Nov 24, 2023
41 min

TOP CMO: Kory Marchisotto, e.l.f Beauty- 'Risk, Fail, Transform, Triumph'

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  00:00

We are the community. And I think that's the key differentiator is fundamental to what we do and why we're so successful.

Ben Kaplan  00:06

This is the podcast where we go around the globe to interview marketing leaders from the world's biggest brands, fastest growing companies and most disruptive startups. Three ideas packaged a certain way want to spread, we want to be told us someone else's simple, surprising and significant data to unlocking viral creativity is to make it rapidly scalable. This is TOP CMO with me, Ben Kaplan. Today I'm speaking with Kory Marchisotto CMO of e.l.f. Beauty, a fast growing fast moving mass cosmetics brand with its finger on the pulse of popular culture. LC is an acronym for eyes, lips and face and the company has its roots in digital disruption getting its start by selling premium cosmetics for $1. over the Internet back in 2004. Kory or Kay boss, as she is known in the halls of e.l.f. has spent more than two decades in the beauty industry, including work on brands like John Paul Gauthier, her mez, Burberry, and bare minerals. During her 18 years that she Sado, she climbed the ranks from marketing manager to senior vice president overseeing top line brand launches, as well as transforming many of their prestige brands across multiple divisions. So how do you move at the speed of culture? How can you harness momentum for viral tiktoks? And how can we embrace missteps? Even as we move at lightning speed? Let's find out with Kory Marchisotto aka K-BOSS. One of the things that I love about how you talk about e.l.f. is that you break all the rules and you're allowed to break all the rules and that's at the core of the brands so for those people who don't know very popular beauty brand has a big following on tick tock big following with Gen Z. Why are you allowed to break the rules and no one else is

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  02:00

we else the rules ban?

Ben Kaplan  02:02

Okay, you e.l.f. the rules. Got it.

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  02:04

We asked the rules. I have my personal favorite e.l.f. ism, and I'm gonna get you into e.l.f. isms. By the end of this podcast, or maybe in the middle is why the e.l.f. not. And that really goes back to the origin of e.l.f.. And it's fundamental that we start there, because we're watering the roots of disruption in this company every single day. So back in 2004, LS was started by a father son duo who were entrepreneurs. They didn't know anything about beauty. What they knew was they were entrepreneurs with a bulldozer mentality looking for a white space opportunity. And they came up with this crazy idea of selling $1 Cosmetics over the Internet. In 2004. They met with naysayers, doubters, and everybody who told them, it's impossible. What's impossible? Well, first and foremost, you can't create prestige quality cosmetics and sell it for $1. To you cannot sell color cosmetics over the internet. And three, even if you figure it out how to do one and two, you'll never be able to make that a profitable business. And here we are 20 years later, 18 consecutive quarters of growth, 18 consecutive quarters of market share gains a billion dollar brand. We've even exceeded our founders wildest expectation. And the reason we do that is because they gave us permission from day one to take the rulebook and throw it out the window.

Ben Kaplan  03:28

And so how does that reflect that you have a unique role? I mean, you are CMO. But also you have oversight over elements of product innovation, many other parts of the business as well. So let's start with marketing. And we can go from there. What's a way that you throw out the rulebook on marketing about what a beauty brand is supposed to do? How a beauty brand is supposed to behave? How a beauty brand is supposed to be a word I know you don't love on trend.

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  03:56

So there's a couple of things. And I'll start with my journey five years ago, when I took on this responsibility, and this transformation, I was brought here under the banner of bold change agenda. e.l.f. at that point was 15 years old and looking to ready the rocket ship for the next 15 years of growth. And we are in what I would call a constant phase of transformation, which is one way in which we break the rulebook is every day when we wake up, we treat it as day one. Whatever happened yesterday is not going to be true tomorrow. So we need to write a new playbook every single day. So having that like a virgin mentality is one way we break the rules. Another thing is when I started and I checked in with all of my marketing gurus and everybody I knew in this space, and I asked them what was going to be fundamental for making sure that I could make a high level of impact and a small amount of time. And all of them gave me the rulebook around, you have to paint a picture of who is your demographic and you have to call a sweet baud and you have to give it a name. And you have to say Sally Smith who shops here and is This age and this psychographic, so on and so forth, and then build around that. That is typically how marketing works. So I took that rulebook and threw it out the window. And I'll tell you why. Because it didn't feel right. What didn't feel right about it is the size and scale of this brand. And the way it had universal appeal, it can talk to an 11 year old the same way it could talk to a 16 year old. So I said, Well, how am I going to paint that picture? So what I decided to do is say, e.l.f. is for every I let them face keyword, every capital E, capital V, capital E, capital R, capital Y, and everybody told me why that shouldn't be done. And I went back to the founders and thought about how many knows they faced and said, You know what, in the face of opposition, I will take the path of most resistance, and it is definitely the best decision that we ever made. And right now, when we look at our audience, it is vast, it is wide. It is global. What's

Ben Kaplan  06:00

interesting is that we'll take one marketing initiative you're known for, which is a Superbowl commercial, featuring the actress Jennifer Coolidge. And for those who haven't seen the commercial just as a scribe it, she's trying on cosmetics, and it's like, everything's sticking to her right. Like, everything's like it's sticky to her hand, and she tries to pick up the phone and the Phone sticks to her face. And then she needs to go something else and everything. Pretty soon she's like walking out and like I think the glass doors stuck to her. So everything's sticky. And usually most people will do a treat a Superbowl ad is that's going to be a really big expense. That's a big initiative. In fact, on those podcasts, we might describe as that's the tentpole moment, and then they would take that tentpole moment and say, Okay, let's build out social around it and PR around it. And let's do some influencer stuff activate. In your case, it's really interesting, because really your tentpole moment happens on tick tock first. And the Superbowl ad is how you kind of flush it out. It's the opposite. So take us through the origination of that, maybe we can show some of how that's a little bit different than how a typical beauty company would market for

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  07:02

sure. And there's so many ways that it's different, starting with the time it took us to do it. So from inception to completion was three weeks,

Ben Kaplan  07:12

three weeks for a Super Bowl out three weeks.

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  07:15

From inception to completion, most companies take 12 to 18 months, usually closer to the 18 month mark, and nobody can actually believe we were able to do what we did. But if you know else, it actually makes a lot of sense. So I'll run it through the pipes for you in what I call our four part magic recipe. The first one is to in the, and this is really where you look at what are all the signals telling me and there were a couple of things that were coming through loud and clear. The first one was the power of this little green machine, power grip primer.

Ben Kaplan  07:51

Why do you call this a little green machine and why? Why is it so powerful power grip

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  07:53

primer is a sticky primer, and it will stick the makeup to your face for all day wear. What was really fascinating and why I call it the little green machine is timer, which is where e.l.f. has a real strong suit is a category 13 What does that mean? It means in all of beauty sales, it is the 13th biggest category. Okay, the first category is mascara by a landslide. The second category is foundation by a landslide.

Ben Kaplan  08:19

So you gotta go in terms of types of products down 13 spots 13. So this is not your lead, you're not building a brand around, like check out our primer. So

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  08:28

here's what's really amazing about that my head of insights called me and said, You're never going to believe this. Our grip primer is the number two SKU in all of mass cosmetics. So to have an item launch and a category 13 and actually become the number two SKU and all of mass Cosmetics is amazing. So I said to her holy moly, how far are we from number one? And she said, Kay boss, they all call me K-BOSS, K-BOSS, one activation, you'll be number one SKU and all of America in mass cosmetics. And I was like, Whoa, that's a challenge. So then we moved into well, what are people loving about this? What is what is actually going on here that is creating a phenomenon that would allow this to be true. So we stuck our head in the sky, which is step two, and we put our head in the sky and we said, well, what are all the stars that are shining. And the biggest star that we're shining was the entertainment value of this item. People were sticking their hands to their face, they were sticking paper they were seeing if their brush would stick to their hand. So we realized that what we had here was actually the power of the entertainment value of the product,

Ben Kaplan  09:38

which is interesting because you come to that insight, probably from whatever you want to call it listening or engaging with your community or paying attention or whatever it is. Usually that doesn't come from like, okay, we're doing our like brand persona study, and what are the you know, right and like, okay, it's like we're very entertained, right? Because it doesn't usually work like that. So that's interesting. That's an insight and In some ways, people are figuring out how to use the product in an unintended way exactly to get additional value that you didn't expect.

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  10:09

And we also found they didn't even know it was called PowerGrip. Primer, they called it sticky A F, magic sticky face potion, we started to watch the conversations that were happening among the communities that created this obsession in this cult like following. And were like, Whoa, there is something magical happening here that we have to tap into. So then we said, Okay, well, now we know it's the entertainment value. Well, who could we pair the stickiest star in beauty, holding up my power primer with the stickiest cultural icon right now. And what we saw in that moment was Jennifer Coolidge, she had just received her Golden Globe Award. And in her acceptance speech, she said that her dream role was to play a dolphin that for us was the dolphin signal. Dolphin is glossy glass like skin, which you will get from power grip timer. So we create a dolphin face. And then the third star that we needed to see to create a constellation which will tell us to go to step three. And this magic recipe is what stage would be big enough for the stickiest star and beauty and the stickiest cultural icon. And we looked at the calendar, and we saw that the big game was in three weeks. Now it was time for us to go to step three, which is put your feet on the ground and actually make this happen.

Ben Kaplan  11:26

Picture your brand, not as a solitary masterpiece, but rather like an interactive art exhibit. Embrace the collaborative approach. And let your audience be co creators, not mere spectators. The best stories often emerge when the audience becomes part of the storytelling process. And if your audience had a stake in creating your brand, they will be more supportive as true stakeholders when it's time to do the next launch campaign for activation. And at that point, and I've been in many conversations, we have a global marketing agency also, I can tell you where the momentum will be, the momentum will be this is amazing. Great idea. Let's do it. And then for next year, because we cannot write like let's get it going. Now we're not going to do it. And there's a bunch of stuff going in. And we can't even do the contract fast enough with you as as our agency to do it, because it's gonna go through legal reviews and all this stuff. You can't really do it. Let's just work on the next year. So why didn't you just work on the next year, that's not

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  12:31

how we roll. This is called El speed, which is the fourth pillar of our magic recipe, move at the speed of culture. So you have to have a culture of innovation inside your organization. And I need to have the support of my C suite peers as well as the CEO. So I go to the CEO with this crazy idea, which I've done a lot of in the last five years. And he looked at me because he knows know is my fiercest motivator. And he said, Yeah, you're never gonna make that happen. You know, when the big game is I go, yeah. And he goes, Yeah, you're never gonna make that happen. And I'm like, I'm gonna make it happen. And he goes, good luck. And, and we made it happen. And it's a truly exceptional journey, because even all of my CMO peers, asked me if I planted the seed for Jennifer Coolidge at the Golden Globes. And I was like, You still don't get it? No, we didn't plant the seeds, she sent the dolphin signal. And we were the only company who responded in real time.

Ben Kaplan  13:33

One of the things and just to take a moment talk about Superbowl ads that people try to leverage. And that is challenging in real time. But you have you know, you have certain brands that do it well and do different things that they're surprising, but is building out everything else around the Superbowl ad itse.l.f., right. It's this moment, you have the ad, but there's a lot of organic coverage. There's a lot of other things you can do with it. What was your thinking there? How do you build out kind of like all the other assets reduced? No, we don't have to let's just do a great job with the spot. What do you do on that condensed timeframe?

