Stefan Sudhoff has worked for nearly thirty years in the same industry and in the same company. Yet he continues to be a steadfast leader, with enthusiasm that has never waned and a vision that is clearer than ever.
Corporate Senior Vice President Schwarzkopf Professional, people-oriented Stefan Sudhoff has long been one of the driving forces in building the Schwarzkopf name worldwide. In this exclusive interview, Estetica unveils more about what makes him tick.
Mr. Sudhoff, after nearly 30 years in this business, is there anything that can still surprise you?
“Every day! Fast-moving consumer goods is the most innovative and dynamic industry in the world. I always give the same advice to young marketeers: if you really want to learn something about how consumers are behaving, how innovations are doing, how to develop insights – go to the beauty industry. There is no other FMCG market this dynamic. The beauty business is tremendously inspiring and versatile.”
What is so special about this industry?
“Working in the industry for many years, it is the passion and dedication that impresses me the most. It’s about the speed of innovations, trends, fashion – and about the people working in this business. Creatives, professionals, entrepreneurs shape the image of the industry. That is especially the case in the hairdressing industry. In the end, it is all about the people who are making the difference. This is what I find extremely exciting.”
Although two different divisions, do Schwarzkopf Professional and Schwarzkopf retail share the same philosphy?
“It is all Schwarzkopf! And as a global brand, we have one credo about how we manage our activities: Wherever we go, we aim for excellence. Wherever we go, we aim for quality. We provide inspirational innovations and technologies. In the world of hairdressing, we continuously develop trend and fashion-oriented image tools and relevant service offers. Excellence is how we serve the hairdresser, their staff and their clients.”
What are your upcoming launches and projects in 2014?
“Schwarzkopf Professional has a full innovation pipeline. We continue to focus strongly on colour, Igora Royal is always one of our priorities. With the relaunch last year, we set yet another new benchmark in colour. We are globally rolling out this successful relaunch, introducing for the first time a high definition colour technology. Customer feedback is extremely positive. In parallel, new BlondMe enters the stage – Schwarzkopf Professional’s care and colour brand for blond experts. Our team has reworked the product portfolio, has developed modern services, making BlondMe even more attractive. It definitely brings blonde expertise to salons worldwide – with the right touch of sophistication and innovation.”
Is there some other big scoop that we can expect from Schwarzkopf Professional?
“2014 is the year of hair perfection as we bring a new dimension into professional hair care. With the relaunch of our hero care brand BC Hairtherapy, Schwarzkopf Professional introduces a completely new, exciting set-up. New BC Hairtherapy will introduce a revolutionary breakthrough technology, exclusively developed for Schwarzkopf Professional, reaching natural hair perfection. This includes new products, new applications, new services and innovative education modules. This is what we call a genuine 360° approach. New BC is designed to bring salons success. We go for new ways of communicating with the customers and giving them advice – up to and including digital. The base of the brand is positioning hairdressers as what they are: Real Experts for beautiful hair.”
Are you going to have new services for BC?
“Yes! But we don’t stop with the services. We introduce a holistic, new hair care culture, including great in-salon services and a distinguished consultation approach. BC will reach a new level of performance in hair perfection – the product quality is extremely evident. With this relaunch, we bring BC Hairtherapy even closer to the customer, while increasing the hairdresser’s competence. Our goal is to make our customers true experts for haircare, via new BC. That’s what we are striving for.”
Are there going to be new concepts in building business or creative input for new trends?
“We will concentrate our efforts where we already excel: in our in-house education offer to the customer. Furthermore, we will build up a much stronger program with many more profiles for the education network with our partners. Digital also plays a major role. Last year, we were the first to introduce the House of Color application, an outstanding digital tool. And we have no intention of resting on our laurels. We are planning to expand into further categories, showcasing similar, high-end digital and value-adding concepts. Our main focus, when it comes to creative and business concepts, is our dedication to salon success. For BlondMe, for instance, we developed a completely new holistic approach on how to bring services to customers and how to boost the blond business in the salons. We aim to develop the whole, relevant package and in 2014, we will definitely achieve that with all our activities.”
Schwarzkopf Professional launches Essential Looks twice a year – what distinguishes Essential Looks from other trend collections?
“Essential Looks is unique. It delivers the latest trends from the international catwalks and translates them into hair fashion trends. It is an outstanding source of inspiration for our customers. In parallel, it provides concrete step-by-step education as well as new techniques and applications. Our clients around the world wait for the launch of every Essential Looks collection with excitement. When we present it, hairdressers immediately become inspired. We trigger great reactions, such as “Hey, how did they get this look?” Essential Looks for sure motivates and inspires hairdressers to get even better. And inspiration is key in the hairdressing industry.”
Hairdresser of the Year is another image builder. Are you going to present a different concept for Hairdresser of the Year?
“The Essential Looks World Tour is a great event, and Hairdresser of the Year is a great award – the most prestigious and reputable one. At the end of the day, whatever we do, with our staff and with the customer, is building salon business and improving the image of the whole industry. This is essential to me! Activities like the World Tour or Hairdressing Awards act like beacons. In my opinion, the Hairdresser of the Year is the one and only. It is open to everyone. It recognizes and celebrates the best of the best. Meanwhile, it is a global award. Last year in Shanghai, we hosted 5000 customers to celebrate the Hairdresser of the Year in China. We introduced the award in Russia, in Western Europe, in Canada. Wherever we believe it provides added value to the hairdressing community, we go for it. This is in line with our passion for excellence.”
What about a global Hairdresser of the Year where the winners of individual countries face off? Maybe digitally…
“The concept of Hairdressing Awards is internationally renowned. We focus on local and regional awards, because we believe that there is a strong sense of “Me in my country”. But we make it digitally accessible via our social media platforms, leveraging the global character of the award.”
E-commerce will play a big role, because it’s the way to get what you need in 24 hours…
“Digital is definitely crucial, so is E-commerce. Nevertheless, the day-to-day contact between clients and our sales force will remain relevant. And just as a reminder: today, within the existing set-up and in various regions, we already deliver to our clients in a time frame of 24 hours. In terms of communication and inspiration, digital becomes more and more important. With the relaunch of our website, or via our social media touchpoints, we continuously inspire our clients, while creating platforms for vivid conversations and communities. This is what we call the digital home of hairdressing.”
Shaping Futures is a worldwide Charity project – could you share some news about that?
“Shaping Futures is a significant initiative for us and we are very proud about how it evolves. It is more about ‘how’ and never about ‘how much’. It is getting people to motivate themselves, opening up new Shaping Futures locations in collaboration with SOS Kinderdörfer. Our charity initiative is sustainable, since we are following up with participants by bringing them into a job that offers them a livelihood. It’s the greatest thing you can do on earth. Shaping Futures is not about money, it is about investing your passion and free time, about involving hairdressers to become part of this initiative. And Shaping Futures grows every year. The response from our customers is overwhelming: We have more requests to join than we can logistically provide for. We are very proud that, together with our customers, we can change lives through hairdressing.”
What is your vision of the global salon business for the near future?
“Ultimately, beauty is eternal. Enjoying the personal contact when getting my hair done will remain, no matter what happens. The creative,fashion-oriented and professional expertise of hairdressers will develop even more. If there is one thing that I am absolutely convinced will be even stronger in the future: it’s hairdressing.”