Christian Brenzel, a German alumnus from the International Master in Finance class 2020 is now working as a Marketing Controller for La Roche Posay & CeraVe (L’Oreal) in the German market. We contacted him to ask him how he was doing in his current position and what advice he would give to other students that are looking to get a job in Marketing Controlling.
Tell us a bit about your career path and what led you to the role you are in today.
I started working on this position at the L’Oréal Office in Düsseldorf last year in September. This was directly after finishing my Master’s in Finance at EADA last summer. I became aware of this job because I was seeking a position that combines financial management with proximity to daily business operations. As a Marketing Controller, I got this opportunity through P&L Management for Marketing and Digital Campaigns of the two brands I am working on.
Can you give us some examples of current or recently completed projects?
One of our brands recently decided to start a media campaign on a very large scale to increase awareness in the German market. To finance this campaign within the year, the financial planning and forecasting had to be adapted a great deal to accommodate this great investment. For this purpose I designed a comprehensive P&L Analysis with a focus on advertising expenses together with the Brand General Manager to generate efficiencies and identify potential savings. After several weeks of analysis and creation of our forecasting, we were able to set the tracks for the campaign, which will be seen in the German market some time during the second half of this year ;).
How do you keep up with the latest trends in the sector?
At L’Oréal we receive regular on-the-job info about market changes and developments. These briefings and updates are especially important as the FMCG industry is so dynamic leading to constant product and campaign adjustments throughout the year. In addition, I also like to get hands-on info directly from our brick and mortar distribution, which are the pharmacies in case of La Roche Posay and CeraVe which are both part of the Active Cosmetics division. Basically in every German pharmacy it is possible to see how our own products and point-of-sale campaigns are positioned versus the competition and how the general landscape changes.
What skills do you think are most important for someone interested in a position like yours?
For positions in operational brand controlling, it is important to have strong financial analysis skills combined with the ability to coordinate and have a broad vision. This is the case as cost control of big FMCG brands involves numerous teams and parties giving their input for promo and campaign planning. Collecting and synthesizing the necessary input while challenging future investments are essential for successful forecasting and financial planning. This involves building good relationships with those business partners from different teams around oneself while maintaining a strategic overview to steer a brand and its financial performance into the right direction.
What advice do you have for students looking to get into the sector?
While it is not entirely necessary to have prior experience in the cosmetics industry to start in this sector, a strong connection and commitment to the respective brand(s) is definitely of help. Once you will apply to a certain company or brand or start working on it, being enthusiastic for the products and campaigns they do will give you a great plus not only for the application process but also once you start a new position to always enjoy your tasks and make strategic decisions that ensure financial success while developing the brand and its direction.