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  14:05

It was definitely both we knew we have this incredible piece of content. That was going to be a WaveMaker. We knew it. Jennifer Coolidge was the hottest thing, hottest cultural icon. We knew that this product was taking off across the board and became this massive phenomenon. So we knew we had the wave maker on our hands. But we still have to create content across 10 platforms 365 days a year. So we did need to build surround sound amplification, which we were able to do in a very small amount of time. But if you back the truck up just a beat because I think it's really important to talk about why were we even at the big game. And why was that even a consideration because all of this is very strategic, just done in a very compressed timeline. When we looked at the big game spots, we saw that there is over 100 some odd spots in every game of which point 0000 1% are Beauty. Is that okay? Well, that makes sense. If there's no women in the audience, how many women are in the audience, you're talking about over 100 million spectators, of which 50% are women. So it just doesn't make any sense that brands in the in the beauty sphere are not recognizing that there is an entire community of people here, who will have a high receptivity at that moment in time. So we really wanted to bust the myth, that beauty doesn't belong at the big game. And

Ben Kaplan  15:33

to bring it a little bit full circle, we talked about throwing out the rulebook, you had thrown out the rulebook about sort of the personas and the types of sort of said, everyone, if you're gonna mark it to everyone, Super Bowl is kind of everyone right at that point. So it makes it makes sense for what had already transpired. And

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  15:51

the other thing is, I love the iceberg metaphor. What people saw on the surface was this incredible campaign that was very sticky, and had an unbelievable sticky factor, people are still talking about it. Nearly one year later, what happened under is even more interesting. Why did Jennifer receive the e.l.f. call and respond with such positivity and such eagerness to make this happen? The answer to that question is really fascinating. And all marketers should really always think about the story behind the story behind the story behind the story because a series of things had to be true. In order for that moment to be true. Jennifer Coolidge, a social media manager, was an e.l.f. evangelist, and he found a home for himse.l.f. in our brand on tick tock years before he was enamored by our eyes lips face song campaign, it was the tipping point that got him into our brand. He then realized that he was invited to express his true se.l.f. and live his bold truth on our platform. And he really embraced our brand. And as an evangelist, he started to bring it into camp Coolidge. So he introduced everybody to our Halo glow to our power grip timer to the fact that we deliver this incredible premium quality at this value. So when the call came in, Jennifer was like e.l.f.. I love e.l.f.. True story. But that all needed to be true in order for that moment to be true. And

Ben Kaplan  17:17

there you go for anyone listening. If you want to know if a celebrity endorser or ambassador, you know, you got three weeks until the Super Bowl, are you going to make this happen? There you go. That's your cast. If you're not willing to make this happen, then clearly you don't believe it are Brad and this case? You do so? Okay, you had some of that resonate familiar with the brand. One of the things I love, and we've kind of previously you've mentioned is that even things on the cutting room floor from that film shoot, including just some chat around the sort of the beauty vanity there and off comment that the celebrity in this case Jennifer Coolidge makes is used as content, but actually used as product inspiration. And I think that relates to what is one of the interesting roles about your job. And there's a few other examples. Lagos one, the CMO over there who has some innovation, responsibility, in addition to marketing, but talk about the cutting room floor and how that fueled marketing innovation and product innovation. We were

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  18:12

on set in LA with Jennifer for 16 hours. And this was super high production. As you can imagine, with everything sticking a shower door to your face, and all of the different cuts and pieces in part, we basically created a movie in 30 seconds, so and we had to do it fast. So everything happened across that one day. There was a moment in that day it was it was late in the day, it's sort of that moment when you become a little bit slapstick, if you will. And she was at the vanity table, and she just started riffing. And all of us like, belly laughing, I got yelled at five times thrown out of the room because I was laughing so hard, and I couldn't control myse.l.f.. And we were trying to get it on camera. And when we watched all that footage, after we said, okay, let's let's get the big game commercial out and finish. And then let's sit with the stuff that had us all belly laughing and falling on the floor. And when we watched it again and again, we realized that this was an incredible content series that we needed to share with the world because it was a moment she was having at the vanity table with herse.l.f. in the mirror. And we took that and we use it as the inspiration to create a content series called vanity table talk. And she was our first guest on our vanity table talk series. Another incredible thing happened once we put vanity table talk into our content platform is there was a moment in which she picked up our old face lipstick in a shade called dirty talk. And as she's putting it on, it just isn't quite right. And she she says, you know if I was going to create my own lipstick, it would it would be just like this, but a little lighter. And I'd call it dirty pillow. So we went back to her and we said let's talk about dirty pillows. You obviously had a vision. What was that vision? And we spent a lot of time with her. We sent down our inner Asian team and she told them about the creation of the perfect pout. And we created that perfect palette in a dirty pillows lip kit. And six months after the Super Bowl, we were able to put that to market. And it sold out in two hours. And we have a lot of very upset fans. So we are restocking it again in time for the holiday. Get ready for prime time. I look like a baby dolphin primary structures.

