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Marketing Mix Podcast with Elana Drell-Szyfer

Elana Drell-Szyfer shares her experience redeveloping a luxury brand

April 3, 2019

Joining us on the Marketing Mix Podcast is Elana Drell-Szyfer, CEO at ReVive Skincare. Elana talks influencer marketing, growing a business through e-commerce and international expansion into the Chinese market. With over twenty years of experience at companies such as L’Oreal, Avon and Estée Lauder, Elana delves into the benefits of managing a smaller brand.

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Q&A

 Jeff Ragovin: Talk to us a little bit about what you're doing right in your role at ReVive.

Elana Drell-Szyfer: I started my career in large beauty companies and I was fortunate enough to work at L’Oréal, Avon and Estee Lauder. About nine years ago I left the world of larger companies to start running smaller beauty companies for private investors. Currently I am the CEO of ReVive, which is a luxury skin care brand.

Jeff Ragovin: How big is your group today?

Elana Drell-Szyfer: We have about 24 people in our New York office and 26 people in our field organization. In addition to being in the US we have a business in the UK where we also have a sales organization on the ground. We sell it to Hong Kong via Joyce, we have a partner in Taiwan and we've recently signed agreements with partners in Germany and Thailand. And there’s more to come.

Jeff Ragovin: Talk to us a little bit about your background in the beauty world.

Elana Drell-Szyfer: I think that one of the interesting things about my background and that of my current team is that we were all trained in big company environments, but are now all working- and have worked for the past several years- in small company environments. I think that gives you a best practice kind of discipline in your mind, and a certain level of agility to know how to bring something to market.

We’re able to move quickly because we don't go through a rigorous internal approval process. The process of executing launches with your retail partners is the same, we still do market presentations, and we work with all of the same retailers. But being a small team, we’re very accessible. We can make decisions on the fly and we’re not really up against any institutional history. I think it makes us more open to trying new tactics. Traditionally, luxury brands with launch products would have an “in-store visual week” or you'd be placing ads in catalogs, and we're not doing those things. We've shifted the majority of our spend on traditional retail to digital, whether it be our own or with a retail partner.

Secondly, when there are fewer people involved it's easier to make use of grassroots tactics. We have gone back to a lot of in-store events to try to personally touch the customer and bring Dr. Brown, our founder, back into the store to meet people. I think it’s working with a great deal of success.

Jeff Ragovin: What digital activations are you running?

Elana Drell-Szyfer: We spent a lot of our initial time on the basics, which was making sure there was inventory in stores and making sure that our all of our associates were educated on products. Then, we wanted to go back to the consumer by activating CRM systems- asking existing clients to come in-store for new launches, facials, and events. A second way involves an extensive amount of PR reactivation. In today’s day and age, if you go for a single year without a robust PR influencer act and set of activation activities, it’s like you don’t really exist.

We are now working through a platform where we have pretty broad reach towards influencers who fit the brand target. I think the sensitivity around a luxury brand is that you don't want to put it in the hands of somebody who's going to question why somebody would spend four hundred dollars on a product, but rather be very interested in learning more about science, and cares about what differentiates our product.

Jeff Ragovin: Given the price range of your product, can you dive in a little bit deeper into the role of beauty influencers?

Elana Drell-Szyfer: We spent a lot time strategically defining what luxury means today. It's not only about product, but it's about the holistic combination of access, knowledge and lifestyle. In addition to more traditional ways of reaching out to customers we've tried to provide an environment where people want to be part of the brand. Last year, we did a series of panels where we brought together a wide variety of people in different industries to talk about trends happening today, and how they relate back to skincare.

It’s all about creating an environment that’s appropriate for the person who has an affinity for the brand. Other than that, we’ve reached out to people who we think are a fit to the brand and then act on our behalf by hosting luncheons or dinners with their own circle of friends- who might be influencers in their own circles, be it the fashion world, the creative world or the art world.

One thing we discovered is how popular the brand is with Chinese travelling consumers, particularly in Harrods, Bergdorf Goodman in Vancouver and at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. Once we noticed that there were a lot of sales from Chinese customers,  we started employing Mandarin speaking beauty advisors, after which we started seeing results on Chinese social media sites. As a result we're now activating PR in the Chinese market in the hopes of raising awareness of the brand there. We will then launch on cross-border e-commerce in China, which will have effects on our businesses throughout the world.

Jeff Ragovin: What are some of the major platforms in China you are leveraging and how did you tackle them?

Elana Drell-Szyfer: One of the things we understood from the beginning is that we had a huge international opportunity. We treated it like we went on a China e-commerce program and spent seven or eight months researching how do people do it- who the best partners were who understood both the selling and social media platforms. There isn’t any Wikipedia page on how to enter the market. We learned that the more people we spoke to, the more information we got. We started to plot the commonalities so that we could begin to understand the overlaps of what everyone was saying. Ultimately, we probably looked at 10 potential partners for entering the market and we selected somebody who we thought understood the market well, and had proven their agility in a market that changes quickly over time, and had knowledge about brand building and commercial approaches- essentially, someone who would succeed in both the long and short term.

Jeff Ragovin: Can you talk to us about your current packaging strategy?

Elana Drell-Szyfer: No one has changed the logo or the packaging. This has its advantages, but after 22 years we’re in a very different competitive environment. A big part of what we spent the past year working on is a creative agency to reassess the brand in the context of the modern competitive luxury skincare market. I think we’re about to evolve and refresh our look, feel and voice. It will probably look unchanged to the end consumer, which is the goal. But I think that this will help us redefine the DNA of the brand as one that brings together hard hitting science and effective results with the high-touch luxury service We’ve just completed the exercise on how to speak to customers on what the visual will look like, and I think people may not realize the relevance of old-fashioned brand exercises. You’re constantly showcasing your e-commerce stores 24/7, and you’re constantly putting imagery out there which is then repurposed and reinterpreted. The way you present yourself visually is more important than ever.

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

Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes