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MOVERS & SHAKERS Laurent Houel GLOBAL BRAND DIRECTOR, EVIAN


Marketing and business development specialist Laurent Houel joined evian®, the iconic water company, in 2009 with the task of expanding the brand into new arenas. Spa was an obvious avenue and four years on an exciting new spa brand backed by a globally recognised group has arrived on the scene. The licenced evianSpa concept debuted at Palace Hotel Tokyo in 2012 as part of a US$1.2bn refurbishment and is now poised for a strategic global rollout.


What’s your background? I’ve spent most of my career working in mar- keting and business development for FMCG and luxury companies. I started in Proctor & Gamble and then moved to fragrance and cos- metics company Coty – that owns Rimmel and operates licenced brands such as the Calvin Klein and Chloé scents. In the luxury sector, I was VP of marketing for YSL on the cosmetics side and prior to evian was at LVMH. Evian, which belongs to Danone, has a fan-


tastic history and coming from the luxury business, where the heritage dimension is key, this richness really struck a chord. It was fi rst discovered to have health benefi ts in 1789 and this spurred on the growth of the spa and ther- mal water traditions that the French Alpine town of Évian-les-Bains has built a whole industry around. When you come from the luxury sector having a rich heritage like this is extremely important.


48 spa business handbook 2013


How much did you know about spas beforehand? Some of the luxury brands I worked for had spas and I was interested in the wellbeing sec- tor, but I’m not an industry expert which is why I decided to team up with Patrick Saus- say. Patrick used to be a business consultant for global companies like BearingPoint, but also had the knowledge of the spa industry as he’d been the managing director at After the Rain: a Swiss skincare and spa company. He set up his own consultancy, Global Project and Spa Advisory, a year ago and we started our collaboration then.


What was your fi rst impression of the spa industry? Initially, I was surprised by its diversity. There are traditional segments like day, urban, destination, medical and hotel spas


but the consumer experience can vary tre- mendously – even if it’s part of a chain – as there’s a diverse interpretation of wellbeing that’s shaped by the personality of the local spa owners. There’s a fantastic richness, but at the same time, it can be very confusing for the guests to know what to expect. Many of them hesi- tate at having to spend a signifi cant amount of money on something they don’t understand. On the positive side, I’ve seen many pas-


sionate people in this industry, who feel they have a real mission in developing the wellbe- ing sector. This is very invigorating.


What could the spa industry learn from the luxury sector? First, that there is a need for absolute con- sistency in the spa offer. Everything counts from the product to the retail environment and the communication – everything needs to sync perfectly to create the same brand expe- rience overall. Second, is innovation. You must surprise your customers because if you stick to a rec- ipe you lose the edge. Innovation, however, should stem from the original creation with solid marketing behind it.


Is the pampering spa image a damaging one? The spa industry is very fragmented but I think there’s room for the ‘me time’ approach as well as the harder health approach. But it’s important that the industry starts to clarify these different segments for consumers.


www.spahandbook.com


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