Ben Kaplan  20:30

There can be great power and moving fast because it forces you and your team to make decisions that otherwise could be paralyzing. To know if you can move quickly ask yourse.l.f. this question. With more time to think and analyze, are we likely to make a substantially better quality decision that we can make right now? If the answer is yes, and the stakes are high, it might be better to hold off. But if the answer is no or unclear, the benefits of moving quickly, gaining quick experience and iterating based on the results may actually be your fastest path to success. The interesting thing about that is that if you're going to act in real time, or if you're going to really truly not only listen to your community, but become a part of your community. It doesn't ever really stop. Right. And this is even the lessons for brands that I know and brands, you know, hire a lot of influencers now. And so as you look at influencers, like well, how do they create all this content, they're always on there. It's like driving in a car and they're shooting more content, it's because it doesn't ever really stop. It's a way of thinking. And once you embrace that, you kind of just need to roll with it right? You don't ever get to be like I'm taking vacation. Now this week, I'm creating content. Now I'm not creating content. No, I am. It's just a way of thinking, which is challenging for a lot of brands, right to be able to do and with confidence, and you still avoid, you know, make the legal department happy and the compliance department happy and the CFO happy with how you're spending money and all of that. So how is that culturally a way of thinking because you have a long history in the beauty industry. But not every brand or company I've worked at would be from that cloth.

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  22:07

I had 20 years before I came to e.l.f.. And I can tell you else as a unicorn, there is no company that operates like this. And again, it goes back to our origins we were born to disrupt it's in our DNA, and creating and cultivating that renegade spirit, that bias for action, that entrepreneurial ship that acting in real time, that bulldozer mentality that our founders had, is fundamental to what we do and why we're so successful. And I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, we are the community. And that's a really important part I want to spend a little bit of time on because I think this is a key differentiator, people say they are community first. And maybe for some that's true. But being community first can still mean I'm in an ivory tower, and I'm looking down at the community and reports are bubbling up. And we put an action plan in place from the ivory tower on what we think people want, or community starts with us being members of the community. And I think that's the key differentiator for us. I am a member of the community. Our C suite is a member of the community. We have we leave the red tape, velvet ropes and ivory towers and feeding spending time feeding egos to everybody else. We get down boots on the ground with our community understanding their unique needs, wants and desires. Let me give you a really good example that I love around running that through the pipes. A couple of years ago, we had launched a jelly pop collection, which is a beauty collection centered around watermelon. Okay, it was a one shot it came in it went out a couple of years later, every post we did every content we created people would be flooding into our community saying bring back jelly pot bring back jelly pot bring back jelly pop. Jelly pop was actually why we created this because people love this sticky factor of that original jelly pop primer. So but they didn't some people didn't love the fragrance. So we created it fragrance free and we call it PowerGrip primer. So the team serves me up these reports I said I don't want reports. I want to understand people I have relationships with people not reports. So let's get on a tick tock Live and Let me ask the community some question. So I get on a tick tock live and I'm like, help me understand why you want jelly pop primer. And then I go because it's sticky. And I'm like great. Well, we make PowerVR primer that's sticky. And they go Yeah, but it's not pink. I go well, we just made you the pink version. It's called Power Grip primer nice and of mine. They said Yeah, but it doesn't smell like watermelon. And I was like, Okay, well, let me tell you it's really complicated inside an organization in order to be able to make a product. So let's make a deal. Come on the journey with me through all the people who have to sign off on this and if we achieve success and we eventually get to the CEO and he says yes then we'll bring back jelly pop primer. So we did the jelly pop primer investigation. We went to see the CFO we went to see Our ops, we went to see our head of r&d together. And we did this over the series of a couple of weeks so they could understand the journey that one needs to go on in order to make this happen. And eventually, we got to our CEO, now you're talking about C suite, investing time with the community. Having real dialogue, having real conversation, our CEO himse.l.f. spent 45 minutes on that Tiktok live getting to know the community answering questions they had about what does it mean to be a CEO. And he decided in that moment, that they could have their jelly pot primer back. And what was really amazing is a week later, when people were saying, Bring back jelly pot, bring back jelly. The community that was on the tick tock live started responding for us saying, we saw their CEO, he said, Yes,

