Noemie Lottiau has a nose for a great smell. As a classically trained fragrance expert, she leads fragrance design for Axe/Lynx and helps create some of the brand’s most popular scents. Here she shares the story behind the new premium Axe Fine Fragrance Collection.
As President of Personal Care, Fabian Garcia leads the biggest business group in Unilever – a stable which includes Dove, Rexona, Lifebuoy, Axe, LUX and many more.
Here he shares why he’s staying humble at the helm of some of the world’s best-loved brands.
Career and leadership
Fabian, please share a little about your career before joining Unilever.
I’ve had a varied and fulfilling career so far – from working with luxury brands at Chanel, fashion with Timberland, and fast-moving consumer products at Procter & Gamble, Revlon and Colgate-Palmolive, among others. In other words, I’ve spent my entire career immersed in understanding consumer needs and how to deliver quality products for them.
I’m fortunate to have worked all over the world too, in countries including my home country Venezuela, together with Japan, Taiwan, the US, Colombia, the Philippines and Singapore, and now I’m based in the UK.
What attracted you to working at Unilever?
After my last corporate role, I considered early retirement. While contemplating my options, my criteria to come back to the corporate world became increasingly clear, and Unilever was the only company that felt like the right choice.
I admired its purpose, ideas, brands, values and reputation. The concept of doing well by doing good. Unilever’s commitment to sustainable living is proof that value creation and making a positive impact on people and planet are not at odds. They are intrinsically linked.
The second thing that attracted me was the opportunity to steward legendary brands like Dove, Axe and Rexona, to name but a few.
Thirdly, it’s the most global of any company I have worked with. Unilever has a deep cultural understanding of its markets and I’m proud to see that reflected in its commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.
And finally, the intellectual engagement and the growth agenda at Unilever are unmatched. Few companies have the scale and brands to drive this intent with such conviction. It’s exciting to be part of that and I can’t think of a better way to crown a long career.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I’ve been working for decades and what I find the most fun at this stage in my career is going to the markets and seeing how our strategy, agenda and brands are really landing. It’s great to see things for myself, not just what I’m told in reports!
Every market I’ve been to has impressed me in so many different ways.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I have done everything I wanted to do in my career already. Because of that my sense is that now I need to give something back. To share my experience so that others can take what they need from me.
I like to bring my entire team together for acts of service as often as we can. I do this for three reasons. The first is that when you do something to help others, you are reminded of your own privilege, something that we often take for granted. Secondly, it’s the best team-building activity you can do because everyone is humbled at the same time. And thirdly, it reminds us to be humble in business. Our brands might be the biggest but even market leaders can fall.
Strategy, innovation and growth
Last year Unilever reorganised its Beauty & Personal Care division into two business groups: Beauty & Wellbeing, led by Fernando Fernandez, and Personal Care, led by you. What key differences has this delivered?
In PC, our focus is on eight core brands which together account for 80% of our turnover – Dove, Dove Men+Care, Rexona, LUX, Lifebuoy, Axe, Pepsodent and Closeup. We are market leaders and trendsetters. Our brands have led the market for a long time and we’ll keep innovating to ensure they stay ahead with superior products that deliver on consumers’ needs.
As you can see from our results, we’ve had a good first year. The Compass organisation is working and we have the right strategy in place. We’ve built a strong foundation to propel our next level of growth.
What does this mean for decision-making and innovation?
Ultimately, it’s stepped up the speed at which key business decisions can be taken. We can now make these choices based on what is best for our brands and business and, importantly, put the right investment behind it.
How is the Personal Care business group generating value and growth for Unilever?
Our Deodorants category reported high double-digit growth in H1, and we saw particularly strong performances from Rexona and LUX.
Many Personal Care brands are market leaders. How do you continue to grow a business when you’re already No.1?
It’s great to have brands that are No.1 around the world, but we must stay humble. There’s more we should – and will – do to ensure they continue to evolve. In some cases we neglected some of our greatest assets. We haven’t invested enough in these much-loved brands and that is going to change.
We are planning to nourish our core brands with innovation support, we’ll explore greater distribution and we’ll assert our market leadership. We are the custodians of these brands and we have a responsibility to keep them growing.
is the biggest sponsorship deal Unilever has ever done and there are incredible possibilities to grow our Personal Care brands through this too, reaching a wide range of consumers through newer platforms like TikTok and gaming. There’s enormous potential.
Trends and results
Are you pleased with Personal Care’s results so far in 2023?
