Coloring hair is a deeply ingrained, ritualistic part of our society. Rosi Ajjam, SVP of Global Retail Hair for Coty, also believes it’s a deeply emotional one, tied directly to building women’s self-esteem. And indeed it is! From high school students sporting their various new shades to seniors touching up their roots between salon appointments, the connection between coloring your hair and your self-esteem is undeniable and transcends age.
Rosi took on her role leading marketing efforts at Coty for iconic brands Clairol and Wella two years ago because she believes it’s time to revive this sleepy corner of the beauty market and tap back into the confidence-boosting power of the product. After a long career leading global marketing for hair color brands, among others, at P&G in Latin America (an experience she calls her “school” of marketing), Rosi was ready for the challenge of transforming the hair color market from a functional transaction to a true beauty experience.
Read on to learn more about Rosi’s incredible background and perspectives on everything from influencers to culture. And check out her Real Advice: Taking Care of Your Team, Your Family and Yourself article in our #WomenTrailblazers series. You don’t want to miss this one!
Tell us about your current role and responsibilities. Why did you choose to join Coty?
I’m currently the SVP for Global Retail Hair at Coty, including hair color, styling and hair care categories. I lead Clairol and Wella, two of the most iconic megabrands in the hair color & styling space. Our footprint is in over 110 markets, across the Americas, Europe and Asia. This is the functional description of what I do, as I like to see myself as working in the industry of boosting women’s confidence. Hair category, especially hair color, has an amazing transformational power in women’s self-esteem and confidence.
I joined Coty two years ago, when the merge between Coty and part of the beauty business of Procter & Gamble happened. I was inspired by the idea of creating a new company in an agile entrepreneurial environment. We are a pure Beauty player operating like a start-up, challenging the hair color industry that has been ripe for transformation for so many years. Joining the Coty team was a perfect opportunity to fulfill my vision of helping to transform this business. Before the merge I was the Global Marketing Director and Franchise leader for the Hair Color & Styling business at P&G. I had developed a strong expertise as I led my team to turn around the business first in Mexico, where we proved a transformational business model and then successfully expanded it globally, delivering results in markets like Japan, UK, Canada and US.
My husband and I are both Venezuelans, and after living in Panama for eight years, we decided to move to New York with our three kids to start this new adventure in our lives. These past two years have been like seven years in compressed mode. This period has been a roller coaster of experiences and I love roller coasters… so much learning, so many new experiences and challenges, leading and driving changes in every single aspect of our family and professional lives, getting to meet amazing people. Growing as a person and as a leader and grateful for the support from my family.
What current developments in marketing are most inspiring to you and how will they affect the future of marketing?
There are three big developments in marketing that I find very inspiring: 1) purpose and culture, 2) the role of data and artificial intelligence, and 3) the role of influencers and social media.
"Purpose is at the center of what we do, creating deep meaning for our brands..."
Starting with purpose and culture. Purpose is at the center of what we do, creating deep meaning for our brands, impacting consumers lives, helping to build a better world, driving inclusion and creating culture. I find it fascinating that, as marketers, we have the opportunity to create culture. Brands have been playing a stronger role in driving the changes that our societies need. This is important as Millennials and Gen Z consumers increasingly choose brands and companies that are anchored on strong purpose and social meaning in a way that is authentic. This is a movement that starts with consumers demanding more commitment from the brands, generating a virtuous cycle.
When it comes to purpose, I have a particular passion for empowering women, building their confidence and driving equality. Today, at both Wella and Clairol, we are activating purpose-driven campaigns that build from what our founders envisioned for these brands, and that I have the privilege to continue driving. We recently created the ‘Clairol Color of Confidence’ campaign where we invited 100 women to participate in a social study that showed the transformational power that hair color has as it helped to boost their confidence. We discovered very insightful stories of real women and we brought to life diversity and inclusion in a unique way.
The second aspect is data and A.I., which are transforming the way we interact with consumers, allowing brands and teams to establish personalized relationships in the new connected age. Today, we can listen to our consumers in ways that were not possible before, so we can offer solutions and messages that truly address their needs, that inspire them, and empower them in an environment that is omni-channel. This is only the beginning of a fascinating future in marketing. The key will be to leverage all these tools in a way that is authentic and respectful of consumers lives.
Finally, my third area is the role of influencers and social media, which have been redefining the way we build credibility around brand messaging. In our Clairol Color of Confidence campaign, we first leveraged real consumers to become ambassadors and advocates for the brand, driving our message of confidence in their personal accounts and platforms. We amplified the efforts with a squad of five amazing ‘fearless femmes’ influencers. We launched a Clairol pop-up store in Soho, New York, where consumers, media and influencers could experience the attributes of our new product, and we also leveraged a group of highly recognized experts including a dermatologist and two Colorists and Stylists. Our efforts have allowed us to surpass all impressions benchmarks achieved by any brand in the hair color category.
What are you working on now that's innovative?
We started a journey to transform the Hair Color category from a very functional dynamic to a true beauty experience. This implies a transformation of every touchpoint in the consumer journey - from the product, packaging, in-store, e-store, and usage experience, to the way we connect with each consumer. For the first time in 60 years, we improved the formula of our flagship brand, Clairol Nice’n Easy, to make it nicer, while still delivering the amazing hair color results and gray coverage that our consumers expect.
