutions in Salons.

An example of this is the SalonLabTM Ecosystem and the use of augmented reality. Prospekt Agency played an integral role in the communication of this technology, which won two CES Innovation Awards in 2018.

What Christoph thinks about us:

Prospekt are fantastic partners who helped us bring our digital game to the next level.

I asked him how we did that.

He called us digital content experts and says the content we produced, using 3D motion graphics, elevated their brand image.

And while they can't quantify the effect, he told me they received high praise for their year-long Signature campaign.

Final Thoughts

Christoph sees eCommerce taking centre stage as we move past the pandemic, and says that agencies who can help with eCommerce positioning will be critical to their growth.

He comments on the importance of the 'digital experience', allowing users to get a sense of the consistency, colour and texture of the products online.

Scent is a key driver in the purchase decision. How cool would it be for shoppers to experience the scent of a product online? The ultimate goal would be to provide the product testing we see in stores in an online/eCommerce environment.

He would also like to see the hair industry catch up with other sectors in terms of AR solutions. Saying, while there are virtual try-ons for Hair Colour, he'd like to see more of that for Hair Care and Styling products too.

We're confident we can support the industry through its digital transformation, with visual presentation of products using our 3D capabilities, as well as innovative AR solutions.



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