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Avon Global R&D Head Louise Scott on Growing up on a Steady Diet of Science
Jan 19, 2016
For Louise Scott, science was always on the table.
Growing up, Scott listened to her dad at family dinners as he talked excitedly about the latest polymers he was developing. He was intent on trying to interest his three kids about the newest advances in Crimplene (polyester!), which he worked on as an ICI chemist. He would also bring home clothes from fashion shows made of his polymer inventions, hoping his children would wear them. Scott admits most were exiled to the dress-up box “since they were just so uncomfortable!” (For non-scientists - a polymer is a chemical compound consisting of repeating molecule structures that form a larger molecule.)
A Constant Need to Know
Scott, a U.K. native, was raised in South Africa and studied math and science at Cape Town University, before earning a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, U.K. “One of the things that excited me about science was understanding how things work – how the body works and how products work,” she notes. Her curiosity was practically an obsession, albeit a healthy one. Scott adds, “I couldn’t imagine not knowing how things function – how could you ever know what to choose to use!” She recalls being inspired watching Dr. Christiaan Barnard on TV speaking about the first ever heart transplant he’d performed in the hospital just down the road from her home in Cape Town.
“That Light in the Consumer’s Eyes”
Scott joined Avon in 2013 after a 25-year career with P&G. She began at the consumer-goods powerhouse working in fabric and homecare before moving on to high-profile beauty brands, including Olay, Cover Girl, Pantene and Max Factor. When asked about what attracted her to the beauty segment, she answers, “It comes back to that light in the consumer’s eyes when she talks about something she cares about. You can have the most passionate conversations in the world about beauty. I can’t imagine being in an industry that doesn’t have that level of engagement with consumers. The tangibility of what we do everyday – creating products women love – is so rewarding.”
Telling the World about Beauty for a Purpose
What else attracted Scott to Avon? “The empowerment and philanthropy aspects. Those are real. How we help women with our domestic violence and breast cancer programs – it really feels like I can give back to the world. That was especially important to me at this point in my career,” notes Scott. “When you hear the Beauty for a Purpose story, it’s the story we already know and it is the reason we all wanted to be a part of Avon. Now Beauty for a Purpose is just making that story public.”
Global + Local Perspectives= The Right Formula
Having lived in the U.K., South Africa, Belgium, Singapore and Japan, Scott brings a truly global beauty perspective to Avon. “It’s not about just understanding the different beauty needs; it’s about understanding what motivates women culturally.” One Avon R&D goal is to be “globally driven and locally relevant.” While a skin cream has to moisturize everyone’s skin regardless of the market, it might also need to offer a shine control benefit for a hot, humid environment or extra nourishment in an extremely cold, dry climate.
Developing Great Innovation Leaders
A key part of her job is to coach R&D Associates so they can develop into pioneering scientists. Scott explains, “We have to figure out how to grow our people to be great innovation leaders. You don’t have to be born creative, but you do need to be curious. Most scientists have that trait. You can always learn how to observe consumer behavior and track technological advances, but you need to be curious to make the right and often unobvious connections that lead to great innovations.”
She adds, “The one thing about Avon R&D is that it’s about creating change and doing that in a way that’s relevant to the consumer. Avon has come up with more new-to-the-industry innovations than perhaps any other consumer packaged goods company, and we have to continue to develop breakthrough experiences. "
Because that’s when you “see the light” in the consumers’ eyes.
For in-depth corporate archives, please visit Avon's online digital archive collection at the Hagley Museum. Click here to launch the site.