By Kate Helm
Colgate’s slogan “bright smile, bright future” could well be used to describe the career of Gabriel Valentin ’02, senior brand manager at Colgate-Palmolive, based in Paris. In only six short years, he’s risen to the top of the international marketing ranks.
Valentin, who has been with the company almost a year, is in charge of the Colgate toothpaste brand, responsible for marketing the product in Lebanon, Jordan, and French overseas territories. It gives him the opportunity to wear many hats, but that’s what makes his job exciting, he says.
“The great thing in marketing is that you are fully responsible for your brand, including all the financial aspects, logistics, customer and consumer activities, product development, research, and advertising,” he explains. “Marketing is not simply about shapes, colors, and taste. The creative part of the job is what appeals to me most. TV advertising is always an event, and when I see the ad I have developed, it’s always a great moment.”
Prior to joining Colgate-Palmolive, he spent a few years in England working for the French group Pernod-Ricard, the international producer of brands such as Absolut Vodka, Chivas, Jameson, and Jacob’s Creek wines, working within the European Travel Retail channel. He also gained invaluable marketing experience at Groupe Bel and its leading cheese brand, The Laughing Cow.
Working in Paris is a return home for Valentin, who attended Lafayette after graduating from high school in France. Undecided about a major at the time, he appreciated the fact that the College would help guide him toward a career.
“Lafayette offered me a varied and comprehensive choice of classes within my majors – economics & business and Spanish – and prepared me to solve business problems,” he says. “I still use concepts I learned, from a course on music business as a freshman to a course on industrial organization later on.”
Valentin’s undergraduate years also prepared him well for postgraduate study. He earned a master’s in economics from La Sorbonne and an MBA with a focus on luxury brand management and international management from Sup de Luxe in Paris.
As an international student, Valentin found it was important to be flexible in balancing academic pursuits with adapting to a new culture and overcoming the language barrier. That ability to cross cultural divides is essential to success at Colgate-Palmolive, where he tailors marketing strategies to the different cultural practices and norms of the variety of consumers in his assigned geographic markets.