How Ilaria Resta Drives Innovation With Consumer Insights

·3 min read

Ilaria Resta joined Firmenich as president of global perfumery in February 2020, and had to rewrite the fragrance playbook almost immediately after starting.

“My thoughts of how I drove growth at this company completely changed,” Resta said. “One lesson was the power of agility, and ability to readjust to a new reality. I am bringing the consumer at the center of everything we do, and we are investing much more in consumer understanding.”

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Cutting through the clutter ⁠— and back to the consumer ⁠— is Resta’s best means of keeping up with change, including sales swells in the fragrance category. “We can slice consumer preferences and behaviors in so many ways, that now we know almost every single consumer in the world,” she said. “We know how they approach product experiences from an olfactive standpoint across different categories, like fragrances, candles, hair care and skin care,” she said.

Resta isn’t a stranger to keeping her finger on the pulse. She started her career at P&G as a marketer, working in Rome, and has since worked across continents. “I changed categories from fabric care until I landed in beauty,” she said. “I built a passion for consumer innovation and ideation. I’ve been given the luxury to work in Italy, the U.K., Geneva, and in the U.S. I was exposed to the world and beauty is a world where influences and trends come from many places.”

The pace of innovation is part of what drives Resta, who thinks “beauty will be one of the most exciting industries to watch, and one of the most dynamic. The level of change it is enjoying now is unbelievable,” she said. “Overall, the perimeter of beauty will expand from what we believe is beauty today. There will be more crossover occurring across categories, and beauty will expand from physical and mental to much more.”

To that end, innovation isn’t just about the nuts and bolts of a product. “I see it across many sectors: benefits for consumers, new inventions, new ingredients, new extraction of ingredients, as well as digital invention,” she said. “Digital is another underlying transformation enabler because we use digital to predict consumer preference, as well as potentially even developing fragrances with artificial intelligence.”

Beauty isn’t the only thing evolving, through. Resta also aims to adapt and evolve in order to remain an effective and positive leader of Firmenich’s perfumery business.

“I try really hard to showcase the possibility for women by showcasing vulnerability, and really enter a different style of leadership for women,” she said. “I’m trying to shift from a leadership style in the past that used to be mimicking men’s behavior, and I try to be unapologetically myself, authentic to myself by showcasing who I am, and that means my vulnerabilities as well.

“I can inspire women to approach this career in a way that is more confident. My role is also mentoring other women, and mentoring men to make sure that we create an environment of support for women,” she continued.

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