Nicolas Krafft found his career passion in the beauty and cosmetics industry, becoming a respected executive at L’Oreal who guided global marketing and sales strategies around some of the world’s best known professional beauty brands.
After completing his MBA at the St. Gallen University in Switzerland, with a major in finance and accounting, Nicolas Krafft joined L’Oréal in Canada. He had the chance to strengthen his management and leadership skills through executive education at INSEAD based European Center for Executive Development. He joined Columbia University Business School in 2020 to earn a state-of the art understanding of the latest developments in the digital world and how traditional business models are being transformed. He is also a recipient of executive certification in strategy and innovation from MIT Sloan School of Management.
He believes sustainability is the next major opportunity for businesses to innovate, to revisit their business models, generate new competitive advantages and to contribute to a better world. Nicolas Krafft has recognized the role that the beauty industry must play in reducing its impact on climate change. He has investigated sustainable business practices from leading B Corp companies and recently attended a business leadership program from the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.
A Career in Beauty
Not long after starting with L’Oréal in Canada, Nicolas Krafft moved to Germany, the largest beauty market in Europe. His first role was as a product manager for professional hair care and hair color products — a role where he distinguished himself and led to him becoming marketing director of the French luxury haircare line Kérastase.
From there, he was sent to Paris to oversee the launch of the L’Oréal owned brand Matrix in Asia. Matrix went on to become the first international professional beauty brand accessible to all beauty salons from China to Indonesia. While in this role, he helped redesign its product platform to best meet local expectations both in terms of performance and price.
Five years later he pursued his international career in Eastern Europe first managing local operations in the Baltics and in Romania before being promoted to Deputy General Manager of the zone. In this position, Nicolas Krafft was overseeing 14 countries from Central Europe to Russian and Turkey. He led marketing and sales for the four strategic brands of the professional division and reengineered growth through the financial crisis which severely impacted the region.
Having become a trusted leader within the company, Nicolas Krafft was named Vice President of Global Business Development in 2014 for the Matrix and Biolage brands. Upon entering this leadership position, he moved to New York City and led a deep transformation of the brands go-to-market strategy across various geographies, cultures, distributions contexts and consumer behaviors. As the International General Manager of the newly acquired brand Pulp Riot he led the roll-out of the digital native hair color brand in the UK and Western Europe.
As an executive, Nicolas Krafft was attuned to develop brands with a strong customer focus and understanding on how to make multiples stakeholders grow together. He has designed and transformed business models in the beauty industry at different levels of the life cycle of brands with a focus on sustainable growth and innovation. His experience ranged from launching and internationalizing new brands, opening new business, accelerating, and transforming existing ones. He has worked on leading historic brands, sustainable brands, and digital pure players brands. He has also both managed small and midsize businesses with a strong hands-on, entrepreneurial approach as well as global projects requiring a solid understanding of how complex organizations work.
By learning early on that by shifting customer-brand relationships, which had grown more personalized in the digital era, Nicolas Krafft saw the opportunity to engage customers by scale through social media and the power of data.
Customers expect digital integration, Nicolas Krafft has said, and companies that want to ensure their future success need to constantly work to increase and improve their digital presence, merging the in-person and online experience.
As an executive at L’Oréal, Nicolas Krafft has piloted subsidiaries and cross-cultural teams across all continents from Eastern Europe to Asia. He has embraced the richness of working with diverse teams, always curious to discover new aspects of different cultures, the impact of social relationships, ethnicity and climate on beauty products and routine as well as different ways of working. Krafft notes that next to food, beauty is one of the main markers of a culture.
His international career has taught him the power of collective intelligence and the need to find the right balance between global strategy and local relevance. He recognized different countries may have different ways to address a business issue and relying on this collective knowledge, he proved to be very successful. He has always been recognized by his team as a generous leader always keen to share know-how and upskill talents.
Throughout his career he has loved working in “challenger situations”, either because of difficult market conditions, untapped opportunities, or brand difficulties. This moves leaders to think differently, to look for things others did not pay attention to and to innovate, he said. There is no room for copying others but only for strong differentiation. He thinks this also requires a clear and engaging definition of the brand mission and objectives, a sharp prioritization of means and highly committed teams.
The next frontier: sustainability
As an executive at L’Oréal, Nicolas Krafft is a thought leader who understood the generational shifts happening in the beauty industry and how to use them to drive success, and a champion of the growing movement to bring sustainable focus and accountability to the design, manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of haircare and skincare products.
In addition to embracing the digital shift happening across the industry and using it to inform his marketing approach, Nicolas Krafft is convinced about the need for companies to embrace sustainability.
He recognizes that the industry has a large environmental footprint and that sustainable practices are the future and will drive the industry’s profitability. Drawing from his experience with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, Nicolas Krafft has explored the massive trends happening within the industry to curb carbon emissions, reduce packaging waste and water use, and to engage both brands and salons in sustainability efforts.
He has examined the ways in which beauty brands could continue their sustainability push further. Noting that the pandemic had created an entirely new home and work reality — one that involved social distancing and remote work — he called on companies to use the moment as an opportunity to revisit and update their practices. He has talked about how sustainability, incorporated into every aspect of a company’s business, can help a company withstand unforeseen circumstances like the pandemic.
Reaching New Heights
Nicolas Krafft’s focus on athletics to overcome challenges and find fulfilment mirrors his own passion for mountain climbing. He began climbing in 2001 and quickly developed a lifelong interest in the sport. He credits mountain climbing with making him a better businessman as it has taught him about managing risk and building a team you can trust. But it is also about the personal journey — a journey that is just as important, he has argued, as a professional one. Nicolas Krafft has looked for balance in his life, and knows that without a healthy amount of time spent living and enjoying life, he wouldn’t have been able to reach the professional heights he has.
Nicolas Krafft is supporting the Adaptive Sports Foundation, based in Windham, New York, which provides skiing and snowboarding instruction to children and adults with special needs and disabilities. His donation supported the purchase of skiing and snowboarding equipment and clothing for the individuals they serve, some of whom have gone on to compete in the U.S. Paralympic Team.
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