Ben Kaplan  25:45

it's one of the lessons too, I think back to prior career, I was the author. And one of the best things you could do as an author was if you want people to believe in your book and have a stake in the book into you know, buy your book on the first day was let them have input into the book, and become a stakeholder in it. So I remember like you prefer cover a or cover B or cover C? And what about this, like, here's what we're thinking about, including in it? Are we missing anything, and so you can co create together? It's just difficult, it's maybe easier when you're an individual author, and you can just kind of do that. But then you become a billion dollar brand, things get harder. So how do you keep buy in from everyone else? Or is it the brand, so well known what you stand for now that of course, the CEO is gonna go on tick tock, and talk about watermelon flavor with everyone and how that works. Of course, because internally, the brand is strong, what it represents are, how do you keep that and don't lose that if you get exactly what you want, which is growth, you grow, and you become a much bigger brand, go on to even more world domination. But you don't lose that along the way, which is something that's more with a small, scrappy startup type brand,

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  26:54

you have to have a team of people who believe had the heart and soul in the vision, the mission and the values of the organization and continue to hire the humble and hungry people who are going to carry that vision, mission and values with them every single day. And as long as you do that, you won't lose it. Here we are 20 years later, this brand is now 20 years old, or will be in a couple of months. And we're still talking about our founders. And I will tell the story about our founders in every single room I walk into, because those characteristics are what made us where we are today. It is those characteristics that we have to take with us every step of the journey and fiercely protect what it is that makes e.l.f. e.l.f. what it is that makes us unique and able to continue on this trajectory. And that started 20 years ago.

Ben Kaplan  27:45

And Kory What is something for those listening and a lot of CMOS listen to this podcast, I can imagine them saying, Well, what about the things that don't work? If you're gonna move at real time, there's going to be misfires learnings, how do we get comfortable with that? So is there an example of something that you thought might work that didn't work? And how do you sort of build that into the culture to because you can't be work in real time and be like, 100%, right all the time? How does that work?

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  28:17

We embrace what we call the fail forward. And we don't ever want to miss the benefit of a failure. And yes, I send failure as a benefit failure as a teacher failure is not a stop sign, it's actually a green light, to move forward with greater learnings. And that is embedded in our culture. So again, we have to water those roots every day, we have to make sure we create the conditions necessary for innovation to happen. And that includes keep on not being afraid to fail. So we are testing and learning all the time. When you move at the speed that we move out. You have to be able to not get precious about a path that you drew and a road you thought you were on. You have to be able to get to the intersection and be like, Oh, holy e.l.f., I thought it was a left. But you know what, it's actually not a left, I have to make a U turn go that way and go that way in order to get over there. And everybody has to be comfortable and not hold you to Well, in this PowerPoint deck that you showed me nine months ago, there was this road that you painted and you're off the road with us we embrace that we're like, that's right, because we thought we were supposed to make one turn. But once we got here, we realized it's another so we're pivoting and that's embedded in everything we do and anybody around you in our organization would celebrate that.


If you enjoy this show you'll love. Top of CEO. Top

Ben Kaplan  29:38

CEO is a business school case study telling the story behind the story and what you can learn from it from those who have faced the fire and come out the other side. was the challenge the team was faced 25%


of it was gone if I found myse.l.f. $282,000 in debt, how


would you navigate through these trials and transform them into opportunities for growth? excess? How

Ben Kaplan  30:00

do you build back up the business and get out of debt and


get anything in? Nobody can come to work right in any of our factory in any of the factories?


