One summer I was fortunate enough to visit Paris. It was my first time ever visiting the beautiful city and it was the most incredible experience. I was there visiting my eldest sister, who was my personal tour guide taking me around the incredible landmarks, tourist attractions and her own favourite shops in the city. As a makeup addict, I was anxious to get to Sephora as they are an infamous global cosmetic brand. I had only seen other people at Sephora on YouTube or social media, so I was excited to make a trip myself.
We headed into the city centre early one morning and arrived at Sephora just as the store was opening. The front door opened on to a large corridor with a huge red carpet, wide enough to fit a car. I will never forget the shutters going up and seeing all the members of staff lined up either side of the red carpet. Loud music began to play, and the staff started to clap in time to the music as we walked in; welcoming us as if we had won an award. It was amazing. I have never experienced a store quite like it. The shop floor was huge and beautifully designed with stunning displays and stalls filled with beauty products. I was in makeup heaven.
Sephora have built a global beauty empire and have stores all across the world. They generate billions in revenue each year and have spent the last 50 years creating and cultivating a strong community of customers both online and offline. It is clear that Sephora have recognised and embedded an organisational culture into their business strategy. Sephora’s culture strategy recognises their employees as individuals that have emotional ties to the organisation and have their own connection to the business on a personal level. Employees are connected to the business in many different ways, but mainly because they share the same interests or beliefs as Sephora, which they view as part of their identity. Sephora view themselves as a team and a community rather than a workforce.
The management and organisational style is designed flawlessly both internally and externally. The business can attract passionate and dedicated individuals who view it as a privilege to be an employee. An organisation’s culture can be used by business leaders strategically, to manipulate and shape behaviours of its staff. Cultural assumptions are embedded in Sephora’s workforce and employees are influenced by expectations; communicating the organisation’s core values that will reflect positively in the publics’ perspective of Sephora. Behaviours and rituals that have been a part of Sephora’s history are repeated and develop the organisational culture. With Sephora’s managers giving guidance and constraining interpretations, employees subconsciously begin self-surveillance and start to adapt their behaviour to fit in with the culture. Sephora’s organisation style is based on shared values, community and empowerment for all.
In addition to using culture as an organisational style, part of their strategy is to deliberately design and use their culture as a marketing ploy. Company culture displays the people and the personalities behind the company and allows both their customers and employees to identify with the brand. The relationship between marketing and development of organisational culture is used tactically by leaders, to shape organisational outcomes. Sharing the company’s history humanises the business and gives it the opportunity to share the stories of the people who made the organisation what it is today.
On Sephora’s social media accounts, they often share the employees’ journey to Sephora and their emotional attachment to the company and its products. Sephora promote their company as an inclusive and diverse organisation that is all about empowering people within the beauty community. In 2019, Sephora began their ‘We Belong to Something Beautiful’ campaign, involving employees engaging with the public on Sephora’s social media accounts. The posts on social media are videos of the Sephora staff members, talking about their lives. The story is often very emotional, and the employee talks about a hard time in their life and how Sephora became a part of their identity. I’ll admit that some stories have brought a tear to my eye, and often they describe how the company has helped transform their lives. As a consumer watching this content, it is evident that these stories are genuine which adds a real authenticity to the brand. This creates a sense of belonging for both Sephora’s employees and its customers, as the stories are very relatable to its target audience. This is a great reflection of how the company promotes themselves to their employees and the public as a community, rather than a workforce. Sephora market their store as a cultural experience to shop there. They even have their own microsite called ‘Sephorastands.com’ all about helping and empowering people in the beauty community. This content is created deliberately and purposefully, as part of the interaction between Sephora and its customers.
An organisation’s culture is what sets the business apart from the competition and could even be their unique selling point. Creating a special and engaging company culture, will make the public willing to be a part of the organisation, both as a customer and an employee. It’s safe to say that Sephora has become a huge part of the beauty community and is a significant and special place to many of its customers around the world.
Sephora’s success shows that company culture plays a huge part in cultivating a positive corporate image, customer loyalty and ultimately the foundation of its success.