The NOW Gen

In this episode, our guest Natalia Formosa, Senior Brand Manager, Global Mass Fragrances at Coty, spoke with our host, Francisco Serrano, about where is the beauty of creating a strong brand in this momentary present.


Natalia Formosa


Francisco Serrano (01:04):

Hello, and welcome again to the NOW Gen Podcast. Today, we have a very interesting episode. We’re gonna be talking about The Beauty of Creating a Strong Brand in an Ephemeral World. Did that sound any ring, any bells to you? Ephemeral? I mean, we are living there right now sometimes and, but good for us that we have, Natalia Formosa, the senior brand manager for global mass fraents at COTY,  who will be talking about that today. Natalia is a beauty industry leader with a comprehensive experience and brand strategy and brand management. So we are very excited to have her here today. Natalia, welcome.

Natalia Formosa (01:55):

Great. I’m happy to be here. Hi everyone.

Francisco Serrano (01:59):

Yeah, we were talking offline about, you know, what kind of fragrances do you use and, you know, the NOW Gen, that is changing the whole market and how we are seeing at the consumer behavior. Right. So before we jumped into discussing all the details, why don’t you tell us a little bit about, where you’re coming from and why did you came into this fragrance world?

Natalia Formosa (02:26):

That’s a great question. Well, I have always been interested in the beauty scene. So, you know, since an early age,  both my grandmother and my mother, educated me about skincare and beauty ingredients and makeup. So I always knew, you know, deep in my heart that I would be attracted to that industry and that I would end up growing my career in beauty. I actually am originally from Poland. I moved to New York  about seven or eight years ago, almost eight years ago, to do my master’s degree here in branding at the school of visual arts. So I actually currently teach there as well. And I can say that this program really changed my life because it really gave me a strong career start. I, you know, coming from Poland, I didn’t have any family here. I didn’t have any friends.

So, it was basically me coming to the most competitive city in the world, New York,  and trying to make it here. So right after school, I actually was lucky enough to start a job, as a brand strategist in a branding and design agency where I actually worked with a lot of global and U.S. brands. Mostly in the CPG space, like Kimberly Clark, Newell Brands, Pepperidge Farm, Anheuser-Busch,  great projects, great memories, Mars, GE, Tyson Foods. So these are extremely valuable and amazing times for me, and experiences working with those brands and really learning a lot about the CPG space. So, being drawn to the beauty space I launched, helped launch a skin care startup here in the U.S. as well. Having background in branding, you know, I was really confident about,  developing the brand its elements and the go to market strategy, leading marketing communication, product development, you know, and innovation pipeline.

The startup is called, Harla beauty. And, I was able to build retail partnerships with Macy’s and QDC, which was a big success, you know, the entire skincare industry and beauty industry is very competitive and obviously there’s, a lot of investment needed to make the brand successful. And  it’s not like it’s immediate. It does take time. So fast forward to 2021, I felt like I wanted to go back to the corporate world and my corporate life. And I’m currently at Coty, as a senior brand manager of the global mass fragrances. And, yeah, I mean, I absolutely love it. I feel like, you know, I’m a corporate person. I like the culture. I like the breadth, of the work that we do, the impact that we have, and obviously the budgets that we can work with, and the impact that we can have on the consumers with, you know, now in my global role, really innovation and what can we contribute to the market. So yes,  I feel like that learning curve is here and, I really love putting my hands on new projects, that are really inspiring me.

Francisco Serrano (06:06):

Yeah. And, we were discussing before, before we went live. That the scents, and what does scent mean to you?  Right now

Natalia Formosa (06:19):

It’s a very interesting question because you know, the meaning and then the role of scent has changed,  throughout the years. 

Francisco Serrano (6:27): 

How so? 

Natalia Formosa (06:28): 

So in the past, you know, years ago, it was all about attraction and to some consumers, it still is. But when we look at, you know, the younger shopper and the younger generation, gen Z, right, what they’re looking for, it became a lot more about mindfulness and, you know, scent profile, I would say comfort, wellbeing. So we’re seeing the shift in the beauty industry in general, that is all about embracing wellness, right? The wellness strength has been on, for a couple of years and it’s started in skincare in makeup. And now, you know, fragrance kind of followed that. So fragrance took on a new role and consumers really learned that fragrance can do more than just make you smell good.

It can make you feel better. It can enhance your mood and can bring back memories of certain times or experiences. So a lot of times now we talk about, when we talk about innovation, about functional fragrance, right? So actually having mood boosting benefits. And I think that’s something that, we’ve been seeing in the category,  and this is where, you know, the innovation is going. But it’s all coming from, you know, the consumer need for wellbeing,  slowing down and taking care of physical and mental health,  which I’m sure you’ll bring up the aspect. <laugh> Now about, the duality of the younger shopper, and the, you know, instant information, instant gratification,  side, since that’s the other side of the spectrum.

