Lisa Reid: A Mighty change agent in beauty care marketing

When Lisa Reid was promoted to country lead for P&G Beauty Canada in 2018, she was hoping to make some changes that would bring new thinking and new approaches to how beauty products have traditionally been marketed.

As a giant in the beauty care industry, P&G has enormous power to shape popular opinion and attitudes about beauty, and society itself. Reid saw this as an opportunity to do some good, to change how beauty brands talk to women, and how they make them feel.

She believed that P&G had the ability to challenge stereotypes, stigmas, and conventional thinking, to redefine “beauty” and be more inclusive and diverse, to be less about traditional standards and narrow definitions of beauty. While leading P&G Beauty down that road could be good for both business and society, she also took motivation from her own life.

Reid was interested in math and science as a young girl, but remembers hearing comments about the importance of appearance and how girls are supposed to act. “And that didn’t stop when I moved into the workplace,” she says. “Those kinds of things really drove me to want to change things.”

For Reid, beauty care marketing is about making women feel empowered, confident and good about themselves. It should not be about selling antiquated standards of beauty that are unattainable and unrealistic for many women. If the old model was implicitly about exclusion, Reid’s model is explicitly about inclusion.

That way of thinking has led to groundbreaking Canadian campaigns like last year’s #MyHairMyStory for its Pantene Gold brand, aimed at challenging negative media stereotypes about the hair of Black women.

Reid and her team created a powerful video series that celebrated Black women’s natural and textured hair with eight Black women sharing their own personal stories. “A couple of years ago, if you Googled ‘What does beautiful hair look like?’ you saw blonde, bouncy waves, right? And I think that has an impact,” she says. It’s important for all women to see beautiful hair on women who look like them and have hair like them.

Also for Pantene, P&G rolled out “Hair Has No Gender,” which amplified the voices of those in the transgender and non-binary community, sharing their stories about how their hair was a powerful and authentic expression of who they are. “I think it reached a lot of people,” says Reid. “I’ve heard stories like a teacher was sharing it in a grade five classroom and helping young minds think about gender and bias in a different way.”

And with P&G’s Secret deodorant brand, Reid took on inequality in sports and sports media with the #EqualSweat campaign. With women’s sport being disproportionately harmed by funding and sponsorship cuts during the pandemic, Secret committed $1 million to the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association in late 2020, sponsoring a round-robin tournament of top women players, with some games broadcast on Sportsnet.

Hockey is an iconic sport in Canada, but the women’s game is not treated the same way as men’s hockey. “It’s symbolic of the work still needed to be done in Canada to drive gender equality,” she says. Putting the PWHPA games on TV shows girls a vision for a more equal future.

“For young women to see their role models playing professional hockey in primetime, nationally on television for the first time, is a real breakthrough,” she says. “Those are the kinds of things that are the most important to me, and I’m most proud of.’

While each of these campaigns had a goal of a positive change, they also had a positive impact on P&G’s bottom line. According to the company, the beauty portfolio has seen double-digit growth the past two years: Pantene’s sales were up 7%, and Gold Series went from just two retailers at launch to a presence in most major retailers and 500% sales growth.

“Early on, [Reid] recognized the importance of bringing more inclusivity and diversity to the beauty industry, and did that by launching empowering marketing campaigns that help to inspire an equal world for all,” says P&G Canada president Geraldine Huse. “Her revolutionary outlook, tireless work ethic, and inclusive leadership style have had a tremendous impact on our business growth. The more we grow, the more good we can do.”

Those campaigns alone could put Reid on the Mighty Women list. But her commitment to change and progress—the determination to knock down old models and shake off old thinking—have extended to how she manages her team of 55 employees.

“I have seen first-hand Lisa’s dedication to disrupting the beauty category. She empowers her team of brand marketers and partner agencies to defy the norms, think big and look to the future,” says Nadia Beale, president of MSL, a key agency partner for P&G Beauty. “Lisa’s leadership style is one where she truly embraces diverse experiences and points of view, and it is clear she personally nurtures and invests in her team’s growth.”

A different approach to management was essential during the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, says Reid.

“People were really struggling… It was clear to me that the type of leader that I had seen role modelled before needed to change,” she says. “They needed to know there was empathy, and that we could find new ways together, that we would work through together and we would support each other.”

Reid had always tried to be her authentic self at work, but it’s different when the workplace becomes your home for months on end, she says. “That was something I’ve had to get more comfortable with—my children climbing on top of me while I’m in a meeting.

“But it was also energizing thinking how to help a team that’s struggling with focus and the challenges they might have, to still bring their best to P&G… and have the impact that we wanted, both on the business and on the broader communities we serve.”

Her two young daughters have had a much greater impact on Reid beyond just showing up in the occasional video meeting. The thought of them coming of age in a world that holds unique challenges and barriers to women have shaped much of what she does at P&G.

“Parenthood makes you think about what is the impact that I’m leaving on the world,” she says. “The moment you first hold your child, you think how can I make sure this world is a better place, and how can I protect them. And as children go on, you can’t protect them from everything. But what I can do is chip away at making the world a bit better.”

David Brown