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Marketing Mix Podcast with Soyoung Kang

Soyoung Kang discusses creating viral user-generated beauty content on TikTok

February 5, 2020

Joining us on the Marketing Mix Podcast is Soyoung Kang, CMO at eos. In this episode, Soyoung discusses her role as the first-ever CMO at eos, the biggest challenges and opportunities for beauty marketers in 2020, and strategy for the brand’s recent #MakeItAwesome TikTok campaign that generated over 3 billion views.

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Q&A

Jeff Ragovin: How did you land the CMO role at eos and what have you been up to since you started? 

Soyoung Kang: I joined eos a little over a year and a half ago and prior to that I actually spent quite a long time at L Brands - the parent company to both Victoria Secret and Bath & Body Works. The bulk of that time was spent at Bath & Body Works and I really consider that my training ground as a marketer and a brand builder. It’s such a best in class organization for understanding from the point of view of a consumer, how to drive growth and it was just also a really amazing place to understand the product and to learn how to adopt a product-centric point of view in marketing, which is a huge part of the value that I add every day at eos. 

Once my decade at bath & Body Works was over, I was looking for the next move and I was really excited about the idea of moving into a more entrepreneurial environment where I could take all of these amazing lessons and skills that I had learned in a big company and apply them to a smaller brand where I could make more impact. I just so happened to get a call about this great opportunity at eos and I grabbed it as soon as they said they would like to have me join. What I really love about it is that I really admired the brand for a long time just from the outside and so for me to be able to come on board and be the first-ever CMO here is truly a privilege. 

Jeff Ragovin: I was really excited to have you on Marketing Mix because we previously had eos Co-Founder, Craig Dubitsky on the show. Probably one of the nicest guys in the world! I’m sure you’ve heard the news on his most recent company’s, Hello Products, acquisition by Colgate. You’ve gotten so many awards including Forbes CMO Next, Business Insider’s CMO to Watch as well as Glossy’s Beauty Innovator. Congratulations! As a beauty expert, I wanted to pick your brain on the category. What do you think is the biggest challenge that beauty brands are facing in 2020?

Soyoung Kang: That’s a good question. I think that beauty brands are still poised to have a really amazing year. Beauty as a category is one that has experienced really tremendous growth year over year for several years now. I think a lot of it has been fueled by not only a lot of innovative activity on the brand side but also on the distribution side. I was actually just having a conversation with my team about the evolution of the beauty industry over the years. If you think about it, 20 or 30 years ago the industry was very much limited to the drugstore route or the department store route. When you think about the drugstore environment, it’s such a rigid and regimented one. The category has really exploded in terms of where you can experience beauty and how you can experience beauty. It’s no longer the tyranny of the salesperson on the department store floor. It’s really much more about consumer engagement and therefore its given rise to amazing retailers and all of even the traditional retailers have all innovated in order to be able to keep up. So, it’s a category that’s experienced a lot of change and has always grown because it’s always embraced that change. 

The trends that are prevalent more broadly in society are ones that are being embraced by entrepreneurial beauty brands at the forefront. So anything you’re seeing in health and wellness, the trend towards diversity and inclusion in our communication as well as in our products offerings - these are all things that I think the beauty industry has done a really amazing job of grabbing onto as opportunities and really delivering innovation and new ways on engaging with the product to consumers. It’s why I really love the category so much. I feel like it continues to surprise me both as a marketer as well as a consumer, and I continue to learn new ways of doing things all the time. I think that 2020 is going to be a great year for beauty. I think there will continue to be growth. I may not be able to predict where that growth will be, but I don’t see a slow down at all. 

Jeff Ragovin: The proliferation of social media has given rise to a new degree of product and brand discoverability. Beauty, in particular, has exploded with the rise of influencers too. 

Soyoung Kang: I was thinking about this yesterday and about how beauty has been at the forefront of every new social platform that’s been introduced. I was thinking about how YouTube and the explosion of makeup tutorials even before the Instagram boom of beauty creators and influencers came around. Of course, Instagram continues to be a tremendously important platform for beauty, creators, influencers, fanatics as well as the brand. At eos, we have a very robust social media following on Instagram. Now with new and emerging social media platforms like TikTok, I mean who knows what the next wave will be but I have no doubt that beauty brands will be at the forefront of it. 

Jeff Ragovin: eos launched their #MakeItAwesome campaign on TikTok last year. The campaign really encouraged users to integrate the eos lip balm into creative video using the song Post Malone by Sam Feldt. How did the campaign perform and what was the thinking behind the strategy? 

