Events are the key part of the marketing mix

Alison Williams, Head of Events, L’Oreal Professional UK & Ireland

With over 20 years’ experience Alison is Head of Events for L’Oréal Professional Products UK and Ireland where she leads the events offering across 10 brands within the UK and Ireland.   She acts as a consultant to the rest of the 24 brands within the L’Oréal portfolio and for larger international events run by L’Oréal across the world.  She is responsible for delivering live experiences that include country-wide roadshows, large-scale exhibitions, large scale award ceremonies, fashion shows, parties, conferences, seminars, photo shoots, consumer-facing experiential events, incentives, sponsorship activities & corporate hospitality which take place both in the UK and across the globe. 

Alison is responsible for overseeing the delivery of all advertising, media, marketing, design, digital and social media and talent management to support all activities in addition to all logistics, production, venue and catering involved in the management of all these events.  Alison has been a judge on panels at numerous recognized national event management awards and in 2015 saw her listed in the Event Magazine 100 Club 2016 listing the 100 most influential people within the UK events industry – number 11th out of the 100.


What part do events play in L’Oreal’a professional products marketing?

Within the professional market it’s a key part of the marketing mix. The industry is small, niche and people are passionate about what they do, a lot go into it for life. They’re generally small business owners, and there are about 43,000 salons in the UK. So for us bringing a brand to life in a creative and inspirational way is really important because this community likes to see things, gather together, watch products and brands bought to life. So events run across our brands are a big part of our marketing communications. In the hair industry there are a number of manufacturers producing products. Most brands have their own competition, their own roadshows within their own live events offering. You could go to an event in this industry every night of the week if you want to. But this is because it’s a very social industry and it makes for an interesting and powerful community.

The whole brand comes together to work on events because, to our clients across the country, the team working on the ground are the face of the brand. We have the Marketing team who are involved in messaging, sales in the selling and promoting all of our events, and technical team who ensure everyone is trained correctly in their use.

What do you see as the most important elements in putting your events together?

I think there’s a few. Organisational skills are key. A passion for what you do as this job is not nine to five. This job requires you to create something different every single time which is actually one of the attractions for me. You must be flexible as in the corporate world, goalposts can change daily. But that’s the way it is, we are trying to make sure what we are delivering is the best it can be. Composure under pressure is also massively important, particularly when you’re on-site, because if you don’t treat people with respect and allow people to do their jobs and do the best job they can, it won’t happen. You have to be the rock.

So for us bringing a brand to life in a creative and inspirational way is really important because this community likes to see things, gather together, watch products and brands bought to life.

Are there any areas that you would like to develop for the L’Oréal brand with regards to events?

I think we could do far more with pop-ups. Festivals are a relatively unexplored realm for L’Oréal, and we could do a lot more to create brand awareness for the younger consumer.

I also think the use of event technology is key, pushing how communication in the live event arena is staged and delivered and developing new technologies to do this is where it needs to go. The screen is king for us currently – be it in your hand, on your laptop or at the event. How can we make things more interactive so people will pick it up and tweet and Instagram to push our message out for us? We have to be clever in the live arena, and that’s where I think there’s a huge untapped possibility.


How has the Colour Trophy event evolved over the last few years?

Massively. My first one was back in 2000 when I was literally the person making the tea. It’s evolved extensively since then, especially in the last 5 years. L’Oréal Professional runs the Colour Trophy which is the biggest brand event within professional products, so it’s a massive deal for us. It’s also revered in the hairdressing industry as probably the leading event across the world as providing a platform to demonstrate the creativity of hairdressers. We get a huge amount of buy-in from across the world and the PR of this is significant for us. It’s very important that we communicate the brand on that platform in the best way that we can. It’s about hair inspired by fashion, understanding the backstage use of all the products within fashion and how you bring that front of house to create an inspirational look and therefore show. This event still remains the key brand communicator across the country, as part of it is a regional tour. It culminates with the flagship Grand Final event in London and it’s the one event that everyone wants to come to, but its content has to keep moving and evolving. There are a lot of other brands doing great things and we have to keep one step ahead. We have to keep innovating, challenging and moving it forward.

How has technology and social media influenced the event?

It’s had a huge impact on the communication of pre, during and post event, the buy-in from all levels of the industry from very young and upward, and how we market it. It’s been most impactful on how we measure the ROI, but what to measure, that’s another challenge for all of us as an industry we are not good at this. And that’s ongoing issue as the business evolves and changes into what the objectives are for that year and what to measure. Social media part has allowed engagement with more people, it’s facilitated more ways in which we can communicate and it’s pushed us to be much more creative in we’re putting out there to communicate the whole competition and brand through the live experience.

It’s been fascinating and an ongoing challenge, there are so many different channels now and the job of marketing the event has doubled overnight. But that’s the way the whole world is going, and this is a huge provider of content for the brand. Everybody needs content for their social media - what better vehicle to provide all kinds of insight and a platform for conversation? It’s about making sure you plan and strategize within your budgets and timeframes to communicate this effectively. The Colour Trophy event itself is not only generating content, it’s also driving lots of outside event communication to the industry about our brand, which is brilliant.

You need to see and hear that passion in real life, which is the whole basis of a live experience.

What do you see as the unique traits of working with Professional Hair Care?

The client. The relationship the client has with the brand is long-standing and can be life long. We’ve got clients who have been working with us for over 50 years so the client is central to everything we do. We’re all trying to innovate and grow together because hair is so linked with fashion and is ever evolving. Every six months it’s an entirely new with the new season’s fashion. People are always pushing for what’s the next look, the next colour, the next style. So as an industry we’re doing that in partnership with our client. We’re there to promote them and their creativity and they’re there to endorse and promote our products, so it’s a fantastic partnership.


How do you manage your agency relationships?

We manage agencies through our procurement team. We have a preferred suppliers list. So we have menu of different agencies that are right for all the different parts of the business. I research by watching trade media seeing what’s going on and who is delivering what. It’s been very interesting the last two or three years, especially judging with EuBea, you get to see some really great examples of what people are doing and what agencies are going above and beyond. So that, I’ve found, is an amazing tool. But really they come in a multitude of different ways. There’s no one size fits all here. Every single brand wants to have their own identity and voice – we have 32 and they all want everything to be completely different from everyone else. So externally we might be competing with other large manufacturers but internally there’re still competing against each other. So it’s ensuring we have the right agency for all of them. Agency fit is really key because they are absolutely an extension of your team and they need to really understand the brand and its values.

In a competitive marketplace such as Hair Care how do you handle research and competitor monitoring?

We have independent external agencies that look at consumer buying trends for us and there are other independent agencies that provide other market data for us. In terms of research for live events within the hair industry I attend a lot of them, look at the trade press and what has been posted on line. For my own inspiration I look into fashion, music, festivals and events industry trade press. I try and bring ideas into this world to keep our brands moving forward and use people from across the events industry that can bring a fresh perspective. Another thing which has been eye-opening is being on the jury panel for EuBea. I think it’s a great new way to think about pitching and live events, and having someone who can stand up and do that well, is key for an agency. You need to see and hear that passion in real life, which is the whole basis of a live experience. And I think a lot of competitions in the UK could learn from EuBea.

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