This is TOP CEO available wherever you get your podcasts

Ben Kaplan  30:20

is there an example of something that didn't work out that later led to maybe some learnings that maybe did work out? Or were was there a misfire? Sure.

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  30:28

Oh, you know, I wouldn't say that. There's a big example of a misfire versus stuff that we evolve and transform over time. So we're usually on the right track, but we don't always get it right the first time. So we might massage it over time, I'll give you an example. We really wanted to create an app. And we weren't so precious about it has to be perfect right from the beginning. And we have to spend two years developing it was like just take whatever is available. Now. At that point, it was a wrapper, and we put a wrapper around our website, and we made it an app, the experience was okay, the ratings and reviews weren't great. So rather than scrap it, we said, well, what needs to be true and over which course of time in order for this app to be a fundamental part of our business. So we evolved it over time to where it is today, which is a standalone technology platform, where we now have 1.6 million downloads and a 4.8 star rating. So one could say that the first batch was a failure, I wouldn't say it's a failure, I would say it was a stepping stone to get to the place where we needed to be. And that also happens sometimes with our product creation, where we think that the finish is going to be perfect, or the delivery system or the component tree. And then we'll hear from our community like, Hey, I love this, but you didn't quite nail this part. And then we put that on a track of what we call continuous improvement. And having that continuous improvement mindset allows us to do a lot of things that we can continue to perfect over time and continue to shape over time together with our community, taking their feedback, taking their insights, taking their usage patterns and behaviors, and then translating that to increasing performance over time,

Ben Kaplan  32:13

which I think is one of the overlooked aspects of having, in your words, a bias towards action, or basically just acting quickly is that by doing that imbalance, you're accumulating experience faster. Why? Because you're acting quickly, you're doing a lot of things, you're able to learn faster. And I know you've spoken before alpha, and it's your belief that at alpha, you can do five years of marketing at another beauty brand you do in one year. But maybe that's because if you are accumulating experiences at five times the rate, you can learn from them five times faster and deploy them as well. And so as people forget that a bias towards action, it's not just the result of your action. It's the experience you gain at faster pace.

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  32:57

That is a brilliant strategic distillation of how we operate inside our organization. Okay,

Ben Kaplan  33:03

well, I try to be every once awhile I tried to do something brilliant. To wrap up, I have to ask you this, because you've said this as your nickname K-BOSS, quarry is spelled with a K. So I'm guessing that has nothing to do with K. For those of you who are listening and can't see now that you have to check out the TOP CMO YouTube channel and you can watch this too. But you have a necklace on and then you're zooming into that right there that says K-BOSS. So where does the name come from? You said people use it was that a se.l.f. generated nickname? Or was that someone else and what is the origin story

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  33:36

so that I had many nicknames here. This was the one that had the stickiness factor taking it back to power grip. And it is it is my team that named me K-BOSS because I came in like a lightning bolt. Ideas energy, passion, excitement for what was possible. So they were like you're a boss, and they're like your K-BOSS. And it just stuck. The other names that have surfaced that I super love, but they're definitely not as sticky as K-BOSS is They call me The Wizard of e.l.f.. Okay, and the chief mother Elsa. Okay. So we like to have a lot of fun in this organization, the way in which we playfully and spiritedly call each other and once K-BOSS stuck, and now everybody in the company calls me K-BOSS, including our board of directors, that my team in LA made it into a nameplate and what you can see in the nameplate is the name was actually generated with $2 signs instead of SS because spending money is a core competency.

Ben Kaplan  34:42

Okay, well there you go. And what is your superpower then that makes you especially suitable for this role? Is it the energy is it the willingness to tread where others dare not tread? Whether that speed or trying things out or being comfortable failure? What is your superpower?

