Since joining E.l.f. Beauty as CMO in 2019, Kory Marchisotto has doubled down on the company’s “disruptive nature mindset” when crafting its marketing strategy.
That disruption has taken shape in various ways in the past year, including marketing innovation for its young brand Keys Soulcare, and unique TikTok campaigns, collaborations and experimentation with new platforms for E.l.f. For Marchisotto, the DNA that runs through E.l.f. Beauty’s approach to marketing is building community around its brands.
She described Alicia Keys’ Keys Soulcare as “a brand built to disrupt the industry, shape culture and connect communities through inclusivity, positivity and accessibility.” She has leaned into a virtual-heavy strategy, with the brand’s annual, live-streamed “Keys Lounge” events featuring performances by Keys.
After becoming one of the first successful brands on TikTok, E.l.f. has upped its focus on the platform with new campaign formats. In January this year, it earned buzz for its talent search on TikTok, teaming with the creator of “American Idol” to create a new pop group called The Future X. The associated hashtag challenge, #elfitup, received 14 billion views on TikTok.
The bet on TikTok has especially paid off with the company’s Gen-Z shoppers. According to Piper Sandler’s spring 2022 survey of teens, E.l.f. is now the demo’s No. 1 beauty brand.
E.l.f. has also been early to jump in on a range of new digital opportunities, including livestreaming platform Twitch and NFTs. Gaming-focused platform Twitch has played into the brand’s broader embrace of the female gaming community, making E.l.f. one of the earlier brands to tap into this audience.
The brand has also been adept at responding to pop-culture moments. When a “Jeopardy!” contestant lost a Daily Double question by incorrectly guessing that the brand’s acronym stands for “ears, lips, face,” the brand jumped on the opportunity for a marketing moment.
“When you light up one of those blue squares, you can say to yourself, ‘OK, we’ve made it into the cultural zeitgeist,’” said Marchisotto. E.l.f. offered the contestant a consolation gift card and launched an “ears, lips, face” ear cuff collab, which was featured in a giveaway on the NTWRK app for International Women’s Day.
Building off the success of its two Chipotle collabs, with the last one receiving 4 billion media impressions, E.l.f. Beauty launched another viral fast-food collab with Dunkin’ Donuts this year. The collab was promoted with the help of Boston-based influencer Mikayla Nogueira. The collection was so popular, it ended up selling out in 72 hours after generating nearly 5 billion social media impressions.
“We saw what [Dunkin’ Donuts] was doing to galvanize Gen Z. We were doing the same. So we came together early on with what I like to call some digital sparks,” said Marchisotto.
Of Marchisotto’s marketing philosophy and push to experiment with new platforms, she said, “[E.l.f.] is evolving every day. We are moving at the speed of culture.”
But in her view, new technology doesn’t mean a change in the fundamentals of marketing. “The role of a marketer hasn’t changed at all,” she said. “The way in which we can reach our communities has changed. The platforms, dynamism, tools, functionalities and capabilities have changed, but the role of the marketer has always been about community first.”
Her advice: “The most important message I would give to any marketer in this space is that you have to be community-first. You have to understand deeply: ‘Who are these people? What do they want from you? What are their unique needs, wants and desires?’ And then [you need to] service that utilizing all of the different channels, functionalities and tools that you have available in your tool chest.”
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