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Interview

Unpacking CeraVe’s Quarantine Success Meet Global General Manager, Penelope Giraud

During the pandemic, CeraVe has shown us that there is no ceiling to skincare success. Global General Manager Penelope Giraud gives us a behind-the-scenes look at what’s been working. 

CeraVe has been a longterm resident of your local pharmacy. Gracing shelves as early as 2005, CeraVe products gained universal appeal for their dermatologist-approved formulas. Whether you’ve struggled with acne, eczema, or dry skin at some point in your life, you’ve probably tried a cleanser or moisturizer from this staple brand. It all comes down to the science behind the products: three essential ceramides and unique skin technology that help to restore your skin barrier by replenishing your skin’s existing ceramides.

Despite always being a strong and consistent brand, CeraVe has shown us that there is no ceiling to skincare success. A couple of years after L’Oréal purchased the brand in 2017 and initiated an international expansion, the brand continued to grow on social media. As such, TikTok creators like skincare expert, Hyram, generated buzz around specific products like CeraVe’s Salicylic Acid Cleanser. In 2020, CeraVe experienced huge surges in product sales as the youngest consumers of the skincare sector began to join the CeraVe wave. In order to get a behind-the-scenes look at this prolonged success, we sat down with Penelope Giraud. After working for L’Oréal for 20 years, she is now the Global General Manager at CeraVe and one of the great minds behind the brand’s remarkable quarantine victory.

CeraVe has been a true story of success, coming out on top even in the midst of a pandemic. What changes have brought you this success?

After CeraVe’s purchase by L’Oréal in 2017, the brand immediately entered an intense phase of expansion and growth with product launches in 35 countries. As an experienced General Manager with a proven track record in the global cosmetics industry, I have been at the helm of CeraVe since the brand’s acquisition and so have had an opportunity to be a part of this incredible growth story. Today, the brand is on fire and I am excited for the year ahead. Personally, I am a passionate advocate for accessible beauty. My vision for the brand’s success is focused on providing accessible and therapeutic skincare to as many individuals as possible.

How have you been able to foster a community feeling without a store?

As a brand developed alongside dermatologists, we benefit from the communities that these experts bring to the table. We also collaborate with the medical community more broadly. An important driver of word-of-mouth is our nurse advocacy program. Last year, at the largest U.S. nurse conference with over 10,000 attendees from 30 countries, CeraVe was the most influential in share-of-voice.

They’re making serious subjects very accessible, easy to understand, and with a lot of humour.

There has also been a massive amount of community support for CeraVe that emerged on social media platforms such as Reddit and TikTok. We have more influencers that we’re in contact with who speak of our brand. This creates an overspill in countries like the UK and Australia, but also Brazil, France and Germany. This direct-to-consumer, direct-to-influencer communication allows us to discuss with all of the people who are talking about our products. That’s quite insightful for us. When it comes to new topics coming up, like “maskne” for example, it allows us to work with influencers very quickly on how to educate and offer routines.

And of course, there are “doctor influencers” who bridge the gap between the medical and influencer worlds, such as Dr. Dray on YouTube, Dr. Henry on Instagram, and Dr. Dustin Portela and Dr. Shah on TikTok. They’re making serious subjects very accessible, easy to understand, and with a lot of humour. This allows the younger generation, especially Gen Z (for the first time), to connect more easily on those types of topics that are important to them.

What is your take on the role of TikTok in beauty today?

TikTok is an effect of CeraVe’s efficacious products and dermatologist heritage, not the cause of the brand’s success. Our strategy is to use the platform to educate consumers. We partner with leading derms and influencers to spread sound skincare knowledge and bring therapeutic skincare to all. It all starts with listening and determining how we can communicate in a way that is authentic and will resonate with people.

There is one Gen-Z “skinfluencer” in particular who completely changed the game for us on TikTok and all social media platforms alike: Hyram Yarbro, the creator of the hugely popular Youtube channel-turned-Tiktok account “Skincare by Hyram.” Hyram posted a video on CeraVe’s SA Cleanser early 2020 on YouTube. In mid-May, one of his followers made a before-and-after TikTok and it earned 14 million video views. A day later, Hyram reacted with his own video; it earned 27 million video views. And the rest is history…

The SA Cleanser, which was specifically highlighted and featured by Hyram, multiplied in sales by four times.

The brand instantly saw a week-over-week increase in the U.S. on Amazon sales… Canada, UK, Germany, France, and many other countries have felt the ripples of TikTok, Gen Z, and the dermatological messaging. The SA Cleanser, which was specifically highlighted and featured by Hyram, multiplied in sales by four times.

What will we see more of for CeraVe in the next 12 months?

We will continue to build our global presence and we will also be sharing two exciting new product launches in July and September. Stay tuned!

What has impressed you the most about the ways L’Oréal had handled the pandemic?

L’Oréal’s e-commerce business has almost doubled during the pandemic, as shoppers seek beauty products online. By reinventing its model to embrace digital and beauty tech for a number of years, the Group was in a good position to adapt to changing consumer demands when the coronavirus pandemic struck. At CeraVe, Digital has created exciting new opportunities throughout Covid-19 and we are more ahead than we could have predicted.

To build a successful business, as our L’Oréal founder Eugene Schueller used to say, it’s all about people, people and people.

Also, L’Oréal has always encouraged flexible, remote working and the pandemic has accelerated this culture within the Group. For parents like myself, this has been important. Of course, the Group has also ensured that thorough social distancing measures are in place for when we do need to go into the office so that everyone stays safe. To build a successful business, as our L’Oréal founder Eugene Schueller used to say, it’s all about people, people and people. And if we want to build strong human-to-human connection, we need to make sure we have the best teams at the table.

What invaluable lessons have you learned at L’Oréal?

As a company, L’Oréal is at the forefront of the conversation around diversity and inclusion, as well as in building leadership roles for women at an executive level. I am grateful to have had access to mentors who have shaped my career path. I strive to ensure that my leadership style embodies CeraVe’s brand values: compassion, honesty, authenticity and trust.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell not just myself, but also all young people, to trust themselves as they navigate the early stages of their careers and to ask for help when they need it. I always strive to support our young team members at CeraVe. Most importantly, I try to encourage them to be brave, dream big and have fun!

Feature Image Credit: Alicia Zhang

Teresa Deely

Teresa Deely is a graduate from Columbia University with majors in English and Creative Writing. She is a freelance writer and marketing assistant working for clients in the wellness, jewelry, creative, and sports industries. She believes that one’s skin is yet another canvas and vehicle for art, and has loved styling her hair and applying makeup from a young age. Spending much of her time in educating youth and leading enrichment programs for children, she is highly motivated in discovering new ways to care for herself and sharing them with others.

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