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  34:58

I think it's creating A vision that people want to be a part of inspiring them to realize that they can do things they never thought possible, and lifting them up all along the journey. What's

Ben Kaplan  35:11

next for e.l.f.? And what's next for you? We're at a time when obviously, we've come out of the pandemic cultures, shifting workplaces shifting, generation of AI is coming. How do you think about all of that in the context of being part of the health community, having the community as part stakeholders? What are you thinking about now? What's the next disruptive moment you hope is on the horizon?

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  35:39

Well, I did hear in our preparation room that maybe I should be a podcaster. So I might want to take some tools, tips and tricks from you. Maybe that's in the future.

Ben Kaplan  35:49

Okay. Very good. I could absolutely see that

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  35:51

I think for for e.l.f., it's really fundamental that we stay true to the roots. And as long as we continue to do that, we just collect more and more things over time, generative AI, the metaverse, all of these things that we're talking about their synapses and impulses that you collect with you along the journey. And I call that the power of accretion. That's how planets are formed. It's it starts small, and then you collect things and it gets bigger, and it's bigger, and it's bigger, and it's bigger, and eventually it creates a planet that is weighed, you know, the hole is bigger than the sum of its parts. And that's really what we're doing here. But fundamentally, at the core of that, it's about disrupting norms, shaping culture, and connecting communities through positivity, inclusivity, and accessibility. And as long as we leave that, really solid at the core of everything we do, we can stand the test of time, we can stand the series of crises, and we have to have that continuous path of learning. We have to have the curiosity we have to leave the egos at the door and be humble and hungry. And as long as we continue to hold those things precious, I think we will continue to be the greatest story ever written in the history of beauty and beyond.

Ben Kaplan  37:05

And what do you take with you finally, as you move forward from all the beauty brands you've worked with in the past, I know you're someone who has taken a kernel or taken a truth and you've been at a number of brands previously, I think in the cedo portfolio, a number of brands there, what from each of those brands do you take with you even in the sort of like new disruptive packaging of e.l.f.,

Kory Marchisotto - e.l.f. Beauty  37:29

if you are a true Brand Builder at the heart, you feel and you really internalize you operate a brand with head heart and soul. And as I think about what made it possible what needed to be true for the transformation at e.l.f.? A lot of it is the ladder of experiences that I had before I got here. And each brand that I worked on, I took something that was fundamental that lives in my core. So if I think about John Paul Gautier, which was a brand I worked on for years at the early phase of my career, he was the ultimate rule breaker anti conformist. His mantra was end. Why not? If I think about su Miyagi, and what I learned there, I learned about true innovation spending time with things you don't know is see me hotkeys to say that an innovators mission is 2121. Because perfect sight is 2020. Your job is to see beyond that. So this real spirit of being inquisitive from air masks that I worked on for years I've orange blood in my veins, I really learned about captivating storytelling, how to wrap a story around the incredible things that you're doing so that other people want to come along with you for the journey. Bare Minerals is really the start of social media. Lesley Blodgett who was the founder of that brand, was all about that one to one connection, and communication. I took that with me and Burberry, I learned about digital disruption as a mindset, it was embedded inside the culture. So if you just think about that ladder of anti conformity, curiosity, storytelling, social media, digital disruption, you find this incredible amalgamation at what we've been able to do at e.l.f. and I would really challenge everybody to be very reflective about their journey and the incredible things that you pick up that others put down that you can take with you in your increasingly growing tool chest because you're going to need all of it, and then some as you go along the journey.

Ben Kaplan  39:32

According to Kory Marchisotto, aka K-BOSS, health, beauty success has been all about challenging the status quo and staying true to its roots of disruption. To stand out, highlight your differences. If you're a challenger brand, why not cut against the current trends and do what the rest of the industry doesn't dare to do? Who says there's just one, be all and end all strategy? to fuel this effort? Reach out to your audience as partners in the building of the brand, allow them to shape the values and direction of your company in real time as trends and needs change, and don't be afraid to take risks and fail, have a bias for action. Fortune favors the bold, like Kory Marchisotto. Remember that the most significant disruptions sometimes start with a simple question. Why the health not for TOP CMO? I'm Ben Kaplan.


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