Yes, our results to date have shown we have built a strong foundation in our first year as Personal Care. Now it’s about building on this momentum and propelling to our next level of growth by investing behind our powerhouse brands.
What key markets and channels are you focusing on for growth?
Our business is interesting in that it is evenly split across both emerging and developed markets. In terms of channels, our biggest channels are hypermarkets and supermarkets in developed markets, and smaller proximity stores in emerging markets.
How will Personal Care continue to grow with purpose?
We are a confidence-building business that offers people dignity, self-esteem and self-assurance to face their day.
Purpose is integral to our brands – Rexona’s Breaking Limits social programme takes an inclusive approach to physical activity to build young people’s confidence and move more, Dove has been providing pioneering body confidence programmes, Lifebuoy has a long track record of improving health and wellbeing, and Pepsodent has a long commitment to promoting toothbrushing. Leading with purposeful brands is in our DNA. How we’ll grow from that is by reaching more people with superior products and additional benefits.
Looking to the future
What’s your greatest ambition in this role?
My mark of success will be handing this business to my successor in a better shape than I received it, with our brands gaining market share and really fulfilling their potential.
When I joined Unilever, I said my mission is to make sure that people who work with me fulfil their personal and professional aspirations. The people working in Personal Care are phenomenal. If we all raise that bar of excellence, this team will be the best in the entire industry.
Unilever’s Rexona, Dove, Lifebuoy and LUX brands were Official Sponsors of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™, collaborating on a range of initiatives to accelerate the growth of women’s football globally. What’s next in this agreement?
We are incredibly proud to be and it was extremely exciting to showcase our brands, including Rexona, Dove, Lifebuoy and LUX, to an audience of more than 2 billion football fans during the biggest FIFA Women’s World Cup™ event in history.
This five-year partnership didn’t end with the England/Spain final. It will run until 2027, including the FIFA World Cup™ which will take place in the US, Canada and Mexico in 2026, along with the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup™, the FIFA eSports and the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027™. Together with FIFA, we are on a mission to inspire more girls to play the game and celebrate a more inclusive, more diverse world of football.
For us, it’s a long-term strategy. All the brands involved in this partnership have clear, relevant social purposes that are an authentic fit – from Rexona’s mission to give more girls the opportunity to play football, to LUX’s campaigns that challenge sexism, to Dove’s work championing body positivity, to Lifebuoy helping to ensure that young girls don’t miss a single day of practice. This is about so much more than logos in the stadium or on shirts.
What do you consider to be the next big trends in Personal Care?
We see three key trends that we believe will shape our brands’ growth in the future – and our portfolio is perfectly placed to deliver on them.
The first is enhanced health and protection – acting on consumers’ desire for heightened efficacy for their personal care needs. What that means for us is higher protection for sweat and odour, and stronger protection against germs. Our Rexona and Lifebuoy brands are making great progress on this front with the launch of Rexona’s 72-hour formula and Lifebuoy’s innovations in antibacterial soap.
The second trend is the democratisation of beauty and wellness ingredients in personal hygiene. For example, the use of multivitamins across all our categories, including Dove deodorant, Closeup toothpaste and Lifebuoy soap bars.
And a third key trend is better by and better for nature, which is about the combination of sustainability with enhanced potency from natural ingredients. Closeup’s toothpastes with natural extracts have been a big hit, as has Lifebuoy’s bodywash made with nature’s most powerful skin immunity boosters.
Fast forward to 2030: what changes will we see in terms of portfolio, partnerships and products for Personal Care?
We see a big growth opportunity in the area of beauty-enhancing products with the wide availability of cutting-edge beauty ingredients and crossover of skincare regimes into daily personal care routines.
We know consumers are looking for better defences against lifestyle and environmental challenges as well as products which offer additional functional benefits – such as enhanced protection against odour and wetness, body hygiene and care, and protection against tooth decay.
Our job is to harness our world-class innovation capabilities to meet these needs, aiming to deliver superior products and experiences which are widely accessible.
Closeup is the third most-chosen toothpaste in the world, reaching consumers in 57 different countries and giving millions fresher breath and the confidence to get close, no matter who they love. Here’s how this innovative, inclusive brand has stayed fresh for more than 50 years.
The final whistle may have blown on FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™, but our Personal Care brands’ sponsorship of FIFA is just getting started with more still to come. Discover four ways it’s proving to be a win–win for attracting women to the sport and engagement for our brands.