BTC Exclusive Interview: DevaCurl CEO Robert Schaeffler
DevaCurl, one of the industry’s foremost experts in curly hair, announced today that Robert Schaeffler is the company’s new CEO. Check out BTC’s exclusive interview with Robert, where we chat about maintaining DevaCurl’s authenticity, how professional education is changing and his plans for the company’s future.
First, some background. Born in Germany with advanced degrees from Asian and North American markets, Robert brings a diverse background with a keen understanding of the global haircare market. Most recently, he served as General Manager of Henkel Professional North America, managing a mix of brands including Sexy Hair and Kenra Professional while simultaneously launching Guy Tang’s #mydentity color line within the Henkel Professional portfolio.
BTC: With your experience with a global heritage portfolio like Henkel Professional and your international background, what is your vision for moving DevaCurl further into the international space?
Robert Schaeffler: The international space is a huge opportunity for Deva and the brand has everything it needs to be successful in this space. Now it’s just a process of mapping out the right continents and countries to expand to. There are about 60 percent of people in the world with some kind of curly hair. This is not limited to geography or just one part of our audience. The emotional message resonates across continents, across gender and across age groups.
BTC: The #mydentity collaboration was an organic, social media-fueled partnership that successfully engaged stylists around the globe and has since rolled out to over 50 countries. What learnings are you taking from that brand’s digital-first approach and Guy Tang himself?
RS: “I think it’s this authenticity that Guy brought to the industry. That is where I see Deva having unique positioning in the curl category—it’s the authentic leader of curls. Deva has the same cult-like following because all audiences really relate so much to this brand in an emotional way. That’s what Guy has been able to do for color and for the unique style he brought to the market…the learning on authenticity can really translate. If anything, Guy proves that our industry is changing so much and you can come from ‘only social media’ and be so relevant to such a broad audience, and I think that’s Deva. Deva is a digital leader in so many different ways, when it comes to social, events and e-com, and that’s where the future of our industry is and that’s what Deva is already doing.”
BTC: Speaking of authenticity, we are seeing natural texture fully embraced now more than ever before. DevaCurl has always remained steadfast in its commitment to curly girls, regardless of trend, but we are seeing more brands trying to break into this market. How will DevaCurl maintain its authenticity while continuing to innovate?
RS: “That’s something you can’t really copy—authenticity is something organic and natural, and Deva has that. While I think there’s a lot of great competition out there trying to get into similar messaging, Deva is the original leader…it’s about maintaining that. It’s one of the only pure brands out there…most of the time when a brand tries to expand into subcategories, it loses that core focus. Deva is the opposite, it’s so hyper-focused on one part of the hair category. That’s what makes it so interesting, relevant and powerful…As long as we stay relevant in our approach and being in the now and knowing how to connect that message to that audience, we’ll continue to be the leader. That goes back to the digital aspect, social media, education… those are the relevant touchpoints now, and as long as we bring that authenticity across, I’m very optimistic about the future of the brand.”
BTC: You said the magic word: “education.” It’s so integral to DevaCurl as a company. How do you see the brand’s education program evolving?
RS: “Deva is already on an interesting path. The industry is changing. Obviously in-person education is still a core pillar of this, but it needs to be supported through all touchpoints of a stylist. We know that stylists spend so much time on their phones, so [education] needs to be not only digital, but mobile-first, and needs to be in a format that she or he can digest it and learn from it in a short amount of time. The times of ‘I invite you to take a 10 hour class in person’ will still be part of it, but also we need in-the-now education: quick posts, quick videos, quick step by steps, things that really resonate with the stylists of today….while some legacy brands don’t want to acknowledge that’s the case, I think that’s where we need to play.
BTC: Part of what makes DevaCurl special is the line’s professional roots, its commitment to creating “curl specialists” and how it elevates the hairdresser as the undisputed expert of curly hair.
RS: “Absolutely, that’s the unique aspect on curls—it’s not a 5-minute service, it’s an in-depth consultation. It’s such an emotional event to go the salon, and it needs to be celebrated almost like a ritual because that’s what people ultimately expect when they use a product as high-end as DevaCurl. To understand what it takes to convince even more stylists to be confident and comfortable in styling, cutting and caring for curls is the ultimate goal. There are a lot of stylists out there who shy away from the category because it’s kind of scary at first when you have a client walk in with curls…it’s our job to be there for them, to educate them, to make them feel comfortable and to embrace that message that you are the expert.”
BTC: What do you see as DevaCurl’s biggest opportunities? What are some of your goals for the brand?
RS: “This brand is so strong and has such a unique positioning, it has a cult-like following, it has all of the ingredients. For me the goal is to continue the success path that the team has been on for many years and to stay true to our message of embracing natural hair texture. When we can bring that, with more innovative product in a digitally focused way, and hone in on our professional heritage and bring that across the globe…if we can touch all of those points, I think we’ll have done an amazing job. I have rarely been so excited in my career about an opportunity. This is a dream come true. The brand is a jewel and I can’t believe I get to lead this team.”
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