My career defining moments: Hugh Pile, CMO Western Europe, L’Oréal

Written by: Mindi Chahal
Published on: 18 Sep 2016

Hugh Pile has had a varied career, having worked in a number of international roles for drinks giant Diageo before moving into the beauty industry to head up marketing for L’Oréal where he says his biggest challenge is managing complexity.

My career

Hugh Pile’s appointment as L’Oréal’s UK CMO in 2014 was a first for the company amid a regroup to align marketing with other functions such as consumer insight and social listening.

On appointment he was tasked with supporting L’Oréal’s growth strategy, which aims to reach a billion new consumers by 2020, and the marketer was recently promoted to the role of Western Europe CMO.

Pile has experienced the industry from far and wide. He was the marketing and innovation director at Diageo in Vietnam and also did a stint in Africa, having first joined the business as a brand manager in 2005.

The 2016 inductee of Marketing Week’s Vision 100 speaks to us ahead of his appearance at the Festival of Marketing in October. He shares the challenges of his journey, why accepting the L’Oréal role was a bold move and how his expanded remit is allowing him to learn at an even greater pace.

What are the defining moments of your career?

Two really stand out. The first was filming a TV commercial with the legendary long-distance runner Haile Gebrselassie. Shot in the stunning Ethiopian countryside, I was reminded daily how blessed we are to be working in this industry – creativity abounds, passionate people everywhere, and brands that inspire. On the dark days, I remind myself of this.

The second was accepting the UK & Ireland CMO position for L’Oréal. It was a big, bold and divergent move for me – changing countries, companies, cultures and categories. I threw myself into the great unknown and have grown ever since.

What are your biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?

In a company the size of L’Oréal, my biggest challenge is managing complexity. In my role where the marketing environment evolves at a frightening pace, that complexity is multiplied. How do I overcome it? Ruthless prioritisation, empowering and trusting my teams and the occasional glass of whisky.

What advice would you give to those following in your footsteps?

Probably not to follow in my footsteps. Not because I’m not proud of what I’ve achieved or motivated by the challenges I face every day, but that we each need to find our own paths in life. If you’re true to who you are, and you chase your dreams relentlessly, you will go anywhere you want to go.

How did spending time in Vietnam shape your career as a marketer?

Vietnam is a glorious country in which to be based. For a marketer it’s an electric, scintillating yet challenging country where my role flexed from annual strategy to deciding what colour to paint a new meeting room. In a market where you are the outsider, you learn the value of research, the value of your team and that deep down mankind is really the same.

How is your target of acquiring a billion new customers by 2020 going?

We are obsessed with growing penetration of our brands, reaching out to new consumers and shoppers in new markets, new categories or with new brands and products. This allows us to innovate aggressively – the lifeblood of us here at L’Oréal, but also to embrace new ways of talking to new consumers. And then supporting this with precision advertising to reach the right consumers. It has been a rewarding journey spanning creative and targeting challenges.

How has your role changed since becoming Western Europe CMO?

The expanded remit has allowed me to learn at an even greater pace. There are brilliantly executed campaigns throughout the continent and it has been a pleasure just listening to the talent of the teams on my travels – I really learn every day. I also need to register fast for some airline loyalty cards.

festival article


Hugh Pile will be taking part in a session called ‘The disruption of the beauty industry through influencers’ at the Festival of Marketing, which is taking place on 5 and 6 October at Tobacco Dock, London. For more information about the event, including how to book tickets, click here.

Meet the colleagues of a modern marketer: The Content Curator

Content is no new thing but with the rise of digital marketing teams now create so much content that they need someone to take charge of collating it.

It is about organising, so those that hold the role must be able to efficiently sort through the best of campaign creative, blogs, tweets, digital newsletters, videos and any other digital collateral and store it in a way that can be easily plucked out when required.

Because of the nature of the role it also goes by the title of content librarian or content archivist. Depending on the type of business and their approach to content, some brands may want to curate previous activity for consumers to access, while others might need it to be stored accessibly for internal purposes. This enables marketers and senior leaders to easily refer back to what has been done in the past to prove effectiveness and facilitate future planning.

Marketers increasingly have to prove their worth to the board so the role of content curator will become increasingly important for modern marketers.

A content curator will have the ability to make sense of marketing collateral and be able to pull out a certain tweet, video or blog whenever it is called upon and produce content that is required by marketers and beyond in a clear and coherent way.