Test & Learn is an integral part of our culture at L’Oréal. It’s what drives innovation, it pushes us to come up with new ideas every day, and sees that we reach our full potential. While ‘Test & Learn’ plays a huge part in the daily life of Social Brand Manager Geo’s job, when she applied for Be Right Back she couldn’t have imagined the part this ethos would have to play in her month-long sabbatical. For Geo, heading to Japan and South Korea to make a film on the social media industry proved more challenging than she’d anticipated. Follow her month-long experience: the highs, the lows and most importantly the learnings she’s taken from this incredible opportunity.
Can you tell us a bit about the Be Right Back Scheme?
The Be Right Back (BRB) programme at L’Oréal UK & Ireland is a 1-month long sabbatical allowing our employees to pursue their passion, bringing back learnings from the experience to apply to L’Oréal and their role.
Since joining L’Oréal is it fair to say you had your sights set on the Be Right Back scheme?
When the Be Right Back scheme was first revealed I knew instantly that as soon as I reached the 12 months of employment to make me eligible to apply, that I would.
Why did you apply to Be Right Back?
I’ve been obsessed with my industry (Social Media and influencer marketing) for the past ten years, and have always been fascinated by different cultures, so the opportunity to marry the two together was too good to pass up. It’s very rare that your company will give you a month of paid leave, plus funding towards exploring one of your dreams… I can’t imagine not taking up an offer like that!
What was the purpose of your trip?
The purpose of my trip was to visit Japan and South Korea, to learn all about the way the social media and influencer industries operate in a completely different part of the world. Both Japanese and Korean cultures are very different to the western world, and I thought what better way to gain a fresh perspective on an industry I’ve been part of since I was a teenager than to immerse myself in a completely different world? My degree is in film and I’ve always been passionate about videography, so in order to share my learnings with the teams back home I decided to make a short film exploring the industry out there, and the reasons behind the way it works the way it does.
How supportive were your team of you embarking on this experience?
My line manager was particularly supportive, helping me perfect my idea, and my team were the guinea pigs for my pitch. My social tribe took on my workload between them whilst I was away…total superheroes!
The most interesting aspect of the trip?
Honestly, there were so many unbelievable moments it’s difficult to choose. Just generally being fully immersed in a completely different culture 6,000 miles away from home, completely alone, was a life-changing experience. Learning about how much a culture’s deep-rooted behaviours can impact the way social media is used by its people was really interesting. It’s way more intrinsically linked than I had ever imagined.
There’s a saying ‘The best-made plans are made to fail’ tell us about some aspects of your trip where things didn’t quite work out as you had hoped.
I definitely experienced some mishaps along the way! Language barriers and national security restrictions on navigation apps made getting around particularly difficult (especially in rural areas), and in Japan particularly where the people are naturally quite reserved it did get lonely at times. (My bank cancelling my debit card despite me informing them in advance that I was travelling left me in a bit of a pickle! Cheers guys!).
Also I was quite ambitious in my vision for the short film, so stuffing my hand luggage with kit (a borrowed Sony A6500, a borrowed GoPro, my own Olympus PenGen, a cheap double mic pack I found on Amazon and a tonne of SD cards from my uni days) and attempting to film a Vox or Vice-quality documentary without a crew proved more difficult than I had prepared myself for. Thankfully a few of the influencers I met whilst I was there offered to help film some scenes, meaning that I could jump in front of the camera a couple of times!
I encountered some technical issues along the way, including some lost audio from one interview, a corrupt SD card losing all footage I’d shot on one of the days, and a couple of the characters for my documentary interviews cancelled last minute.
But I realised I was on my own in the Far East, and I’d travelled all this way with the goal in mind of learning and creating this film, so I leveraged my new contacts to try and pull it all together as best I could. I’m so grateful for my new network, I definitely couldn’t have put a coherent film together without their help.
About my industry: Micro influencers in both Japan and South Korea are key parts of social marketing. They see the power in numbers, and the proximity and accessibility of micro-influencers (as opposed to celebrity ambassadors) make them more commercially successful. Brands treat influencers with 10K followers equally to those with 10M, and a lot of beauty brands use micro influencers in above the line advertising in place of celebrities or models.
About myself: Sticking to a plan isn’t always an option, but that’s OK. I’ve always been a slave to planning, and I feel most comfortable when I know exactly what is happening and when. However, every time something went wrong on my trip it led to another amazing experience, meeting someone new, or a great opportunity to film which wouldn’t have happened had everything gone to plan.
Making new friends in my industry, eating unforgettable food, and seeing a corner of the world that I’ve always been fascinated by but never thought I’d have the opportunity to experience.
What will you take from this experience that you can apply to your job at L’Oréal UKI?
I definitely think I’ll be rolling with the punches more now. If I can survive being stranded at a deserted Japanese mountain service station hours from the nearest town then I can certainly handle this difficult contract negotiation!
I’m also excited to talk with the rest of my social tribe about the industry traits I learned on my travels to see how we can implement some of Japan and South Korea’s best practices to our marketing back in the UK!
How would you describe this opportunity in a few words?
Unforgettable. Life changing.
Like what you’ve read about L’Oréal and our ‘Test & Learn’ culture? Like the idea of being able to see your ideas come to fruition from conception to realisation? Does the Be Right Back scheme seem like a fantastic initiative you’d love the opportunity to take part in? If yes is the answer to all of the above then check out our careers site to find an opportunity at L’Oréal UK & Ireland!