We modernized the pack and we have been implementing new ways of connecting with our consumers via sampling, our Color of Confidence Campaign, educational programs and mechanisms for a more personalized engagement, which are even evolving our business model. We have brought new users to the brand and to the category, growing our penetration for the first time in several years.
The new Clairol Nice’n Easy has won 7 very prestigious awards in the beauty industry, including Good House Keeping award, Breakthrough product by Allure, and Best Beauty product by Health Magazine, among others.
Tell us about your career path and how you ended up where you are right now: What big learning moments have you had in your journey? Did you have any notable mentors?
After 18 years at P&G in Latin America, I have spent the past two years at Coty in New York. As a marketer and business leader, I have done multiple roles, including Brand Building, Business Operations (P&L), and Strategic Planning. I led some Business and Cultural Transformations, and I had the honor to work with amazing leaders, multifunctional teams, and brands like Pampers, Head & Shoulders, Pantene, Secret, Venus, Wella, Clairol, and others.
As I grew up in my career, my scope grew as well - from local and regional roles in Latin America in which I was responsible for the in-market execution, P&L and more of the day to day operations - to Global roles in the past 4 years, where together with the global P&L, I have been in charge of the Brands, defining the Purpose, Equity, Visual Identity, Brand Architecture, Digital & Social Strategy, overall brand strategy and innovation plan, and with a footprint of over 110 markets. The fact that my career evolved from local and regional to global, equipped me to better serve the markets’ needs. Throughout my career, I have put a lot of energy into creating new capabilities for the business, establishing the know-how, defining the business model and evolving it in the new connected age.
P&G was my school where I learned the foundation of my marketing and business skills, as well as shaped my leadership style with a lot of focus on developing and caring for people. Coty has been the place where I have taken my skills to another level, leading a big cultural and organizational transformation, challenging ourselves to think of possibilities and reinventing the way to operate, making more agile decisions, and taking more and bigger risks.
How do you pick and develop the talent on your team and ensure there is collaboration?
I consider myself lucky as I have worked with amazing and very talented people along my career, who I have admired, had the pleasure to learn from and the honor to lead. I’m a very ‘caring’ person, and I like to surround myself with people who also care for others, and who can build relationships based on trust and transparency.
Here I share some values and thoughts that guide the way I operate with my team:
- To pick the talent on my team, I’m personally involved. I interview them and I secure that there is a good fit with the values and culture that I want to build.
- I surround myself with people that can bring expertise and talent in areas where I’m not necessarily the expert, and then I focus on unleashing and empowering them to succeed, removing barriers and providing the tools and training that they need.
- I enjoy healthy discussions. I like people that operates and leads by conviction, and who fights for what they believe is right versus just ‘YES’ people.
- I believe that when people play to their strengths they are happier, and happier people deliver better results. I take the time to identify the passions and strengths that each person can bring, in a way that they complement each other, fostering a natural collaboration where all can thrive.
- I also believe that the best way of learning is by doing. I give people the opportunity to learn on the job, and secure that they get the right coaching in the day to day and formal training, either from me or from an expert. It is great to see people growing and doing things that they did not imagine they could achieve.
- I value people that have the drive and passion for making things happen
- I also value the power of multifunctional teams, with each area of the company well represented and complementing each other. I have an amazing Leadership Team.
Diversity and inclusion are key values for me: gender, cultural background, thinking styles are all appreciated and respected in my team. I have a strong passion for supporting women’s growth, I stay close and establish personal relationships to get to know them better, listening to their needs, their passions, their interests and creating opportunities for them to move forward. I also stay close to men, and equally coach them on how to navigate some of the diversity challenges that we face. I help women, and I have to say also men, to manage and value their work-life integration.
"I help women, and I have to say also men, to manage and value their work-life integration."
What one thing do you need from your CMO to help you be successful?
Trust and open communication. I love to have healthy discussions, sharing different POVs, challenging the thinking, taking risks and ultimately finding the best solutions for the business and the team. This can only happen in an environment where there is trust. Trust is key for everyone in the team to bring their best.
What advice would you give to marketers who are just starting their careers?
First learn, learn and learn. Discover your passions and what you are great at. Then find a North, create a vision or a purpose, own your career and make sure most of what you do contributes to achieving that. Be open to adjusting as you go, learn from some mistakes, get better and have FUN.
- If you were a superhero, what would your special skill be? Tele-transportation, so I can travel instantly to visit my family that is spread all over the world.
- Name something that most people don't know about you. As a New Year’s purpose, I committed myself to every week have lunch or coffee with one woman in my team, from Coty or outside of Coty. I have met over 40 amazing women in the 42 weeks of this year. I have been able to learn, coach, mentor, network or simply have a nice chat… so many insights and interesting experiences.
- If you weren’t a marketer, what would you be? Probably a designer or an architect
- What's the best thing you've read/listened to/watched recently? I’m in love with ‘CMO Moves’... when I met Nadine I lived a fan moment. I recognized her voice in an event that we were both attending and I approached her to introduce myself. It is fascinating to learn about the amazing persons behind the most amazing brands, their experiences, ideas, inspiration, career paths.