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Creating my own role: my career in marketing at L'Oreal

Alfie’s transition from student to professional has taken him from negotiating student rent reviews to negotiating with the likes of Amazon.
As the role was brand new, I was able to shape it and become (or be perceived as!) an expert at an early stage of my career.

I was drawn to marketing for the same reason I was drawn to study history: I have a deep interest in why people make choices. I started looking at graduate programmes with fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) companies because I wanted to work across a wide portfolio of brands. I initially applied to L'Oréal because it was a leading FMCG company in London. I didn't have a personal attachment to or interest in makeup, but, as I progressed in the recruitment process, I looked into the psychology behind beauty purchases and found it fascinating.

Laying the foundations at university

There were two distinct things at university that helped me be successful in the L'Oréal selection process and in the workplace since. I was involved in debating, which helped develop my critical thinking and gave me the ability to confidently present ideas to strangers. This was useful for L'Oréal because, as a business, a lot of focus is put on presentations.

I was also the junior common room president for my college, which involved representing the undergraduate student body in its dealings with the college, including annual rent negotiations. This taught me a lot about time management, prioritisation and gave me the confidence to think that I could lead a team in the future.

Not just for Christmas

When I joined the marketing stream of the graduate management programme, it was a year in length (this has now been extended to 18 months) and involved three rotations – two in-stream and one off-stream. I started out in the Dublin office. It's much smaller than in London but had a close-knit family feel; they really took me under their wing as I knew no-one in the city. I worked in marketing on Elvive and Garnier haircare brands.

For my next rotation, I moved to the London office, again working in marketing on Garnier Pure Active skincare products. I was also the lead for Garnier Christmas giftsets. Among other tasks, I decided the products to be included and the design, and built a business case to show their profitability.

My final rotation was in sales and, in a way, it was the rotation on which I learned the most because I saw the business from a different angle. Instead of working on a brand, I was working on a retail account (in this case Boots, which sells a number of our brands): the focus was on how to grow the relationship with that specific retailer.

Defining roles

After my graduate programme, I started in online brand management. Just before I started, the business restructured the marketing teams so that, instead of one person managing every stage of the launch for a specific product, roles were created so that one person looks after a specific stage of the launch across products.

As an online brand manager, I ensured that whenever customers encountered our brands online, whether that was through online retailers or our own online channels, they looked their best. This meant maximising ecommerce sales, designing banners and emails, and building web tools such as our foundation finder or virtual try-on.

As the role was brand new, I was able to shape it and become (or be perceived as!) an expert at an early stage of my career. One of my highlights was working on a product launch exclusive to Amazon: it was risky because we were asking consumers to buy a new foundation they weren't able to try beforehand, but I identified the opportunity, the right retailer and then negotiated the deal. It was very successful and I had colleagues as far afield as Thailand and Peru asking me about it.

Just last week I moved into another brand new role, having transitioned from marketing to sales. Excitingly I got to create the role from scratch (and decide my job title!). My role will be to refine our marketing efforts by working with retailers and their consumer data so we make more intelligent choices about the ads we run.

Autonomy and freedom

L'Oréal gives you a lot of autonomy on projects and this is one of the things I appreciate most about the company: the opportunity to put my own ideas into practice and to learn from them if they fail.

The company particularly suits graduates who are self-confident enough to believe that their ideas should be listened to and tested, and to be proactive and resourceful. However, you are given support: the company follows the 70:20:10 model of learning and development, where 70% comes from day-to-day work, 20% from mentoring and 10% from formal training.

An example of this mentoring was on my second placement on my graduate programme when my boss' boss would have weekly one to ones with me. He said that in this time I could ask him anything about work and so he spent half an hour essentially teaching me. His weekly diary was full, but he still always found half an hour for a graduate he wasn't even directly managing. This was key in helping me work out the kind of professional I want to become.

Alfie Hinchliffe
Job title: 
Ecommerce, performance and analytics manager

2012–2015 Studied for, and graduated with, a degree in history from the University of Oxford.
2012–2015 Was part of the Oxford Union debate team and the Oxford University sailing team.
2013–2014 Acted as the junior common room president of Worcester College.
2013 Undertook summer marketing and advertising-focused internships at the Leith Agency and at WCRS.
2015 Spent a summer working as a street team leader for Live Nation, selling tickets for the Edinburgh Fringe.
2015–2016 Had a gap year.
2016 Joined L’Oréal UK and Ireland as a marketing management trainee.
2017 Became an assistant online brand manager with L’Oréal Paris.
2018 Was promoted to online brand manager with L’Oréal Paris.
2019 Moved to current position in the L’Oréal Paris commercial team.

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