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“Capturing New Frontiers “: the 23rd edition of the L’Oréal-HEC ‘Next Billion Challenge’

27 Jan 2016

The L’Oréal-HEC ‘Next Billion Challenge’ marketing competition took place on January 8, 2016 on the HEC Paris campus. Students from the MSc in Marketing, and the Major in Marketing (Grande Ecole) had 1 week to design a new business model for L’Oréal’s Professional Products Division.


The Next Billion Challenge refers to the global strategy employed by L’Oréal to acquire 1 billion new customers in markets that are still untapped. This award, which was created in 1993, is evidence of the close, long-lasting relationship that exists between L’Oréal and HEC Paris.
Every year, the challenge is based around a new issue that covers three main aspects: product offer, consumer targets and digital activation levers.   
This year, the students spent a week working on the creation of a business model for the company’s Professional Products division. This required coming up with their chosen multi-channel strategy with a strong emphasis on the new digital players.   
This intensive week was accompanied by interventions from experts, coaching sessions and preparation for the final presentations. Presentations of the three best student projects were held before a jury made up of executive directors from L’Oréal and professors from HEC Paris.

Following the presentations, the jury awarded the winning prize to the team comprised of the following students: Julien Daou, Hsin-Mei Yeh, Alina Mihaylova, Omar Marrakchi and Jennifer Jiangtong Wei.
We sat down with 2 students from the winning team, Jennifer Jiangtong Wei (MiM 2016) and Alina Mihaylova (MSc Marketing 2016)

  • What were your assignments for the ‘Next Billion Challenge’?

Jennifer : We had to come up with a business model that would help L’Oréal be at the forefront of the on-demand beauty digital revolution. We were to be judged on the feasibility of the strategy, the innovativeness of our idea, as well as the completeness of the multi-channel approach.

  • What were the highlights of this project?

Jennifer : During our midpoint review, we received a lot of constructive criticism from L’Oréal - so much that we did not think that we would be picked for the final presentation. However, we worked very hard to improve our weaknesses, and eventually brought forward an idea that was wholly original, extremely feasible and a true added-value for the company. This demonstrated to us that L’Oréal is a company that values training and feedback - we were told that our situation was a reflection of the L’Oréal culture, whereby employees are given great constructive criticism, but only so that they can excel in the end. In this way, L’Oréal showed us that it is a true world-class training ground for serious marketers.

  • What do you think made your team stand out before the Jury?

Alina : I think it is the fact that our idea was easy to implement! It embraced the current market situation, but at the same time was adapted to L’Oréal’s existing business model. We took into account all the small details that are quite important in the business world. For instance, we actually considered how stakeholders may react, particularly sales representatives that play a key role in the implementation of any marketing idea in the day-to-day business. So I reckon the key to success in this type of challenges is to be innovative but at the same time realistic and pragmatic.

  •  What did you learn from the L’Oreal marketing case study?

Alina : This case study reminded me how amazing it is to work in a motivated team. No matter how smart you are, you will probably never have the same ideas alone as you would have in a team. Brainstorming together, sharing knowledge, experiences and skills is really a key to succeed in a project like this. Moreover, working on a case like the one from L’Oréal enables you to learn quickly and apply your academic knowledge to solve real life issues.