In an effort to turn around two years of dwindling sales in its hair-care category, L’Oréal is turning to a fresh set of celebrities who represent the overall shift in the ideal campaign face.
Earlier this month, Alexa Chung was announced as the face of L’Oréal Professionel and Winona Ryder was picked to front L’Oréal’s consumer Elvive line, and Kérastase — which is part of L’Oréal’s professional products division — signed Emily Ratajkowski.
Buzzy though they are, the group is a far cry from the more mainstream actresses and top models L’Oréal has worked with before. To wit, past faces of its consumer hair-care line have included Blake Lively, Julianne Moore and Eva Longoria, while L’Oréal Professionel and Kérastase have relied on supermodels like Karlie Kloss and Kate Moss.
Emily Ratajkowski for Kérastase
The motives behind the choice of new faces are very intentional.
With Chung and Ratajkowski, who have 2.9 and 6.3 million followers on Instagram, respectively, it’s their social prowess that’s key.
“They’re both ‘it’ girls with a cool factor that beauty and style-conscious women look up to for their own fashion and lifestyle choices,” said Hélène Heath, a senior editor at the visual intelligence platform Dash Hudson. “But, above that, they both have established social media clout that the brand is clearly looking to leverage.”
Indeed, L’Oréal has struggled with its professional products category in recent years. When it announced its financial results for the first half of 2017 in July, CEO Jean-Paul Agnon called the division “lackluster and disappointing,” but hinted that improvements in leadership and innovation were in place to turn that around. By the end of 2017, professional hair-care sales had dipped by .3 percent to $2.9 billion.
Enter the new faces, whose reach with beauty-loving millennials and Gen Z’ers is likely seen as a salve.
“It’s a move to become more relevant to today’s younger consumers,” said Amber Zent, a partner and director of social media at creative agency Marcus Thomas. “They embody what many young women today view as #goals, as witnessed through fan engagement on their Instagram feeds. When you compare Emily and Alexa to more established, traditional hair-care spokespeople, like Eva Longoria for L’Oréal, there’s a marked difference; Longoria lacks recognition and passion among today’s 20-somethings.”
Not so with Chung, who L’Oréal Professionnel’s international general manager, Marion Brunet, described in a press release as “a true trendsetter, always at the forefront of trends.”
Ratajkowski, on the other hand, was celebrated for her feminine spirit, surely a nod to her role as an outspoken feminist activist — one that’s more timely than ever. “At Kérastase, we believe that a woman’s hair is essential to her femininity. Emily shares that belief. She embodies a modern, multi-faceted and confident vision of beauty,” said Rosa Carrico, Kérastase’s global president, of the news.
Ryder is more of a curveball, at first glance, said Heath — but it makes more sense when you look closer.
For starters, her campaign is called “The Comeback,” a play on the fact that it kicks off a relaunch of L’Oréal’s U.S. hair-care line. In line with that, Ryder will focus on promoting products from the brand that repair damage from over-treatment, like its Total Repair 5 line. And, of course, Ryder herself made a comeback of sorts with her starring role on the Netflix hit “Stranger Things,” which debuted in 2016.
“She’s now youthfully relevant, but she holds a nostalgic appeal for older generations [as well],” said Zent.
“Ryder was the original cool girl, once shunned by Hollywood for her bad girl actions, and now she’s making a huge comeback with a mega hit TV show,” added Heath. “She’s having a moment, and L’Oréal clearly wants to capitalize on that momentum.”
Winona Ryder in a commercial for L’Oréal’s Elvive line
How far that momentum will take the brand is hard to say, but with sales of its previous U.S. hair-care line down 10 percent in 2016, and with 2017 spent on the rebrand, they’re going to need it. It may lack digital steam, though, since Ryder does not have any public social media accounts.
Another setback to L’Oréal’s success could be its notable diversity blindspot. While “The Comeback” campaign is expected to feature actresses Aja Naomi King and singer Camila Cabelo in a smaller number of print and digital ads down the line, there’s still a gap as far as diverse campaign names are concerned.
“These ambassadors are all fine choices for the L’Oréal brand, but it wouldn’t hurt the company to make a more conscious effort to feature different beauty types as the faces of its brands,” said Heath. “In a time when other brands are making such strides in a more inclusive direction, this could make them seem a little tone-deaf.”