Francisco Serrano (08:27):

Yeah. But let me stop,  stop you for a minute to understand the scent and the wellbeing aspect of it. So, I remember, well, as a you know, I’m a gen X, right. And I go and buy fragrances, and then you see patchouli or however you pronounce that, and it’s catered towards, you know, more masculine and seductive type of thing. And you would buy that in theory, or that was a, the catch to buy that in order to portray that, you know, top of mind when, you know, you encounter somebody that was attracted to you, something like that. Right. So, but now with the wellness aspect, I, so what does that mean? So I wear it, first of all, I see that, we were just talking about my experience of buying this fragrance and they told me that it was not for gender. It was generic. Right. First of all, then I said, okay, let’s do that. Let’s wear a generic, I’m a gen X type of, you know, let’s do it. But if you tell me it’s wellness, how do you link that to wellness? It, it, because it brings you to a state of mind that it gives you peace or how, how does that…

Natalia Formosa (09:57):

What’s the, yeah, exactly. I think it’s about,  the mood that you’re currently in. So you know, I also look in, at looking at consumer behavior and,  purchasing, behavior when, you know, we look at years ago, right. People were really buying that one fragrance that were very attached to, that they felt like makes them more attractive. So definitely there was this aspect about confidence. Whereas now when we think about wellness, it’s about the state of mind and,  about reflecting your mood, right? So women have a fragrance, a wardrobe, it’s like with clothing, right. Today, I’m feeling very energized. And I want the fragrance to enhance that and reflect my mood. Tomorrow I may want a more,  you know, calmer version of the fragrance. And I may want to express, you know, myself through a different scent. So I think for younger shoppers, it’s all about self-expression, it’s like with makeup, right?  It’s about reflecting how they feel in the moment,  or that day, and the same thing is happening with fragrance. So that’s how I would tie it to wellness, right. The mental state, the wellbeing, I’m using fragrance to really calm myself down or, you know, get into the right energy to start my day, rather than I’m spraying it on to just appeal to, let’s say, you know, traditionally the opposite gender.

Francisco Serrano (11:41):

Yeah. And you know, that you were talking about that. And I recall that I see in the, in the aisles, all the, you know, the deodorants that some brands have, and this is for, in the variety of scents is such that I was like, in the past, it was just one and that’s it. And now you have the wild, the fresh, the whatever, and maybe that’s related to what you’re talking about. Right. A different scent for what a different mood. So probably in the category of deodorants,  a gen Z would buy, or, and depending on how he or she,  or they feel that day, then they will spray it on. And is that, is that what you’re saying?

Natalia Formosa (12:33):

Exactly. Yes. You know, I think that it also,  I have to mention the pandemic, because it obviously had a big impact on the consumer behavior and, their perspective on fragrance. But I think,  you know, given all of the you know, pandemic right. And everything associated with it, I think we are more aware of our sense of smell and appreciated more, and really are looking for sense to promote those feelings of clarity or calm or wellbeing. So it’s, you know, I wouldn’t say it’s medicinal, but right. But it’s kind of like healing.

Francisco Serrano (13:23):

Yeah. And, and it like nurtures your mood and the way you start your day. Right. And, but, then it’s a tricky question for you as a brand professional with all this competitors, with all this different moods people have, you know,  how do you come up with inspiration to be, to differentiate yourself and meet that instant gratification that gen Z has?

Natalia Formosa (13:57):

That yes, that’s a great point. So, you know, there is one aspect which is product innovation, right. And coming up with new scents, that will appeal to the shoppers,  there are, you know, ingredient trends. So I feel like, you know, everything was in skincare is always kind of related to what happened in the food industry. So those two kind of overlap for me. So you always would look, you know, at,  different trends,  in terms of ingredients, in terms of, you know, consumer desire, how they want to smell and what kind of moods they want to reflect and then obviously,  there is the marketing aspect of it, right? So the brand experience and, you know, the desire to connect with the brand, personalized offerings, having bigger purpose and, you know, the brand values, which obviously that is a big decision driver when it comes to choosing the brand that you are wearing and the fragrance that you are wearing at the same time.