Soyoung Kang: We started talking to the team at TikTok very early. I have been here for a year and a half so within the first 6 months of me joining we were initiating conversations to understand what a partnership on TikTok could look like. It was still early days for me and we were focused on strengthening other areas of the brand so we kinda put a pin in it for a little longer knowing we wanted to go back because we were really fascinated with the platform, but that the right opportunity would be when we were relaunching our big brand campaign which was in the first quarter of 2019. So we went back to the TikTok team and in that 8-9 month period, since we had spoken with them the first time, they had added a number of different features and ways for brands to engage with them that were meant to be complementary and create a more branded experience in addition to what is the sole of the platform which is user-generated content.  

For us to not only be able to encourage really great engagement and participation in our hashtag challenger via user-generated content, but we also supplemented with more branded elements included a brand video, a branded microsite which also included a lot of great engagement driving tools, as well as the branded superlike which TikTok had also introduced. When a user liked one of our influencer’s videos it actually created a really great branded moment with our product floating up and across the screen. So these were all different elements to the brand offering that the TikTok team had created that allowed us to be able to have our cake and eat it too where we could have a branded moment but also really appreciate the platform for what it is which is you’re asking this community to tell you how they would engage with your brand and your story. The more you allow for the community to be able to do that, the more you are setting your campaign for success. So much so, that we actually at the time had the highest number of video views for the period of the campaign. We ran the hashtag challenge for a little under a month and at the end of that period, we had accumulated over 3 billion video views.  We did run a third party brand study so that we could understand brand metrics around awareness and recall and our brand metrics were off the chart. Our recall for the TikTok audience was almost 3x versus the control. 

Most importantly, we really told a really engaging story with the TikTok community with some really great creators, so much so that we actually went back for a second bite of the apple just in time for the Holidays. We had launched the #MakeItAwesome campaign and wrapped it by September and we’re back out then in December with a slightly modified campaign where this time we went really much more into a wider influencer activation because we were excited by a creative idea we had. We launched #AwesomeKiss in early December. We partnered with just 5 creators for the first #MadeItAwesome campaign, so for the second campaign, we learned really fast that the ability to tap into the creators and their communities was one of the secrets to creating viral content. And so the second time around we partnered with 22 creators. One of those creators happened to be Charli D’Amelio who has now taken off like a rocketship since then. When we first signed her up as one of our creators she had about 4 million followers and now she has 23 million followers today (and this is about 2 months later). 

It was a specific strategy for us to create a creative brief and campaign that would encourage viral behavior. We created a campaign brief that was all about dueting with our creators. Duet is a special feature that TikTok has. As any user, you post your side by side next to your favorite creator’s video and what was amazing was that Charli’s content created over 16,000 duets. These are people who are everyday users who are going in and actually creating their own content inspired by this creator who is featuring our product and our brand. That level of engagement is real that is just much deeper than things that we have experienced on other platforms. 

The key is to understand and appreciate what each platform does differently for you and your toolkit. With TikTok, we went into it to understand and diagnose what the platform is. It is an authentic platform where you are asking regular people to create content that is short-form, musical, humorous, etc. there are a lot of ways to leverage the platform. It’s not better or worse than any other platform it’s just different to use within your marketing strategy. 

Jeff Ragovin: What benefits does user-generated content offer versus more traditional, polished studio content? 

Soyoung Kang: The idea of not only one-way communication but a two-way dialogue with your audience is something that has always been an important part of our marketing strategy at eos. We’re a brand that is largely an impulse-driven purchase product. We are carried across tens of thousands points of distribution, our price points are relatively low, and so the idea that we are always trying to think about how we engage with our consumer in a way that is more emotional than a typical impulse purchase decision would dictate is something that I think about a lot.  I think when you ask a consumer to engage with you by co-creating content and by being part of your story and by asking what their story is just a deeper level of emotional connection with the consumer versus one-way communication. 

I also think that the latter - one-way polished communication - is also incredibly important when you are trying to get across key messages. In addition to running our TikTok campaign, we also launched a global brand campaign where we were out there telling our brand story in a more robust and complete way than ever before. This is a brand I think really took off when it launched 10 years ago, but there were lots of elements of the brand and product differentiation that weren’t really told in a broad-reaching way. For example, things about the amazing natural ingredients we use, our sustainability story, our incredibly thoughtful packaging that feels really wonderful to hold and use. There were a lot of elements of our story that had never been told and so as part of our brand campaign we felt like it was really important for us to create that story. But then, on the flip side with activations like our TikTok partnership, it also really allowed us to create a really authentic connection to our audience as well and have more of a two-way dialogue.

Jeff Ragovin: Thank you for joining the Marketing Mix Podcast.

Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes