New Frontiers: Trevor Attenborough

While it has long been embraced by serious colorists, Goldwell has flown under the radar in the United States for a long time. Now that he’s been promoted to President & General Manager of Kao USA, Salon Division North America, Trevor Attenborough would like to change all that. In his new position, Attenborough will assume leadership responsibility for the Kao Salon Canadian business in addition to his U.S. responsibilities. “We’re intending to make Goldwell a market leader in North America,” he says. If anything, his back story makes him uniquely qualified to do just that. It’s probably safe to say that he’s the only beauty industry executive who started college studying aerospace engineering. “Halfway through the program, I realized that the engineering piece of aerospace was less interesting to me than the concept and design of aircraft,” says Attenborough, who enrolled at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, which offers programs in a wide variety of art and design fields. “At the time it also produced half of the working automobile designers in the world.”

While still a student, Attenborough met someone at L’anza, who hired him to do packaging and advertising. By January, 1988, he was working full-time for the company as Advertising Manager, though he remembers spending his days doing paste-up. By 1994 when he left L’anza to become Brand Manager at Wella, Attenborough had come to the realization that because of his background in math, engineering and graphic design, he was uniquely qualified to have a successful career in marketing in our industry. In a classic brand management role, says Attenborough, he’d be responsible for research, analytics and numbers; creative would be handled by an agency. For most entrepreneurial professional beauty companies, however, agencies are too expensive, which is why many of them have in-house creative departments. Salon marketers typically rely less on research and analytics, which isn’t as robust in our industry, and more on gut instincts or street smarts because the cost of entry in our business is so low compared to launching a product in the Mass or Prestige sectors. Attenborough learned a lot about how Mass operates when he was brand manager for VO5 while working for Alberto Culver in 1997. That’s also when he discovered that his singular set of skills was better suited for the professional beauty industry. “It was more fulfilling for me to have the combination of creativity and number crunching,” says Attenborough, who was hired by Goldwell as Vice President of Marketing in 2009 and has consistently moved up the ladder. “I think that hairdressers can sense what customers want before they even realize it themselves,” he says. “That’s why focus groups are often very misleading in our industry.” Currently, Attenborough’s street smarts, honed from nearly 20 years in the business, tells him that the most important thing his company can do is partner with salons that have a strong eye toward growth and help them grow their service business since that’s where 90 percent of their revenue comes from. “It’s easy to say and hard to do,” he says. Still, he remains confident that this strategy is Goldwell’s unique point of difference in an increasingly competitive marketplace and that when their salon partners do succeed, “we earn the right to grow with them.” After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.


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