Kate: PHYTO is a prescriptive line and in France it really enjoys a very stable identity. It’s like a household name. Basically its claim is that it has an answer to almost every hair problem … It’s a large line, very extensive.
Claire: When we became brand managers, they hadn’t had a ‘Brand Manager’ previously; they had ‘Directors of Marketing.’ The branding effort is more focused at this point. We probably do more sales support than you’d see in an average company. I mean, I still have my reps call me and ask me to print out a brochure.
What happens on the shelf is the most important thing. When consumers are by themselves, we need to help them navigate the experience. We do this with charts, brochures, promotions, packaging, and sampling.”
Kate: We’ve really been trying to collaborate on our projects this year because the retail and professional lines are going to be the same visually – compatible with both outlets.
PHYTO entered the US market a little over ten years ago. The US represents a completely different market. The price points in France are closer to the mass-market products here, whereas we’re a very high-end product in the US. So our position [in the US] is that we are a luxury brand, in a niche market.
Claire: Also in France, partly because it’s sold in a pharmacy, the French public puts a different emphasis on the product.
Kate: American customers are more interested in the superficial aspects of hair care – for example, styling their hair. It’s more of a cosmetic market.
Another problem we have in the US is that our products are in boxes and, in the department stores the boxes are just torn up. American consumers want to see the product. If it is in a box, people just take it out to see what it looks like.
Claire: We’re updating the identity. Largely what we’ve been doing this year is communicating to our consumer to help dispel the mystery and to help them navigate the extensive line.
Kate: My favorite part of the job is working with Claire every day (grins). For me my favorite thing about the job is definitely the fact that it’s changing all the time. And I’m constantly being challenged. It definitely keeps you on your toes. Sometimes in a frantic schizophrenic way but…
Since I still feel like I’m a novice in so many ways, this job is a real learning experience for me.
Claire: I actually have had those moments that are kind of powerful when you get that fanatical person, holding onto your arm, saying: ‘This is the best thing that has ever happened to my hair.
You really get people who are wild about the products. And that makes you feel like you’re doing something that people care about and does have an effect.
Another appeal about this job is that it’s a French company. I went to school in France; that’s why I got hired and that’s why it’s interesting to me. It’s language, it’s culture; it makes the job a little bit deeper.
It’s both the best thing and the worst thing working for a French company. You get all these fun perks; there’s a lot of lifestyle involved in working for a French company. They understand la bonne vie but at the same time you end up with very traditional ideas about the way things work. Even though both of us have really been paid attention to and done well in the company and definitely been rewarded, it will always be as a woman, you know? If you come to our office, there’s like 20 really good looking women and 3 Frenchmen. And I think that’s typical. I’ve read interviews from the head of Clarins who was talking about how out of 4000 employees, 3500 of them were women.
What Kate and I represent, is – we’re sort of like the breath of fresh air. We’re able to come in as young American women who are aware of fashion. I think that’s really part of why we are where we are – because we’re young and we’re women. We know who our consumer is because we are our consumer. And that hasn’t existed before.
Kate: Of course we’re trying to help PHYTO grow but it can only grow really. It’s inevitable. And every day, more and more we’re getting mentions in the press and becoming more and more visible.
Claire: It has become this sort of fashion cult industry product. And at this point, it’s up to us to capitalize on that and recognize that. Until recently it hasn’t been that way.
Part of Kate and my success is each other. It’s true. You don’t usually find that kind of synergy…
Kate: Except in our products!
Yeah, I would agree with that. It’s definitely a partnership. It’s definitely a pleasure to work with Claire.
Claire: We work together on ideas. We help each other on everything; we’re the creativity behind everything.
Kate: It’s a lot of hours in front of the computer kind of hashing things out. But I can’t work any other way. I need to openly talk about ideas and bounce them off because that’s really the best way for my ideas to take off. Something comes up and you spin off that.
Claire: We share a similar aesthetic, a similar idea about marketing. Even though we don’t come from pure marketing backgrounds, we’re coming from more of an artistic angle.
Kate: And the products are good. I feel like my hair has grown more since I’ve been there.
Claire: Your hair looks beautiful today by the way.