CMO of the Week: Sanofi's Claudine Patel - Brand Innovators

CMO of the Week: Sanofi’s Claudine Patel

Claudine Patel, chief marketing officer at Sanofi Consumer Healthcare North America, is always looking for new ways to show up naturally in the culture. So when Sanofi hand and lotion brand Gold Bond had the opportunity to be the official body skin sponsor of the Sports Illustrated’s 60th Anniversary Swimsuit Issue, they jumped at the chance. Gold Bond products were used behind the scenes to prep the models skin for the Legends Shoot.

“The marketing team is always trying to think about new ways to bring our brands into culture,” says Patel. “And so when this opportunity came up or when we heard about the legends issue with Swimsuit Illustrated. We thought it was a great partnership because like Sports Illustrated, Gold Bond is a legendary brand as well. It’s been around for more than 100 years.”

Photo credit: Alex Tamargo/ALTA Images

The partnership also tied into the brand’s mission to be skin positive and inclusive. “We thought it was a great partnership to leverage what they’re doing with the legends issue with all our favorite models as we continue to see them grow and evolve into motherhood, dealing with all the stresses of travel on their skin and things like that. We thought it would be really complementary and bring the idea of a brand and the ability to solve for all types of skin to life through this partnership.”

This is not the only time a Sanofi brand has embraced a cultural moment. During The Met Gala in New York, Sanofi brand Unisom teamed with fashion designer Christian Siriano to host a slumber party-themed parade that culminated at the Met.

Prior to joining Sanofi in February 2023, Patel was CMO at Post Consumer Brands and CMO at Reckitt’s NA Health. She has also held senior roles at Kellogg, Kraft Foods and Coca Cola. Brand Innovators caught up with Patel from her office in New York to talk about the Sports Illustrated partnership, staying current and the importance of diverse thinking. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Photo credit: Alex Tamargo/ALTA Images

Can you talk about how the Sports Illustrated partnership supports your brand mission? 

Gold Bond is one of the most inclusive brands out there. Women use us, men use us, people of all types of skin needs use us. If you look across the portfolio, we probably have a SKU for anybody in any of their skin needs. We thought that it felt right. Also looking at the values of Christie Brinkley and Jasmine Sanders and just the portrayal of these icons and the diversity of these icons across the Swimsuit Issue. It speaks really intimately to who we are as a brand and the importance of showing up in culture.

How does this type of activation help you break through?

It’s getting harder and harder to break through the flood of everything that’s out there. I personally go down the rabbit hole of TikTok and never come back out, but I can’t remember the three TikToks before the last one. It’s really important to think about who helps carry the message, the vehicles we use to get attention and get conversation going. These models, like Christie Brinkley and Martha Stewart, are really legends and icons of industry that are all coming out all at once to talk about skin positivity. 

We felt that it was the right portrayal of the brand with the right influencers. They help us break through the clutter and into culture. How they represent themselves today is a clear manifestation of that they take care of themselves and they know what they need to take care of themselves. We felt that that was a great symbiotic relationship. 

How are you thinking about innovation? 

We continually renovate our products to make sure we stay relevant in the industry. For example, our healing product has been around for a long time. We just actually got clinicals to review our claims to talk about how we’re now clinically proven to visibly heal dry skin with just one use. We always think about leveraging our science to continue to reinvent our current portfolio to keep it relevant. And that to us is innovation against our core. 

We also think about innovation through the lens of how do we be more skin forward? You’ll see a lot more products in the marketplace that will resonate with a younger audience in terms of how people are looking to continue to enhance their skin. We take inspiration from everywhere. 

The third piece of innovation, I would say we think about it through the lens of experiences and media and just building brands. This is a fast foray into a partnership with Sports Illustrated. We continue to look at new ways to stay fresh and stay current not only to our core consumers, but to the new generation that’s up and coming.

Can you talk about who your audiences are? 

Because we have been around for 100 years, a lot of our fans have been with us through time. And so they tend to skew a little older, but we do see this new set of consumers coming in that are always curious about trying new skin trends that are looking to explore different direct-to-consumer brands. We want to make sure that we speak to both audiences because we are a brand that stands for inclusivity. We want to make sure we have a nice range of products that caters to everyone and all of their needs. 

Can you talk about your own approach to leadership? 

I believe in diverse thinking. Many people talk about diversity through the lens of just the physical manifestation. But my philosophy is really around how do I bring diverse thinking to people. I’m extremely open to listening to feedback and opinions from others. And then I will hopefully through my experience, lend my lens as well. As a small team, we lead through change because the worst thing a leader can do is to not listen and not understand how others are coming to the table with their point of view. So I believe in inclusive leadership.

Will there be more partnerships for Unisom brands?

The Met Gala was more of a guerilla tactic where we wanted to leverage the relevance of the theme this year to really think about how we can bring it to the brand of Unisom around the idea of sleeping beauty. So all the time we have a few more new partnerships coming up as well that we’re really excited about. We have a Xyzal partnership with Live Nation too, where we’re bringing the idea of 24 partying with 24 hours of being allergy free. These concerts are pretty much day to night and so we bring our brands to life in that way as well. So a lot more partnerships are coming up.

How has your background in the CPG world helped frame your perspective and your role right now? 

There’s no one right way of doing things. I always loved the idea of experimentation, but once you figure out a formula that works, you scale. With the background in CPG, it helps if you think about the lens of moving faster, being more agile in the marketplace, reacting to trends because that’s the nature of that world. You always have to stay competitive and probably even one step ahead where the consumer health industry is headed.