Francisco Serrano (15:08):

Yeah. And I think they’re correlated, right. Because, you may, I mean, just put it in a drastic way, like always had tried to do is if you’re wearing a dark suit and you’re feeling like interesting that day or whatever, and you’re gonna wear some scent that caters that. Right? And the challenge is that, so for example, I see now comes to the top of my mind, Tommy Bahama, you go to the store and you have like six different fragrances. And you’re like, what is that? But one is for sailors. The other one is for pirates, whatever. And so each brand has to have that kind of a mix of offering to cater and link it to the clothing or to the fashion, to the, even the makeup and whatever. So it’s, it’s kind of everything is linked together, right?

Natalia Formosa (16:11):

That’s correct. Yes. You know, also younger shoppers really are looking for novelty and want to try new things. So really having that innovation every season or, you know, at least every year is really going to attract both new and current consumers to your brand, but yes, completely agree. Yes.

Francisco Serrano (16:36):

I think. It would be weird to see, you know, somebody that’s,  fond of the scent of Tommy Bahama and dressed like a cowboy. Right. It would be like, mm, yeah, it’s

Natalia Formosa 4 (16:48):


Francisco Serrano (16:49):

It’s not linked one to the other. Right. So it has to have that same profiling and, yeah. Interesting. And you know, the world is changing so fast right now. And, you know, the need of that, you know, I see TikTok as, as the generations are looking at life, are you familiar with TikTok? Of course. You can be there for hours. And you’re like, what, oh, whoa. It’s just, I thought it was 15 minutes and you see something that you don’t like, and you change and you like, and you stay and you go deep and you do research. And then if you don’t like it, you boom, boom. And then, you know, I was talking the other day to my daughter and, and she was like, and I was talking to, you need to focus. And, and she’s like, okay, whatever dad. And, and she, she went like that and I’m like, I’m not TikTok, you know, you cannot just boom, and go to the next, you’re gonna have to listen to me. And, and that is changing. How do you maintain the scent branding in this younger generation that are just shifting so much and, how to manage the campaigns and advertising strategies in a sector where the beauty is enhanced, how do you do that?

Natalia Formosa (18:17):

It definitely has evolved. And you’re right. There is a very short attention span, when it comes to, you know, gen Zs, millennials too. And, TikTok is actually a great platform to introduce a consumer to your brand, to a new scent and I think what’s crucial for having a successful campaign, on that platform obviously, is having very authentic content and short pieces of content, right. So it’s really, really hard when you think about it to communicate something in a very simple and short way versus, you know, have the entire page about the product and what it does and what it offers, the benefits, et cetera. So it’s a real challenge. I feel like a lot of times we’re trying to make the messaging as concise and simple and short as possible, but obviously you’re not able to communicate all of that in the short piece of content. So, yeah. 

Francisco Serrano (19:29):

Sorry to interrupt Natalia, but

Natalia Formosa (19:30):

Of course,

Francisco Serrano (19:32):

What if you had the time, would they listen?

Natalia Formosa (19:35):

They would not. <laugh> Obviously they Would not

Francisco Serrano (19:37):

Coming to the example of my daughter, I would say yes. And she would listen to only the five seconds later, it would be blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That’s it. So why do you need a, a piece of content that they’re not going to read because they are not consuming that. It is what it is, that’s the reality of it. And you, as a marketer in order, the sooner you embrace the knowledge of that consumer, the better that’s what I’m hearing from you. Right? So, and because you, if you stick to, Hey, you need to listen to the two hours speech that I’m gonna give you for the brand and where it comes from. And, you know,

Natalia Formosa (20:20):

Forget about it, <laugh>.

Francisco Serrano (20:23):

That’s not gonna work. So, but scent branding. What is the challenges that you have faced in scent branding, because you were saying that, you’re now in the mass market, right. I don’t know if any particular brand has faced a challenge, special challenge for you or a certain niche, or how does that work, to understand that specific, so that, that people that are listening to you that have maybe other categories or industries, what challenges do you have encountered in scent branding?

Natalia Formosa (21:06):

Sure. So, one of the things that comes to my mind, you know, is the whole digital world and not being able to really smell the fragrance, but learning about the product on the, you know, in the digital world without the ability to actually experience it. Right. So I think translating what the scent is to your screen or your phone, through content. I think that’s the biggest challenge that I’m finding in scenting. Obviously when you go to the store and you can smell it, it’s a different story, but with the pandemic, you know, there was a huge impact obviously on how consumers were shopping and it was mostly online. So basically, you know, on one hand we wanna try new things, but then there’s fear of trying new things because they may not work and we have to pay money to obviously buy it and we may not able to return it. So I think just making sure you can communicate the feeling that the fragrance conveys and the ingredients of that fragrance and kind of illustrate what scent profile that is, is challenging in general,  when it comes to the digital environment.

