At OMMA’s one-day summit for mobile marketing, Sarah Liang Kress, director of interactive marketing for L’Oreal USA, had the chutzpah to tell the crowd:

Technology, for us, comes very much last. It’s not about the shiny object. We look at the audience, and we look at our objectives and then come up with the right solution and the right execution.

She said this as a keynote speaker for the event, which took place on Monday as part of Internet Week NY, and anyone doubting Kress’s claim had only to follow the tidy case study she presented to know she meant business.  

So, if L’Oreal is downplaying technology, what’s fueling the global company’s mobile marketing?

The purchaser reigns supreme

For Redken, a hair-care brand and L’Oreal subsidiary, the purchaser rules the day. The company demonstrated its commitment by funneling funds toward a third-party research effort last May before it embarked on a large mobile initiative.

It was a key decision that helped the company better understand its industry; for instance, Redken learned that 16% of the hair-care sector uses iPads and tablets, with the former predominating. Of that percentage, 44% skewed towards a younger age bracket. 

The company also learned that 63% of hair-care professionals owned smartphones, a finding that had Kress skeptical. Hairstylists have “always been late adopters,” she said. “They don’t sit at a computer. They’re never online.” Not so the modern stylist.

The findings prompted the company to design mobile strategies unique to its three target groups:

  1. Cosmetology students,
  2. Hairdressers.
  3. Consumers.

However, this still allowed it to apply an overall strategy to make the most of Redken’s existing network and existing purchaser behaviors. Next the company identified business objectives for each group because, like its mobile strategies, no one objective unified all.

Approach to students

For its student target group, education was Redken’s goal. The company used its nationwide network of franchise schools, and because it had learned that iPads predominated among that group, created an educational site designed especially for that device.

Emphasizing responsive design in its approach and understanding that visual learners compose its audience, Redken produced 100+ videos for the site and partnered with YouTube to stream the videos in a cost-effective manner. 

The results?

The company has saved on textbooks it formerly published for its schools. Redken has also saved on time and labor because it finds it easier to update the site than to revise textbooks.

Plus, applications to its schools are up, and the company can now capture student data in a way not available to it in the past.

Approach to stylists

Although stylists are now online more often, they’re still on their feet during most of the workday. That understanding pushed Redken to focus their attention on apps informed by stylists’ habits and what actually takes place in a salon.

Following the customer journey, for example, a stylist’s client would first decide on a color shade. Hair swatches are typically used during this step, but Redken created an app that displays different hair colors:

Most people follow routine and gravitate toward the same 10-15 shades, but Redken wanted to expand that selection to include its underperforming products so it began integrating those products into the formulas for the dyes that stylists would have to mix.

Finally, its app incorporated a look-book feature that allows stylists to capture cuts and dyes they’ve done in the past to not only show off their work, but also to give clients options.

Throughout the mobile push, the company was focused on frequency or how many times their app was used, not how many times it was downloaded. “We didn’t want to just have a download party,” said Kress.


The results?

Redken saw a 13% increase in the usage of its underperforming products, as well as an 18% jump in the sales of new products. (The app gave the company another forum in which it could showcase new products, Kress said.)

It also saved costs because the company no longer had to print books that featured its hair-color formulas.

Approach to consumers

Here Kress was adamant about Redken’s attitude toward the wide swath of consumers it targets (women age 18 and older): “We are not ecommerce,” she said. “We believe in the hair stylist and the hair professional, so it’s really about driving consumers to the salons and services to buy our product”.

To that end, the company had to make a choice: Did it want to focus its attention on a mobile website or an app to get consumers to salons?

Redken chose the former, with Kress supporting Redken’s decision by leaning heavily on the recent finding that more Facebook traffic arrives via the mobile site than through the company’s app.

She explained how Redken partnered with Google for paid search and SEO, which yielded the perhaps unsurprising finding that Saturday is the most popular day for mobile traffic seeking salons.

Other results?

The company learned that 18% of traffic to is via a mobile device. There’s also been a 22% rise in visitors using the company’s salon-locator feature.


1. Know your audience. Conduct thorough research, said Kress. While ComScore data is valuable, you shouldn’t rely on it alone.

2. Understand the technology but don’t get caught up in it. The hype around Pinterest is exciting and important to follow, she said, but marketers should be more cautious in their approaches.

3. Evolve. Of all the platforms, Kress believes mobile changes the fastest, and marketers should be flexible about their strategies and workflow.