L’Oréal Created This Training Program to Keep Its Marketers on the Cutting Edge

Teams with General Assembly for new 'GMAT for digital'

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L'Oréal has designs on being a digital-marketing machine in the years to come.

The personal care products giant has been busy working with General Assembly—the boot camp for folks who want to hone tech chops—to build an assessment and educational program it's revealing this week. The testing and training program combines e-learning with in-person workshops concentrating on the intersection of technology and branding.  

Marie Gulin-Merle, chief marketing officer at L'Oréal USA, called the initiative a comprehensive "GMAT for digital," addressing modern practices for data, search engine optimization, mobile marketing, social media and content creation. Gulin-Merle added the testing and curriculum will help build professional development for all kinds of people—no matter their level of expertise.

"We realize there's no age, no profile, no one-size-fits-all when it comes to executing [a program like this]," she said. 

Gulin-Merle and her team originally approached General Assembly in 2014, but the collaboration really heated up in the past year. Fast-forward to 2016, and 500 L'Oréal staffers in the U.S. have begun utilizing the system with roughly 170 more starting soon.

"It's going to be ongoing, always on," Gulin-Merle said. "The landscape is changing super fast."

Given L'Oréal's ad budget, building a cutting-edge marketing organization certainly appears wise. Kantar Media estimates L'Oréal, which includes such top beauty brands as Maybelline and Lancôme, spent $870 million on media in 2014.

Meanwhile, other big players like PepsiCo, Google, Priceline and Bonobos are also working with General Assembly. It's part of a collaboration between the companies, including L'Oréal, that could become a benchmarking tool across industries. That's the goal, and whether it comes to fruition will be worth keeping an eye on. 

Some may wonder what an agency's perspective is concerning a major client internally ramping up its advertising savvy and marketing innovation. But a rep for MEC—which handles television, print and digital for L'Oréal products—said in an email it was a positive move for all.

Independent marketing consultant David Deal agreed, saying the brand's partners should welcome such progress. "Smarter clients are better clients," Deal said.

In that regard, L'Oréal seems well positioned as its GMAT-style program marches forward. 

"It's one of the engines for our digital transformation," Gulin-Merle said. "We believe that learning is an essential part of the evolution of our marketing know-how."

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.