Francisco Serrano (22:35):

And I would imagine, Natalia, that your, your client from France, or from Poland is not the same as the one from Kentucky or San Francisco, correct?

Natalia Formosa (22:47):

Yes. And there are obviously local preferences and attitudes towards brands and scent profiles. So it does differ globally for sure.

Francisco Serrano (23:00):

And, so for you sitting down in a global chair too, I would imagine that you would see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 brands in different, you know, time zones and how would that, do you like adapt the scent or you adapt the brand and you have a different brand, like, you know, let’s say like Coca-Cola or whatever they use the same flavor, different can or different,  how, how does that work in the scent world?

Natalia Formosa (23:37):

Yes. So, you know, there may be fragrances that are launched in just one market, and there may be fragrances that are launched globally with the same formula, and the same scent and same packaging. So, you know, you have both, and,  I think it’s about knowing your market and really the consumer and what the niche need is and the opportunity, right? So, you may also have situations where you have to adapt either the packaging, which usually it’s the packaging, to the local market, because maybe the aesthetic is not working. So, it’s really hard. I mean, obviously from the branding perspective and as a brand expert, I think, you know, having an unified brand is really crucial to build that awareness and build trust with the consumers. So, unified visual identity but obviously there always have to be some local differences, which is why, you know, when I travel to other countries, I uncover these new things or, you know, new flavors on the products that I know because they’re obviously adapted to local consumers, but that’s the beauty of it.

Francisco Serrano (25:00):

Yeah. But then, I mean, as a professional don’t you get like, overwhelmed and like, seriously, we just went through an innovation and do we need more, how flexible we must be in order to keep, you know, the traction in the market, as far as getting the global impact of, of what the brand is all about, right?

Natalia Formosa (25:22):

Yes. Yes. And the strongest message obviously is when the brand is unified and, you know, your visual expression is the same across markets and your copy, your copywriting, you know, the message that you’re communicating is the same and just, you know, translated to another language. But I think having consumers … consumers having the same perception of the brand,  the same, you know, values that they associate the brand with is really important to build a strong global presence. And also obviously keeping the financials in mind. Right. You wanna make sure that it’s streamlined and you don’t have too many variations.

Francisco Serrano (26:12):

Wow. It’s a big challenge there. You have Natalia and coming back to the online world,  and,  you know, the e-com side of it, is it important for you guys for the fragrance world, the e-Comm portion of it, or no, it’s more go in. And how does that work in your real?

Natalia Formosa (26:37):

It’s definitely important. And I think, you know, expanding the mass fragrance presence in e-Comm is really crucial for brands to stay relevant and for brands to really drive interest. Right. I do wanna mention, you know, influencers. Since obviously all of the brands are working with influencers on a daily basis. This is something that we have to do. But, you know, having very strong, authentic content is not an easy thing to do, right. You can pay an influencer and get content, but you really want to make sure that they, the influencer, that you’re working with,  or someone who has a following, right.  [Whom] really is convinced and believes in your brand and loves the product, that truly loves it. And not just does it for advertising purposes, because you can tell when it’s authentic and when it’s fake.

And, you know, it also goes back to the word of mouth, right. Gen Zs are really on platforms like TikTok or YouTube, and they follow people that they really trust. They’ve been watching for quite a while. And this is something that inspires them,  when they see the new product and they basically decide to purchase it. Right. So it’s a tool for product discovery. It’s an amazing tool, whether it’s mass or prestige, you know, space for fragrances, but this is where you basically get brand awareness, right. Digital,  platforms like that.

Francisco Serrano (28:26):

Yeah. And inside the digital realm, do you feel that the Scent world is influenced by the instant gratification? Like, for example, right. There’s a lot of campaigns that drive the consumption to fast speed. Right. Amazon did it with the prime service. Right. And in Mexico Burger King said, oh, you’re in traffic. No problem. Order it. And we’ll take the motorcycle and we’ll take it to you right there. And it’s like, wow. Okay. So does the Gen Z have that kind of, Hey, I have a party tonight. I wanna smell whatever let’s order it. Boom, boom, boom. Now, can I have it now? Is, is that a problem or no,

Natalia Formosa (29:24):

It’s definitely a big factor in, you know, purchase decision convenience. Right. And that availability, being able to get it yesterday. <laugh> I would say,  that’s why our Amazon prime is so successful. Right. And we’re, we are seeing so much growth on Amazon,  so much interest in beauty on that platform, just because, one, you know, of the pricing, but also, the ability to just get it within, I believe now’s even one day.  So, that’s a really important feature. And sometimes that, you know, for myself, it drives my decision. Why am I purchasing on Amazon? Because I can get it tomorrow. And I think for Gen Z’s, it’s the same thing. That’s why you’re seeing a lot of other retailers and mass  offering that fast shipping and very easy returns to compete with that big giant,  Amazon. So, so definitely logistics is a big part here and it goes back to what you said, right? That instant gratification, FOMO <laugh> and needing everything now, right this minute.

