People to Watch 2017: Maria Rondon
Company: L’Oreal USA
Title: Account Category Manager, Consumer Products Division
Education: Rutgers University (bachelor’s, marketing/Spanish literature; master’s, finance)
Ten individuals represent the People to Watch Class of 2017. Nominated by their respective companies’ representatives in the Path to Purchase Institute’s League of Leaders, these rising stars are making a name for themselves by doing work for their brands that is worthy of attention.
Maria Rondon says she’s always wanted to understand consumers and how they shop for their favorite brands. And she can’t think of a better place to do that than at the largest beauty company in the world. “As a Latina woman who is obsessed with beauty trends, working for a company committed to creating beauty for all is an unbelievable opportunity,” she says.
Rondon launched her career at Unilever in 2011, learning the fundamentals of the CPG industry while participating in the company’s rotational program. But when given the chance to join L’Oreal two years later, she jumped at the chance. As an account category manager, she’s responsible for creating a vision for a category – in this case, hair color. “I’m constantly assessing, evaluating and finding ways to improve and grow the category. I love that I’m able to affect so many brands that play in the hair color space.”
She sees “peeling back the layers” of the consumer as one of the most fascinating aspects of her role. “I’m constantly unearthing information around what drives purchase intent, what entices a shopper into the hair color category, and what makes a shopper loyal,” she says.
Rondon, who is newly armed with an MBA, credits a two-week stint in China during the program with helping her think more critically about global business challenges and the importance of working collaboratively with diverse groups of individuals. Encouraged to explore and understand many varying points of view, the experience shaped her ability to manage and advise 10 account buyers across the country and better provide strategic category solutions.
Collaboration is a large part of her job today, and Rondon strives to align the L’Oreal vision with every account – through strong partnerships and an understanding of her account managers’ and buyers’ points of view. Analytical assessment is also a big part, she notes. Promotions, market share and shopper insights all drive her decisions and recommendations.
Recent work within the grocery sector showed that shoppers continue to feel overwhelmed when having to choose many different categories and products in one trip. Even more important for her team was the finding that hair color is often viewed as a commodity product. A recent challenge was to shift consumers’ perception to hair color being a beauty product.
A reassessment of product shade assortment and placement – since hair color can be intimidating with so many brands, products and shades – helped make it easier for the shopper to shop. Then, it was all about price and getting it right. “We essentially took those three pieces of the puzzle and changed it up so they fit together in a new, more interesting and strategic way for our grocery accounts.” The experience reinforced the importance of creating tailored strategies for customers, says Rondon, and category performance turned around. “My buyer expressed a newfound passion for the category and its beauty roots.”
Consumer insights as they pertain to e-commerce and digital intrigues Rondon as she looks ahead in her career. “Digital is a big part of the future, especially in retail.” Given that most of her background has been with brick-and-mortar retail, she says she’s looking forward to expanding her horizons.
For her, that includes experience overseas. “I believe that to become a better leader, one should experience a variety of cultures to gain new perspectives on how our brands interact with different types of consumers across borders.” Teamwork is integral to her role today, and she also sees herself seizing the opportunity to lead, mentor and guide others.