Francisco Serrano (30:41):

Yes, my God, that’s the thing that we parents, professionals, and humans have to live with and it’s okay. It’s changing. We need to just adapt. Right. So before we finish up and wrap it up,  what would be your takeaway for the audience? So we’re talking about, you know, branding in the scent world, we’re talking about where you’re coming from, everything that we have discussed, what is the key takeaway,  that you would say,  to all the audience, to take them with them?

Natalia Formosa (31:19):

That’s a great question. Let me give it, give it a little bit of a thought.

Francisco Serrano (31:23):

Because you talked about, you know,  sorry to interrupt you. You talked about where you’re coming from and how you came from Poland to New York City. So, all the challenges, and then you tested different places. Then you went to the corporate world and you felt there and then beauty, and then, you know, then you jumped into scent. So maybe along the way and experiences from you or no, you want to convey, you were talking about also the, the branding and the scent and make the global brand a whole story to make sense. And so what would be the most important thing that you would tell specialists in the, in the branding world? The key takeaway, of course, they’re gonna listen to the whole interview and hopefully they will go back and listen to you again and again and again, but what would be that, that important thing that you want to convey today, do not forget and keep it as a posted in their laptops?

Natalia Formosa (32:29):

Well, I would say,  definitely the, you know, getting to know your consumer and you’re seeing all of the brands really talking about Gen Z and trying to attract Gen Z because that’s what builds a sustainable business model. So really starting to build that relationship and building the trust with that group,  is really what brands should be focusing on right now. And,  when you think about,  building the trust, right, that I’m talking about and building that relationship, it’s about,  being clear on the values,  on what you’re doing as a brand, not only in terms of product innovation, but also,  you know, social good, right. And being really,  being really inclusive and catering to all of those different personalities and making sure that, you know, you have that, I would say personalized approach since this is what the generation is looking for. And then also when it comes to the scenting category and any beauty category,  it’s important to keep track on what’s of what’s happening in the culture and where the trends are going, right.  Wellness is big right now, and we’re seeing, you know, functional scenting really emerging with mood boosting benefits. And I expect this to,  you know, expand even further. So I think that would be the key takeaway.

Francisco Serrano (34:19):

Yeah. Yeah. It makes complete sense of what we were discussing and, and I think it’s an excellent, you know, knowledge to keep under your belt, your packet in order to when you’re facing any challenges out there. So thank you for sharing that takeaway. So Natalia, we need to move forward and we’re coming up to the last part of our segment and it is going to be a little bit different. We’re gonna go out of the beauty industry and we’re gonna ask you, what’s your favorite snack brand and why?

Natalia Formosa (34:58):

Wow. Okay. I have so many,  but for some reason, the first thing that comes to mind is,  Reeses pieces <laugh> and wow. One of the Reeses is one I love sweets.  I think it’s the color for me that really, you know, very vibrant color, which really also reflects the, the flavor, the peanut butter,  that I love. And that’s a really great snack, you know, when I’m at work for instance, and need the pick me up.

Francisco Serrano (35:33):

Wow. Yeah. And the flavor, I would imagine that the flavor also it’s, you know, peanut butter, it’s not only, I think the top and the top two or three flavors that U.S. American people love. And,  but also it’s just,  fascinating the brand, how they have constructed the whole story behind it. And it’s, it’s powerful. Yeah. I love also Reese’s pieces, by the way. I take a lot of those I shouldn’t, but I take a lot of those. Well, thank you very much for sharing and Natalia. Well,  thank you so much for sharing your time, your knowledge with us. If anybody wants to reach out to you, can they do it,  through LinkedIn or email? Where, where do you want to take them?

Natalia Formosa (36:22):

Yep. I think LinkedIn is the best way to connect with me. I’m on the LinkedIn all the time. So, yes. Send me a message.

Francisco Serrano (36:29):

Okay, excellent. Okay. You know where to reach Natalia Formosa, she’s on LinkedIn and, we’ve been talking to Natalia Formosa as you know, she is a Senior Brand Manager of a Global Mass Fragrances at Coty. If you want to stay up to date in whatever is happening out there in the world of branding and all the challenges of the NOW Generation do not take the opportunity or, I mean, take the opportunity to listen to the next podcast here at the NOW Gen, thank you so much for listening today.

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